Plymouth Rocks the Movie Industry A Mega Green Movie Studio in Massachusetts Aims to Be "Hollywood East"

In October 2008, voters at a Plymouth, Massachusetts, town meeting handily approved two measures to allow construction to move forward on the $400 million Plymouth Rock film studios. The vote not only settled months of negotiation between the town and studio execs, but it also paved the way for what will be the movie-industry leader in sustainable and green practices and design standards.

A few weeks before the vote, Plymouth Rock Studios announced it had registered its entire development project with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and would be pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. This means that Plymouth Rock Studios, slated to open in 2010, will be the world’s first totally green movie studio.

“This is Hollywood East,” says Steven Taylor, artist-in-residence at the studio. “We will be the center of innovation in entertainment for the entire East Coast, and a leader in environmentally advanced smart technologies.”

One of the studio’s two founders, David Kirkpatrick, says, “Our mission is to promote imagination and possibility, and we’re proud to complement this vision with a progressive, environmentally friendly movie studio. By pursuing LEED certification, we will create a holistic, state-of-the-art facility in Plymouth, and ensure that Massachusetts is a pioneer in sustainable, green practices.”

LEED is an independent, third-party certification system and is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of buildings, as set by the USGBC. Architects, realtors, building managers, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, construction managers, lenders and government officials use the program on new and old buildings alike. In the U.S., buildings account for 72% of electrical consumption, 38% of CO2 emissions and 30% (136 million tons annually) of waste output, according to the council. The LEED process seeks to manage those factors.

David Kirkpatrick © Plymouth Rock Studios' width=
David Kirkpatrick © Plymouth Rock Studios

Plymouth Rock Studios is aiming for complete carbon neutrality. To get there, they have brought in Gensler, a top global architecture, design and planning firm with 31 offices on five continents. “Gensler is thrilled to be part of this transformational project in the leadership of sustainable design practices in the entertainment industry and New England region,” says Douglas C. Gensler, the managing director of the firm’s Boston office.

Gensler’s plan is to include sustainable materials in the construction of buildings on the campus, low-impact design strategies, geothermal energy, daylight capture, organic gardens and water-reuse systems.

“In creating a green environment, the Plymouth Rock Studios team has taken great care in their design to minimize site disturbance, use energy-efficient mechanical equipment and plan the site in a way that maximizes the appropriation of natural light,” says the firm’s website. This means using light/shade shelves, composting to minimize waste, collecting and reusing rainwater and centralized collection and management of recyclable waste.

Plymouth Rock Studios also hopes to include renewable energy for its electrical systems. It will utilize rooftop photovoltaic arrays and wind-generated energy. “When sustainable design principles are at the center of a development project, that project can become a great learning tool and example for the surrounding community,” says Stephen Newbold, the project manager on Plymouth Rock Studios for Gensler. “The opportunity for us to have that kind of impact with such a highly anticipated development is tremendous.”

The new studio complex will be part of the rapidly growing Massachusetts film industry. The state offers lofty tax exemptions to attract business in the same way it did to bring high-technology firms (and the accompanying jobs) to the state in the 1990s.

“Massachusetts has been telling the stories of America for hundreds of years. As a home to the arts, it has a rich and vibrant history that has given us some of the greatest original minds in American literature including Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, Ralph Waldo Emerson, author of the famous essay “Nature,” and Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden and the essay “Civil Disobedience,”” says the studio’s website. And the Massachusetts scenery has proven perfect for a wide range of big-screen movies. Stephen Spielberg filmed Jaws on Martha’s Vineyard in 1975; Ben Affleck and Matt Damon shot Good Will Hunting in the greater Boston area, as well as Affleck’s more recent Gone Baby Gone.

Since tax incentives went into place, more major productions have popped up, including Martin Scorcese’s Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley, The Surrogates, directed by Jonathan Mostow and starring Bruce Willis, and Ricky Gervais’s and Matt Robinson’s This Side of the Truth.

In addition to its green features, the studio aims to be one of the most technologically advanced ever built, incorporating wireless networking throughout and voice- and fingerprint-activated locks. The former 240-acre golf course will feature 14 sound stages, a multipurpose theater, a hotel and office buildings.

Nearly 400 years old, Plymouth is a charming small town in southeastern Massachusetts that has strived to maintain a 17th century feel as the arrival site for the pilgrims on the Mayflower. The town has also signed on to the state’s Community Preservation Act, which allows communities to float bonds and receive matching funds from the state for preservation and conservation activities.