NEWS

Hollywood studio executives want to build production complex at SouthField

Jack Encarnacao

The former director of the state Sports and Entertainment Commission and a group of Hollywood studio executives are negotiating with the developer of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station to build a movie and television production complex on the property.

Mark Drago, the former state film commission director, is the local representative for the group, which includes four industry executives: Lee Tomlinson, James Hersch, Robert Papazian and Allan Kassirer.

It has been known for some time that base developer LNR Property Corp. has been negotiating with an investment team that wants to build a production complex on the 1,440-acre site.

The Patriot Ledger confirmed that the team is made up of former studio executives and producers, and that a deal is 12 to 18 months away.

A deal won’t be sealed until state legislation is passed that reclassifies film production in the state as a manufacturing industry and a $7 million cap for film budgets is removed that qualifies movies for tax credits.

Rep. Ronald Mariano, D-Quincy, is pushing the legislation to lure film and television business to the state.

He said Drago, who declined to comment when reached by telephone, has been a key link in recent months by keeping the executives on track and interested in the former base.

‘‘He met them when he was in the film bureau and sort of pointed them in the direction of South Weymouth,’’ Mariano said. ‘‘For that he has been very, very helpful.’’

Mariano said the plan includes a campus-style complex with sound stages, animation studios, motion-capture stages and office space. The plan is to build at least eight buildings for sound stages.

‘‘I think both sides really would like to have a deal,’’ Mariano said.

‘‘I think these guys have a great business plan for capturing most of the movies made east of the Mississippi. They have been successful in Hollywood in the same type of business, and I think they see an opportunity here.’’

Mariano, who suggested the Weymouth location to the executives when they expressed interest in Massachusetts, said the former air base’s proximity to Boston and Logan Airport, as well as its rail line service, are big selling points.

Several high-profile films were shot in Boston last year, but the ancillary production work was done elsewhere because there were no facilities in the state.

Papazian and Hersch were co-producers of the HBO series ‘‘Rome’’ and were involved in running Ray-Art and Sunset Gower studios in Los Angeles.

Tomlinson is the owner of The Culver Studios, the longstanding California production company where ‘‘Gone With the Wind’’ was shot. He is also director of marketing for The American Film Institute.

Kassirer is a lawyer and producer. His credits include the 1997 television show ‘‘North Shore Fish,’’ which starred Tony Danza and was based on a play about a Gloucester fisherman.

Jack Encarnacao is at jencarnacao@ledger.com.

The Patriot Ledger