Musical artist is leaving for LA; just no future in Boston area

Michael J. Epstein, a Somerville musician and filmmaker who has given us, among other things, the Boston version of the opening of The Prisoner, is leaving for Los Angeles this fall along with his partner Sophia Cacciola. Epstein cites a number of reasons, including the weather, but writes the move is ultimately about the frustrations and limitations of the creative world in the Boston area:

Every year, more and more of our friends give up and move outside the city because they can no longer afford the rent. Boston, as a community and as an institution, fails to support startup and mid-level arts groups. ...

This deficit means that the city fails to attract the types of infrastructure that result in creative workers getting paid fair wages. For our needs, that means that there are very few record labels, booking agencies, feature-film production houses, film distribution companies, etc. We personally just can’t rely on crowdfunding and accumulating debt forever, and we can’t work under those financial restrictions to do better than we are now. We are just killing ourselves to pull off anything serious on tiny budgets. The true cost of this failure to value creative work is that people like us are significantly burdened by staying, and we are driven to leave. We’d prefer to stay, but it’s self-sabotaging to wait for sociopolitical miracles.

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Same for all workers not just

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Same for all workers not just artists.
Wages have been stagnant for those at the bottom for 20 years while those at the top have had staggering increases in assets and income.
Misery is trying to live on $10 per hour.

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But but but but I thought

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But but but but I thought giving tax breaks to out of state Hollywood production companies would save the local art scene!!!!! Wait, you mean those people aren't hiring locals and pouring money into the Boston economy?

Shocking, I tell you.

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Three things

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1) Hollywood film production and the local art scene are two wildly different things, 2) Those "people" actually are hiring locals, and 3) I defy you to find me a quote from any state official saying that the film tax credit would help support the local arts community

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Couple of things

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* Artists,including musicians, actors, etc. complain everywhere about how difficult it is to make a buck. This is also true in L.A. Mr. Epstein has chosen a rough business to get involved in and try to make a living. The phrase a 'starving artist' has existed for a very long time. Few artists, no matter their field, are able to get rich through their art, or even break even.

* L.A., and California, is very expensive to live in, actually more-so than it is here.

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L.A. is still the center of the film and music industry in the US, so it makes sense to move there, especially if you're 'struggling' elsewhere. For people who're established and connected, doesn't really matter where you live, especially if you're a producer.

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Technological advancements (the internet, fast broadband, etc.) have completely altered the music industry, including at the local club and other live venues level. People of all ages have far more options to listen to all genres of music, at their finger-tips, than they did 15-20 plus years ago. AS for buying music, many don't; they just download for free through various legal and illegal means. Same with videos.

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Boston is one of the 3rd most

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Boston is one of the 3rd most expensive city in the nation. LA rents are on average 40% less. Your argument is invalid.

Cost of living is also less. Housing options are greater, and there are less people like you making up facts about Boston who don't know shit. At least the lies here are better. I will always love Boston but it's mostly bitter people like you.

Most artists make a living and your idea that they don't is exactly why Boston is full of ignorance. Yes it's rare to be rich but there are more artists making a steady living than starving. In LA most make a decent living because costs are so low and work is plentiful.

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LA is not cheap but saying

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LA is not cheap but saying its more expensive is just wrong. Only San Fran and NY are more expensive than boston. $2700 average 2br apt. In la you find 2brs for less than 1000 some places.

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Bye

Any tangible suggestions on your way out? "Make rent cheaper" isn't exactly the sort of thing the government can just do.

Maybe people around here just didn't like your art.

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Techies have dollar-store style

You can find customers but you have to structure your business for lots of bland work because most of the old-rich people here are terrified of appearing different.

The techies have a dollar-store mentality when it comes to style.

Academic-types might go for cheap anti-art, they never learned good vs. bad in school. It's like Karl Marx killed their spirits.

Every now and then I find good customers who want nice things and have money.

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Who is...

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Who is the elitist here?

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I'm sympathetic but don't get what he want

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It is even a reasonable expectation that Boston would have feature film production houses? The MA film tax deal brought a ton of film-making to the state - that's not even mentioned here. So, a waste of our money? Similarly, was Boston ever a hub of film distribution? Did there used to be film distributors here?

I'm not in the creative arts professionally, but I do know that the costs of production has never been lower (shoot HD video on your iPhone, edit movies in HD on your laptop, etc...) but that is coupled with the fact that most people (all ages, but especially younger) aren't used to paying for music or somewhat movies any longer. When I was a youth, I'd spend tons of my limited money on CDs as new albums were released. My modern day equivalent certainly isn't doing that. The local and regional governments certainly can't change that fact either. We've lost a lot of venues in the city as well over the last 10 years but again, I think if there was a huge demand, they'd have stayed open.

I think it's not surprising that making a living as a creative person in Boston doesn't work economically but you can say that about NYC, Seattle, London, etc... What's the specific thing Somerville in the case, or Boston, should be doing? Giving more tax breaks to the arts community? Making special zoning for arts spaces? I know that Fenway Studios building is protected and while that's nice for them, I can't see that it moves the needle in the Fenway neighborhood at all.

I don't think it's a failure to value creative work so much the global economics of creative work to blame here. Of course LA has more creative film industry work available but that's because it is the central hub of the global film industry, not because Somerville won't give away tax dollars it badly needs for core city services.

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More industries for artists

After doing this for 25 years here, these are my conclusions at this point:
1. Visual artists should work in commercial industries that use their talents. These might involve physical and material work. Those businesses are disadvantaged in Boston due to high commercial r.e. taxes, heavy regulations and heavy insurance requirements. The few do exist are able to get workers for a song, burn them up and spit them out. Some of these have favorable deals in the design center with the city. those deals would be available everywhere if Boston really wanted to support employment for artists.
2. Artists make the life they know. If they are down and out they are among people making no money. The middle class in Boston does not have the money to live a good life which woukd include having the great stuff the artists can make here. You need to make $250k/ year to live that kind of life here. And if you made that money, you won't live in the city because the schools don't compete with what you get in Acton.

3. Artists need a thriving market system to get better. Artists can't figure out what works and what doesn't with so little competitive bidding on their work. Just putting more out there doesn't help.

4. The culture needs to relearn what is good and gain confidence in itself. Cheap anti-art is fraud on our humanity, and academics has compounded the problem of little money by justifying the cheating of students, and just our eyes in general, when it puffs up visual insults into art. Or makes bland, fearful beige architecture out to be some kind of breakthrough. I look at what we have and it's a culture that doesn't believe in itself.

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The thing

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I find infuriating about people who whine about the cost of living in Boston is that, comparatively to other major US cities (New York, LA, San Francisco) it's quite cheap.

I lived in Allston-Brighton for years, and while it wasn't perfect, I was 3 miles from the "downtown" scene, with decent transit access and walkability. The years I lived along the B line were years I was making absolute peanuts, and I was able to find an acceptable place to live on my ramen-eating salary.

Had I moved to New York (as many friends did), I would have been in the outer reaches of an outerborough, in a markedly unsafe neighborhood with minimal transit access. Had I moved to San Francisco (as a relative did) I would have paid markedly more to live three-to-a-bedroom in a neighborhood rife with heroin needles, prostitution, and gang shootings.

There's always room to expand the housing stock so more people are acommodated in the city, but let's have some perspective on the issue.

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Has this guy ever heard of Lowell?

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In all seriousness, a better headline would've been "Bitter old man bitter, takes ball and goes home"
Boston Hassle/ Compass is one of the most successful arts organizations/communities Boston has seen in probably 40 years. Film production has skyrocketed here over the past decade. Successful bands come out of Boston year after year.
I mean i see his point. Rents HAVE gotten outrageous in Somerville, which is NOT Boston, but there is nothing stopping him from aquiring double the space for the same money in Hyde Park or Dorchester.
And cry me a river over the "tiny budgets" Cost of production goes down day by day. Equipment is cheaper, computers do the heavy lifting, data storage is cheap and available. The kid who made Dorito's winning ad in their Super Bowl contest made that ad with the dogs in a trenchcoat for a thousand bucks. If you want to shoot on 35mm film and send it to the ONE place in the country to process it and show the film in art houses, yeah, you're gonna go broke.
I wish the man luck in LA, he's gonna need it. Well, that and WATER.

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WELL...

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it's a part of their city's seal:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3d/LowellMA-seal.png

It was a tongue in cheek reference to Lowell being a cheaper place to live, and also kinder to artists. There is actually a pretty good "scene" there.

Starving artists only starve in the Metropolises of the world.

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Lowell really isn't THAT much

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Lowell really isn't THAT much cheaper than the Boston area if you're renting. Those artist lofts in the old mills are either really fancy or designated for affordable housing, there isn't really the freewheeling no rules loft scene that results in super cheap rents and unique spaces like you'd see in Brooklyn or Queens. Yeah you can buy a house for $250,000 but you'll be in the Highlands or something, not exactly the arts district. I feel like the powers that be in Lowell are too scared to really let it thrive as the Boston arts overflow. There is some cool stuff there though, I still have hope for it.

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Sarcastic?

I'm assuming you're sarcastic but there are a lot of "artists" who seem to think you can't make art if you aren't in Somerville or Boston.

The joke with this guy is that instead of moving to Lowell (frequent 1-hour train to Boston) he'll move to LA where it will take even longer to get around.

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I lived in Lowell for 10

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I lived in Lowell for 10 years and spend time there probably at least 40-50 days a year even though I live in Boston.

Lowell is great and does do some great things to support an arts community, but Lowell (both as a city government and as a community) is only so big and can only do so much. Boston is a much larger city/community, but one that has largely turned its back on the arts at an institutional level. Being an artist here is quickly becoming a total waste of time.

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What do you mean institutional level?

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Like city funding for gallery space or artist spaces or what's missing?

This is ignoring if the city should be in the business of underwriting arts directly when the budget isn't all black these days, but if you could ask Marty Walsh to do something specific, what would it be?

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Simple things

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(well *cough* SIMPLE in Boston is another subject) like zoning and building codes could help. Remember when thos old mill buildings on A street were artist lofts and not half million dollar Yuppie loft condos? I do. Some great parties/shows/exhibits there. Where did those artists go? Waltham, Quincy...LOWELL.
Maybe just NOT pushing people out to the whim of developers?
Another thing Boston sorely lacks is successful artists RETURNING here and investing money in the artist community. Some of the successful folks from here that are in LA now have the ability to buy buildings like those A street lofts and turn them into artist havens. Instead they open burger joints and plead with MA judges to expunge their criminal records so they can get a liquor licence or firearm permit in California.

It's not a cut and dry issue though ANY investment would be welcome.

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Boston has been actively

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Boston has been actively cracking down on all underground parties for years now. I don't think they really get it, but if you repeatedly send cops out to tell artists they're not wanted, eventually they will leave.

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institutional level?

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What about housing?

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Developing and Preserving Artist Space in Boston

Since 2002, ArtistSpace Boston has helped create live/work spaces and retain existing spaces for artists in the city. Space, location, and real estate are primary concerns for Boston artists. The initiative works to address these issues in collaboration with other city agencies including the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture and the Department of Neighborhood Development. ArtistSpace Boston is particularly interested in projects which create spaces that:

  • are permanently dedicated to artists,
  • are located in zones between industrial and residential neighborhoods in locations that do not support traditional family housing,
  • and offer live/work

spaces or work-only spaces for rent and for purchase at a variety of prices.

Artists help make Boston a more livable city. Throughout Boston's neighborhoods, artists have helped transform verging areas into dynamic communities. Festivals, galleries, performance spaces, and retail spring up in the footprints of resident artists, generating a vibrant street life. Artists function as small businesses by providing jobs and services for Boston residents.The work and endeavors of local artists dramatically enhance the quality of neighborhoods for both the people who live there and people who visit.

For information about the ArtistSpace program, please contact Tim Davis, Housing Policy Manager, by email or by telephone at 617.918.4302.

http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/housing/artistspace-program/...

Available Artist Spaces

Artist Live/Work Projects

Address

Neighborhood

Artist Units

Lease

Type

Fort Point Place
21 Wormwood Street South Boston Waterfront 4 own live/work

Wilkes Passage Lofts
1313 Washington Street South End 9 own live/work

Northampton Lofts
70-72 Northampton Street South End 3 own live/work

Dover Lofts
137-143 East Berkeley Street South End 2 own live/work

Walter Baker Lofts
1231 Adams Street Dorchester (LM) 13 rent live/work

Dartmouth Hotel
49-59 Roxbury Street Roxbury 6 rent live/work

Midway Studios
15 Channel Center South Boston Water Front 89 rent live/work

Brookside Studios
65 Brookside Avenue Jamaica Plain 23 own live/work

Modern
255 Northhampton Roxbury 3 own live/work

Artblock
725-735 Harrison Avenue South End 23 own live/work

Modern II
265 Northhampton Street Roxbury 7 own live/work

FP3
346-354 Congress Street (A) South Boston Waterfront 7 own live/work

Oliver Lofts
166 Terrace Street Mission Hill 3 rent live/work

Westinghouse
26 Damon Street Hyde Park 62 own live/work

Factory 63
63 Melcher Street South Boston Waterfront 38 rent live/work

119 Braintree
119 Braintree Allston 0 rent work

Stove Factory Gallery and Studios
523 Medford Street Charlestown 0 rent work

Humphreys Street Studios
11 Humphreys Street Dorchester 0 rent work

Atlantic Works
80 Border Street East Boston 0 rent work

Menino Arts Center
26 Central Avenue Hyde Park 0 rent work

First Highland Management
Sprague Street Hyde Park 0 rent work

The Brewery
31 Germania Street Jamaica Plain 0 rent work

Stonybrook Fine Arts
24 Porter Street Jamaica Plain 0 rent work

Diablo Glass and Metals
123 Terrace Street Mission Hill 0 rent work

Distillery
516 East Second Street South Boston 0 rent work

Bates Arts Center
731 Harrison Avenue South End 0 rent work

Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont Street South End 0 rent work

GTI Properties
Harrison Avenue and Waltham Street South End 0 rent work

Pearl Street Studios
11 Pearl Street Dorchester 0 own live/work

http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/housing/artistspace-program/...

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i read somewhere

maybe here? idk. that it costs the state about 100k for every person employed in the film industry here. no idea if its true or even how to try to verify that

but i have friends that are in that industry and actually employed in their field (in MA) so good for them

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Bitter, rude people?

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People who whine about Boston having 'rude' and angry people need to live in NYC, London, Los Angeles, Paris for awhile?

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You truly

Seem to have little grasp on how boston/area is perceived by people

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From where?

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People from where? Yes, I can understand why those from more so-called laid-back places (which 99% of the time means those places don't have a lot going on, and have much lower population densities than Boston) would think many people here are 'rude' (Bitter? That I don't get; angry when you have to deal on a daily basis, all year 'round, with the kind of shit you must deal with in a busy, congested, and expensive place like Boston?That I understand.).

Places like Seattle and Portland (Oregon) have historically been considered 'laid-back', partly because they, historically, had fairly homogeneous population, and low density vs large eastern cities, are now experiencing what it's like to be booming, and have a huge influx of non-native transients, causing higher living costs, tight and expensive real estate market, greater population density, etc. No doubt there are many 'bitter' people in Seattle and Portland now, too.

I can certainly understand why some people from rural areas or small towns would think people here are 'rude', but rudeness doesn't mean the same thing to everyone, and is a matter of perception. When I am in less 'rude' places, and everyone stares at you because you're a stranger, and they haven't known you since grade school, I consider that rude. I consider 'friendly' people asking personal questions rude. I was talking with someone who retired to rural NH, and although they've now lived there for 20 plus years, they still are considered basically outsiders from MA, and no, the people aren't particularly friendly. You see this repeated under similar circumstances across the country.

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Bitter and rude??

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I've yet to meet locals as "bitter and rude" as the ones I've met in San Francisco.

New Yorkers and Bostonians are downright cuddly in comparison.

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YES!

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ABSOLUTELY my friend, and not just visiting as a tourist.

And I agree with another poster regarding S.F. A tough crowd, brutal. NYers get a bum rap regarding alleged rudeness.

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The thing about LA is..

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and i love LA, but its more expensive than Boston.

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Maybe the Berklee College of

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Maybe the Berklee College of Music is churning out too many artists and diluting the work pool, or maybe the guy just wants to be closer to that TMC movie people show, where all the papalougatz hang out at the eateries stalking the artists of the West Coast. That's where the action is!

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Adam, thanks for the post. I

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Adam, thanks for the post. I don't mention it a lot but these are great for someone like me. Really shows the side of Boston that i dont see. Where else would i find i find a story like this? ThAnks!

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I feel like I read this every

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I feel like I read this every so often- that artist/ performer/ musician/ scenester _________ is moving to LA/ NYC/ another greener pasture because the Boston area offers no support/ viability- I'm not saying Boston's great- but as someone who moved from here to LA and back in the last 20 years- it seems like 9 out of every 10 people I know who went to NYC or LA in the past 20+ years are long gone from either after it turned out not to be the Shangri-La for their professional/ artistic dreams- Though I do think wistfully of California every time I break out the snow brush on my car

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Cry me a river

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Pack your bags and move, no one's going to miss you. There's already more than enough spoiled, entitled hipsters who think they're the next Andy Warhol.

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Sophia Cacciola is a musician

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Sophia Cacciola is a musician, actress and filmmaker. Why wasn't this listed in this article? It seems ridiculous that this article only writes that she is the partner of a filmmaker/musician without mentioning her credentials too.

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Did you read Epstein's article?

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I quoted part of it and provided a link to his entire essay, where you could have read more. Maybe I should have written "creative partner." The main thing is, he wrote the article I linked to, so that's why I'm going to add two or three whole more words to explain who he is.

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Yup, I read the article. Yes,

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Yup, I read the article. Yes, it would have been better to say creative partner.

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It would have been 15% better

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It would have been 15% better to say creative partner. Better would have been titling it "Artists leave..." And naming them both as musicians and filmmakers in the lead sentence, then begin the quotes with "Epstein writes:" in his original post he was telling his friends that they were both leaving and the language reflects that she will be just as sorely missed as he.

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Relative sizes and distances

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The land area of Los Angeles (the city proper) is almost 10x that of Boston. (hat tip: Wikipedia). The distance from Boston to Lowell is shorter than driving from one end to the other of L.A.

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Do some research.

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Actually, Sophia Cacciola is a musician and actor as well (she was part of the aforementioned Prisoner), not just Michael's partner. This is a fact you could easily have obtained from the internet. I'm putting her site into the URL space above for you.

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Sucks, but...

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I kind of wonder what Epstein expects. His "art" is laughable. Having seen his films, they're awkward, poorly edited, even more poorly written, and seem to be an excuse for him to casting couch a bunch of hipster girls. Same with his bands. Not surprising that Boston doesn't support bad art.

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