- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Maryland Film Office is celebrating the millions of dollars that movie and television productions have spent in the state and anticipates more positive economic activity when a new Showtime series begins filming in the Free State.

“When a production comes into town, it has a huge economic impact where it shoots,” said office director Jack Gerbes, adding a film-induced tourism industry has emerged as production companies provide jobs for residents and profits for businesses.

The Maryland Film Office projects that if Showtime’s “The President Is Missing” becomes a full-blown series, it could have a similar economic impact in the state as did the six seasons of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” which generated $700 million in revenue, hired 2,000 residents and purchased services and goods from 2,000 local businesses each season.

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The state incentivizes film and television through a tax credit of up to 25% and an exemption for the state’s 6% sales tax related to production costs.

Since the implementation of the tax credit in 2011, 13 productions have filmed in Maryland and have generated an economic impact of nearly $900 million.

Mr. Gerbes said the state has a really quality crew base and diverse landscape, giving filmmakers many options.

“For example, you can be in the gritty urban city of ‘The Wire’ and 20 minutes later you can be in a field that Julia Roberts was running across in her wedding gown in ‘Runaway Bride,’” he said. “An hour later you are on the Eastern Shore for ‘Wedding Crashers.’”

Much of the office’s work involves using industry connections, cold-calling producers and suggesting they film in Maryland, which Mr. Gerbes said is how he got Showtime to produce its new series in the state. He said has offered consistent incentive program for production companies.

“To build all their sets here, they want to know our program is going to be consistent because they don’t want to pull out after year one or year two,” Mr. Gerbes said.

He also noted that Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation to set aside funds for small, independent films — “that way we are nurturing and helping out Maryland filmmakers.”

“Many times when a film comes in, they will leave a location better when they leave when they got there,” Mr. Gerbes said.

Production companies recycle and donate leftover props and clothes to local charities, he said. Often they will fix up an area or town and leave it that way when production is finished, he said, citing “Home for the Holidays,” for which producers replaced an entire roof and built a garage at a Maryland home.

Vans Stevenson, senior vice president of state government affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America, said Maryland has a “viable program” and a “good reputation,” adding that the state will see more business from the industry from an increase in streaming services.

Mr. Stevenson, however, said no state’s program compares with that of Georgia, which offers a 30% tax credit and has an unlimited budget for the credit. (Maryland’s budget for the tax credit has a cap).

With the tax credit, “all the advantages to the state are upfront,” Mr. Stevenson said, noting that movie companies come to an area and immediately start spending money but don’t receive the credit until months later when an audit is performed.

A 2019 study conducted by the MPAA found that as much as $250,000 can be injected into a local economy per day when a film shoots on location. It also found that the industry produces more jobs than other major sectors, including mining, oil and natural gas extraction, crop production, utility system construction, and rental and leasing services.

“The President is Missing,” starring Daniel Oyelowo, is a political thriller that follows a president as he navigates a terrorist threat, which is based on a novel by former President Bill Clinton and mystery writer James Patterson.

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