Transcripts

Lights, Camera and Lots of Action in the Local Film Industry

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

13:46:28
We move now to from the old school to a job in an industry that are a bit more modern and more than a little glamorous.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

13:46:40
No, this isn't "Entertainment Tonight, but for the moment, we are going Hollywood. 2011 may be one of the busiest years yet for film and TV production in the Washington region. We have some serious movie stars headed our way, not to mention possibly the biggest name director out there. Emily Friedman has more for us. Emily, hello.

MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN

13:46:59
Hello, Sabri.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:47:01
So is Hollywood moving here or what?

FRIEDMAN

13:47:03
Well, we've always been a popular place to shoot. I mean, think about it. We have monuments, we have battlefields, we have colonial architecture, there's a lot going for us. Like any industry, there are good years and not so good years and right now our region's film industry is having a really good year.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:47:18
Yes, apparently you said some pretty big names are coming this way.

FRIEDMAN

13:47:22
Well, there are a few high-profile projects going on, but the one with the most buzz is the one directed by Steven Spielberg.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:47:28
No way.

FRIEDMAN

13:47:30
Way. He is working on a film about Abraham Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and they're shooting the entire film in Virginia.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:47:38
This must be a huge project, though. I mean, Steven Spielberg doesn't make budget films.

FRIEDMAN

13:47:42
Right. well, the Virginia Film Office knows exactly how big the budget is but if you look on the Internet Movie Database, it's set to be around $100 million, maybe more.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:47:51
Do we get any of that? I mean, do local crews or businesses get some kind of boost from this?

FRIEDMAN

13:47:56
According to the Virginia Film Office, a production typically spends 35 to 50 percent of its budget in the state where it shoots. So for the Lincoln project, that could be $35 to $50 million flowing into the Virginia economy. I talked about this with the director of the Virginia Film Office, Rita McClenny.

MS. RITA MCCLENNY

13:48:13
Every year is unique but certainly 2011 is turning out to be quite a successful year for us thus far.

FRIEDMAN

13:48:21
Now, I should say that this is a potential $35 to $50 million, minus the incentives of course.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:48:26
Right. The competition to draw film shoots can be fairly intense, I hear. I mean, states have to throw all kinds of bait out there to attract people to shoot.

FRIEDMAN

13:48:34
Yes, exactly. An incentive is basically when a state gives back a little bit of the money that a film spends. This all started about 10 years ago because a lot of films were going to shoot up in Canada because the exchange rate made it so much cheaper to shoot there. To lure the Lincoln film to the state, Virginia promised a rebate of up to $3.5 million and depending what the film spends, it'll work out to be something like a 10 percent off coupon.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:48:59
So Virginia's spending $3.5 million to make $35 million?

FRIEDMAN

13:49:03
Right. Governor McDonnell boosted funding for the program this year and says basically it works out to be a pretty good deal.

MCCLENNY

13:49:08
Well, from the governor's standpoint, it's job creation. It is economic development and he wants it as a part of the job opportunity for Virginians.

FRIEDMAN

13:49:19
McClenny says that between the Lincoln film and a few other projects going on, before the end of the year there'll be 400 crew jobs added and 3,000 jobs for background actors or extras, as they call them in the industry. This is in addition to the regularly scheduled shoots for commercials and documentaries.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:49:35
So it sounds like Virginia's having a big year. What about D.C. and Maryland? What have they got going on?

FRIEDMAN

13:49:39
Well, for Maryland, you know, I'm going to come back to Maryland in a second. Let's talk about D.C. first because I found this really interesting. D.C. has a little under $20,000 to incentivize films to shoot in the District.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:49:51
That's like nothing.

FRIEDMAN

13:49:53
Right, it's nothing. So Mayor Gray went to Los Angeles last month and asked producers, what can the city do to attract more films. Crystal Palmer runs the D.C. Film Office and she was in those meetings with the mayor and she says what the producer said was not what they were expecting.

MS. CRYSTAL PALMER

13:50:09
Incentive was not the number one issue. The issue was more access to federal enclaves, to the Monument, to the White House, to the Capitol. And that was somewhat surprising because you would think that the incentive would be financial, but I don't think that's necessarily true in our case.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:50:27
Yes, and I mean, that's makes sense, right, if they're going to film in D.C., it's because they're going to need to have aliens blow up the Washington Monument.

FRIEDMAN

13:50:34
Well, the executives told the mayor was that if they don't have access, there's not really a reason to come here.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:50:39
Can D.C. do anything about it? I mean, sounds -- this is just another example of D.C. and the federal government bumping up against each other.

FRIEDMAN

13:50:45
Right. Well, they're trying to smooth things out right now. Palmer says they're working to streamline a permanent process for federal buildings because right now it's on a case-by-case basis. But it's not like the District's at a standstill. The D.C. film industry has created around 3,500 jobs this year alone. Ben Affleck's directing a film in the fall called "Argo" and the latest "Bourne Identity" film will shoot here, too.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:51:08
Well, that's going to be really interesting to watch. What about Maryland? Does anyone, you know, want to film in Maryland?

FRIEDMAN

13:51:13
In Maryland, Governor O'Malley endorsed a huge budget increase for the film incentives this year, boosting the fund from $1.5 million to $7.5 million. I talked to Jack Gerbes, who's been running the Maryland Film Office for over 20 years. When I called, he'd literally just walked in the door from a day of location scouting with a potential feature. He was pretty excited about it.

MR. JACK GERBES

13:51:34
When you're out there scouting and all of a sudden you see a click in the director's eyes like that's the perfect house, that's what I thought of. Then you know, you might get a movie here in Maryland.

FRIEDMAN

13:51:44
He couldn't tell me what film he was scouting for, but one project he could talk about is a new HBO series V. It stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, you probably know her as Elaine from "Seinfeld," and Maryland is very happy to have another HBO series.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:51:59
So what you're saying is this fall, we'll have more jobs and movie stars?

FRIEDMAN

13:52:02
Basically, yes, in some -- more jobs, more money and more movie stars.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:52:06
Well, Emily, thanks so much for talking to us on this tour of Hollywood East.

FRIEDMAN

13:52:10
You are welcome.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:52:11
And if you want to be an extra in one of those movies or just gawk during filming, we are here to help. We have links to D.C., Maryland and Virginia Film Offices. They post job openings and production schedule online. It's all at metroconnection.org.
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