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Editorial - Let's make a movie

August 26, 1997

It's not what we usually think of as economic development, but the attempt to get Washington County's business community to rally behind a major movie-making venture here makes sense, because in exchange for a relatively small sum of money, the community stands to gain a great deal.

The movie would be called "Gods and Generals" and would be what the Hollywood types called a "prequel." Based on Jeff Shaara's book, it would follow the lives of several key historical figures in the years preceding the Battle of Gettsyburg.

Why should citizens care about whether a movie gets made here? According to Ron Maxwell, the film's director, movie makers will spend $600,000 a week in Washington County for the 20 or more weeks in which the movie will be filmed. As part of the process, the film crew will build a set which will be preserved after filming is over, possibly as a Williamsburg-type tourist attraction. Other possibilities include development of an indoor sound stage and a film school to teach young film-makers how to do historical movies.

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Whether all of this comes to pass is uncertain now. What is certain is that interest in the Civil War and the history surrounding it is at an all-time high, and Hagerstown and Washington County have a unique opportunity to use ventures like this to make the area a destination for those who want to absorb that history.

Many people and organizations deserve credit for getting the project this far, but three deserve special mention. The first is Farmers & Merchants Bank and the local businesspeople, for raising $500,000 for pre-production work. The second is Dennis Frye of the Association for Preservation of Civil War Sites, who helped convince Maxwell and Shaara that this was the place to make their movie.

Finally, we salute Mike Callas of Callas Contractors, who put the prestige and respect he's built with decades of public service behind the project, bringing thousands of dollars in pledges almost immediately. Callas, whose good works are usually done without fanfare and away from the spotlight, should take a well-deserved bow for this one.

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