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Maryland officials touts value of movies, TV shows to state

March 24, 2003

Feature film and television production in Maryland continues to contribute to the state's economy, the executive director of the Maryland Film Office told members of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Last year, an estimated $70 million was generated in Maryland by movies and TV shows, Jack Gerbes said at the Chamber's monthly "Eggs and Issues" breakfast event. Gerbes has been helping bring movies to Maryland for 12 years.

"Maryland truly is 'America In Miniature,' " Gerbes said. "Production companies look for perfect locations to film, and time and again Maryland has the variety that film companies seek.

"There's good visual imagery throughout the state, including in Washington County."

Gerbes said there is an adequate amount of trained production professionals in Maryland.

"We can offer a good 'crew base' here, with more than 800 talented technical people for TV or film production," Gerbes said.

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He also said the state offers production companies a "film-friendly" environment.

"Washington County, for instance, went out of its way to help out with 'Gods and Generals,' " he said. "It means a lot.

"People from Hollywood constantly call me and praise what went on in Washington County," Gerbes said. "It really helps sell the state as a welcoming place when top stars rave about a positive Maryland experience."

Gerbes said a new Maryland movie is beginning production. "Ladder 49." a firefighter action movie starring John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix, is being shot mostly in Baltimore, and should be released in 2004.

Gerbes also discussed the competition that Maryland faces.

"There are over 230 film commissions in the United States, from states to cities, and everything in between," he said. "Some states entice movies by giving money to the film production company; Maryland historically has not. "Louisiana just offered $4 million to a film company that would have rather done its work in Maryland, but had to make its decision based on economics."

Maryland just enacted legislation that gives production companies an exemption on the state's 5 percent sales tax.

"This can be a big savings for films that have to buy or rent a lot of material on location," Grebes said. "It also helps the state track what is spent by the film company."

Gerbes said "Gods and Generals" won't be the last movie filmed in Western Maryland.

"There are two movie projects that we know will happen, and they are right now shopping for locations in Western Maryland," he said. "One may be filmed in Cumberland."

Gerbes also said television and advertising companies are looking more closely at Maryland.

"We're going after commercials a lot more now," he said. "Last year the state estimated that the production of TV commercials brought $15 million into Maryland's economy."

Other movies filmed in Maryland include "Tuck Everlasting," "Guarding Tess," "Enemy of the State," "The Replacements," "Liberty Heights" and "Random Hearts."

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