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State film office director says Md. movies mean money

January 12, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HALFWAY

tarar@herald-mail.com

There's more to the film-making industry in Maryland than what's visible on the big screen, a state movie official told a group of Washington County business people Wednesday morning.

Attracting a movie production to the state means a boost in local economies and an increase in local tourism, Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office said during a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues discussion at Plaza Hotel in Halfway.

Tom Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau said the movie, "Fields of Freedom," filmed in Washington County last year depicting a part of the Battle of Gettysburg, pumped $2 million into the local economy.

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The hotel bill alone was more than $221,500, he said.

Gerbes said that the production company, Greystone Television & Films of Los Angeles, was so pleased with the filming of "Fields of Freedom" that he wouldn't be surprised if the company returns "fairly soon" for another production.

The movie is shown for tourists on a 40-foot-by-60-foot movie screen at the Gateway Gettysburg complex in Gettysburg, Pa.

"This is not a George Clooney film. It's not a Nicole Kidman film," Gerbes said. "But what it (did) do is left millions of dollars in the local economy here," Gerbes said.

Gerbes also said movie and television productions tend to draw tourists to sites where they're filmed, which is also a boost for the local economy.

"People are still going to visit the 'Field of Dreams' in Iowa," he said.

Gerbes said the film industry generated about $70 million to the state's economy last year, and more than $700 million over the last 10 years.

Recent movies shot in Maryland include "Wedding Crashers," starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, filmed on the Eastern Shore, and "Syriana," featuring George Clooney and Matt Damon. Parts of "Syriana" were shot in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Annapolis.

The Maryland Film Office helps attract movie and television productions by working with movie companies and producers and by scouting sites for possible scenes.

Chamber President Brien Poffenberger asked whether the Film Office has the ability to "craft" the image of the state in movies and if the office has ever turned a movie down because it would put Maryland in a negative light.

Gerbes said there are some films the state won't work with, particularly pornography.

He said there have been shows, such as "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "The Wire" that haven't always put the state in a positive light, but that viewers understand that what they're watching is just television. He said people likely wouldn't stop visiting the state because of the shows.

"It's TV ... and it's economic development," Gerbes said.

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