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County to ask for repayment of film loan

January 12, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County plans to ask director Ron Maxwell to repay $300,000 the County Commissioners loaned him to shoot a Civil War movie in the county, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Wednesday.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell, who opposed loaning the money to Maxwell, doubted the county would be paid back.

"I think it'll be a bad debt write-off," Wivell said by phone Wednesday. "I don't think we're going to get anything out of it."

Snook and Maryland Film Office Director Jack Gerbes said they didn't know whether "The Last Full Measure" would be made.

"We're waiting to see whether it's going to happen," Gerbes said Wednesday.

He said the Maryland Film Office was keeping its fingers crossed.

Maxwell could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"The Last Full Measure" is the third in a trilogy of Civil War novels by Michael Shaara and his son, Jeff Shaara.

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The other novels, "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals," have been turned into movies, both connected to Maxwell and Ted Turner.

Jeff Shaara's Web site, jeffshaara.com, states that there are no movie plans in the works for "The Last Full Measure."

"Many of you have written, asking if the film version of this book is being produced, to complete the Civil War trilogy. Unfortunately, because of the poor box office results for "Gods and Generals", Ted Turner has dropped all plans to finance a film version of "Last Full Measure". Someone else may yet step forward, but so far, no one in Hollywood has shown interest. Despite the many rumors to the contrary, I'm sorry to say that no film is now in the works," Shaara's statement on the Web site says.

Snook said the county is in the process of writing Maxwell a letter asking him to pay back the money.

The previous board of commissioners agreed by a 4-1 vote in October 2002 to loan the money to Maxwell to shoot much of "The Last Full Measure" in the county. The money was to be used for screenwriting and other preproduction costs. The commissioners used money generated by the hotel/motel tax for the loan.

Wivell was the only commissioner opposed to loaning the money to Maxwell. He said he didn't think the county should be in the filmmaking business.

Local historian Dennis Frye, who was an associate producer of "Gods and Generals," said in a voice-mail message Wednesday that the screenplay for "The Last Full Measure" has not been written.

Snook said Wednesday he spoke with Maxwell about a week before Christmas, and Maxwell told him he was trying to find financing for the movie. He said Maxwell told him there was no firm commitment on financing.

According to a 2002 promissory note between Maxwell and the commissioners, Maxwell had until December 2005 to begin production of the movie, or the payback provision would kick in.

The county will ask Maxwell to pay back the $300,000 in quarterly payments over five years and to pay 4 percent interest, which are the conditions of the agreement, Snook said.

Wivell said Wednesday he was under the impression in 2002 that the movie would be produced by Ted Turner. If that were the case, he said he didn't know why Washington County would have to loan any money for the film.

"He wouldn't need our money," Wivell said of Turner.

In a July 2004 interview with The Herald-Mail, Maxwell said the only way "The Last Full Measure" would not be made is if he and Turner both died.

Ted Turner Pictures could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Commissioner John C. Munson, who was not on the board that voted for the loan, said Wednesday the county had no business being a financial supporter of movies.

"It's not a benefit to the taxpayers for someone else to be holding their money, and I hope that we don't do it again," Munson said.

"It sounds cruel, but it's not," he said. "It's business."

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