Meet DC’s new pitchman to Hollywood

Courtesy of the Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.
Courtesy of the Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.

If the story of Washington’s efforts to attract movies and TV crews were itself made into a film, it would be a pretty sad flick. And a short one.

But will Pierre Bagley, the new head of the city’s film office, give it a Hollywood-worthy happy ending?

The Office of Motion Picture and Television Development has gotten plenty of rotten tomatoes from critics who say it was mismanaged, underfunded, and un-competitive, pushing producers to mostly skirt the District and shoot even Washington-centric movies and shows elsewhere. Crystal Palmer, the chief, had a troubled tenure. After more than 20 years on the job, then-Mayor Adrian Fenty reportedly fired Palmer in 2008, but she was re-hired by Mayor Vincent Gray in 2010 and left last year.

Enter Bagley, a director and writer with film credits of his own. He tells us he plans to take a proactive approach to courting the entertainment industry, something he says the old regime didn’t do.

“Let me tell you, in this office, no one has been pitching — they’ve been sitting and waiting to issue permits,” he says. “That’s about to change. We’re about to pack our bags.”

Bagley, who ran a production company and wrote, directed, and produced the yet-to-be-released indie flick “From the Rough,” is fluent in movie-speak. The Los Angeles transplant talks about making “the pitch” and “telling Washington’s story” to anyone scouting locations.

He also says he wants to continue to streamline the city’s notoriously red-tape-laden process for getting permission to shoot — a process that has turned off various productions. Though D.C. doesn’t offer tax credits the way other jurisdictions do to lure crews here, Bagley will have a nearly $4.3 million incentive fund to help sweeten the deal. (The film office promises more details soon about how the money will be used).

Bagley’s dream projects? Attracting the Grammys to Washington, for one. Oh, and convincing Ellen DeGeneres to tape several segments of her talk show here.

True to form, Bagley invokes a famous movie title in summing up his task, which he says is to get one or two quality projects to shoot in Washington. (He’s convinced that lemming-like, other La-La Land types will follow.)  “I’m like Jack Nicholson — I just need a few good men and women.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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Emily Heil · February 3