Prince George’s officials work to attract major filmmakers


Officials in the new Prince George’s County Film Office say locations such as Bladensburg Waterfront Park are good places to film movies. (Timothy Sandoval/THE GAZETTE)
March 6, 2013

Prince George’s County has its eye on Hollywood.

With a new office dedicated to showcasing prime Prince George’s sites for filming, officials hope the county becomes as common a Hollywood destination as the District.

The Prince George’s County Film Office was formed Feb. 20 as an offshoot of the county’s Arts and Humanities Council, a nonprofit organization that handles arts-related programs for the county and its film office manager. Officials hope filmmakers and production companies coming to the area will generate jobs and bring other economic benefits.

“We are looking at all of the creative industries, and the film sector is a big part of it,” said Rhonda Dallas, executive director of the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council. “We have local film producers and site assets that would be very attractive to national film industry scouts.”

David Turner, former chairman of the Prince George’s County Historical Preservation Commission, will serve as office coordinator. Turner is the lone volunteer staff member, he said, but volunteers and humanities council staff member will help when needed.

Turner said filmmakers would help the economy by paying property owners to use their sites. He also hoped filmmakers would use county vendors, such as catering companies, hotels and craftsmen to help with set and costume design.

“It has a ‘stone in the pond’ kind of effect as to creating money in the county,” Turner said, although he acknowledged it could be several years before major filmmakers start recognizing the county as a destination.

Turner said he was not sure how much economic activity could be generated from a major film being shot in the county. His first goal is to get a filmmaker to pay $2,500 to use a site.

The film and television industry generated an estimated $117 million economic impact for Maryland in fiscal 2012, said Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office.

The office measures economic impact by how much of the Maryland labor pool is used for a particular movie or television show, and how many Maryland vendors — hotels, caterers and other businesses — were used during production. For example, the economic impact of the HBO television series “Veep,” whose first season was shot mostly in Baltimore, was an estimated $30 million in fiscal 2012 after 978 crew members, actors and extras and 1,141 vendors from Maryland were used during production, Gerbes said.

Angela Wright, vice president of marketing and communications for the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp., said although there has been no communication yet with officials with the film office, she anticipates the two groups will help each other.

“We work with any entity that is in a position to help us promote Prince George’s County and its assets,” she said.

Gerbes said the last major Hollywood films he remembered that were partially shot in Prince George’s County were in 1993 — “The Pelican Brief,” starring Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts, and “In the Line of Fire,” starring Clint Eastwood. He could not recall where in the county the films were shot.

Having a film office and staff who know the area will be helpful to attract filmmakers, he said.

Turner said the county has a lot of great sites to offer filmmakers, such as the National Harbor waterfront development along the Potomac River, various art deco buildings in Greenbelt, the Show Place Arena and Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Bladensburg Waterfront Park and the University of Maryland College Park campus.

“There are 340 designated historic sites in the county,” Turner said. “Think you can find that in Montgomery County? I don’t think so.”

Turner said he would contact officials at the sites as filmmakers ask him for places to film and will help filmmakers get the proper licenses and permits.

He said he thought crime, often viewed as prevalent in the county, would not be an issue for film companies, noting that the District and Baltimore have high crime as well and still attract major filmmakers.

Hyattsville independent filmmaker Andrew Millington said he supports the idea of a film office to help boost the local economy but hopes it would support local filmmakers, too.

“We have local visual artists and filmmakers here who, given the right incentives, can begin to tell the story of people of Prince George’s County,” he said.

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