Movie to Be Filmed in District Will Use Locals as Crew, Extras

Actress Reese Witherspoon will star in the still-untitled flick by writer/director James L. Brooks.
Actress Reese Witherspoon will star in the still-untitled flick by writer/director James L. Brooks. (Tiziana Fabi - AFP/Getty)
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By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 5, 2009

The District has given a $1.7 million grant to Columbia Pictures in return for hiring more than 100 local crew members, several hundred extras and 20 youths to work on a romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd to be filmed in the city.

The still-untitled film by writer/director James L. Brooks will be in production for 14 weeks and is expected to generate $8.5 million in local spending, officials said yesterday.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and the film's producers made the announcement yesterday morning at a news conference inside an Adams Morgan building that will be used for a scene in the movie.

The grant, through the Film D.C. Economic Incentive Grant Fund, is a small price to pay as the city tries to lure Hollywood to the District, said Kathy Hollinger, director of the city's Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.

"You want them to come here and hire local people, not bring them from L.A.," she said.

Film productions in 2007 and 2008 generated $115 million in spending in the District, city officials said.

Students from McKinley Technology High School and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, as well as some college students who live in the District, probably will be hired to join the production through the mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program, Hollinger said. The college students will start when filming begins next week, and the high school students probably will not start until school ends June 15, she said.

The experience should prove valuable for young people hoping to enter the entertainment industry.

"They'll get a feeling for being on set. It's a start," producer Paula Weinstein said.

The film's producers and Hollinger said this summer's student crew will be part of an effort to create a base of experienced workers for the future.

Gary Martin, president of Sony Pictures Studio Operations and president of production administration for Columbia Tristar Motion Picture Group, said the local hires could be called upon later when other productions come to the District to shoot on location.

It is easier for studios to film in a city where experienced local crews are available, Weinstein said in an interview.

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