As Theodore Bikel put it yesterday evening, Washington just can't be duplicated on a movie studio's back lot.
Bikel, the actor/singer who is also president of the Actors Equity Association, was one of many labor representatives and city council officials, who gathered at a reception at the Motion Picture Association to celebrate the fruits of several years' work trying to establish a red-tape cutter for filmmakers working in Washington.
The result in the District's two-month-old Office of Motion Picture and Television Development. Actually it's just Richard Maulsby. His office, which is similar to many springing up in major cities, helps filmmakers get permits, clearances and cooperation from the police.
Filming means hefty revenues for the city and jobs for some of Washington's 250 Actors Equity members as well as local technical people.
Maulsby said a few weeks of recent work in Washington by the movie crew filming 'Raise the Titanic" "brought $1 million to $2 million not just in revenues but in other services -- catering, extras, production crew support, flowers. We're talking about enormous benefits for the city."
Maulsby estimated about two dozen local actors were used.
Maulsby is working with a Japanese crew filming scenes for a movie called "The Virus" which depicts a world in which everyone except a small colony of people is killed by a virus.
Filmmaker John Frankenheimer will come to Washington this winter the film "Destinies," in which Frankenheimer plans to recreate the inaugural parade of John F. Kennedy.
"Complete with snow," said Maulsby. "We're working on that."
D.C. Police Chief Burtel Jefferson who was there last night, said Maulsby will get complete cooperation from his staff. Also attending were Effi Barry, the mayor's wife; and labor leaders such as Frederick O'Neal, president of the Associated Actors and Artists of America, and Robert Peterson, president of the Washington Labor Council.
But the office is only a conduit, not a policy setter for filming movies, Maulsby said. So the office has no control over whether or not-non-union actors are hired locally for roles, a question which one person raised last night. And his office has nothing to do with the local techniques' dispute with the producers of "Raise the Titanic," which has, according to one labor leader, disregarded the union rule of hiring half the technical crew locally.
Maulsby said attracting filmmakers takes time. "But once word begins to spread that there is an atmosphere conductive to working here, filmmakers will start coming."
Maulsby vowed last night there would be no more incidents like the one that happened during the filming of the move, "The Seduction of Joe Tynan."
"They wanted to use a senators' office here, and they waited weeks to get what they needed, so finally they left and went to Annapolis. Once there, they found out they could get everything else they needed in Baltimore, so the five days they were scheduled to shoot in Washington were canceled. That will never happen again."