Richard Maulsby knows firsthand that the glamour and sparkle on the silver screen is born of a lot of confusion. As head of Mayor Marion Barry's new Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, he works with the people who come to Washington to make movies and television programs.
Maulsby's always behind the scenes, sometimes rubbing elbows with stars.
His services run the gamut. A typical day might include getting up before dawn to escort a camera crew to its shooting location and asking their hotel to open its restaurant early so crew members can get breakfast.
When the troops arrive on location, the street will likely be clear of traffic or parked vehicles, thanks to Maulsby's negotiations with the police department and the Department of Transportation. n
Washington presents special impediments to filmmakers, Maulsby says. Overlapping federal and local jurisdictions are one of the problems peculiar to the District, as in the case of the D.C. police department, the Secret Service and the Park Police. But such complications don't bother him.
He helped create the $25,000-a-year job. As a member and past president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the most influential gay rights group of the city, he coordinated the gay community's efforts to elect Marion Barry.
At the same time, he made it known he was interested in the job as director of the office.
"I pushed for the office while working for the campaign," Maulsby said. "During the transition period there was discussion of establishment of this office and discussion of me becoming a member of the administration. I said I was only interested in this office."
Maulsby appears unruffled. At 38, his features are boyish.His blonde hair falls in bangs over something of a baby face.
His expression is slightly amused.
From his vantage point in the District Building, he sees a mayoral administration struggling to collect its debts, to make every penny count.
Meanwhile, the city stands to gain an estimated $2.5 million a year plus fat profits for District entrepreneurs from his one-man office.
Maulsby could justifiably look at his comrade in government with a certain amount of smugness being, as he is, a one-man band in these days of big bureaucracies.
Since his office was created last September, television and film producers have dropped $1.1 million in Washington. And yet Maulsby has no deputy director nor administrative assistant. He has no assistance whatsoever. He doesn't even have his own secretary.
"What I like about the job," he says, "is cutting red tape. (Filmmakers) call and say 'What'll I do?' and I say, 'Don't worry about it.' Also what's satisfying is that you're helping create jobs and revenue."
According to Maulsby, 44, other states have film promotion offices, although he adds that most of them are not one-man operations. The idea didn't catch on here, however, until a bill to create the D.C. office was introduced in the City Council by then-Councilman Barry, with the support of the Greater Washington Central Labor Council.
Although the bill failed, the idea was resurrected after Barry was elected mayor. Maulsby said research by the Central Labor Council and the mayor's transition team revealed that the office could be created by an executive order, rather than by passage of legislation.
The acutal establishment of the office came after two large movie productions, "Billy Jack Goes to Washington" and "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" had given up trying to shoot on location and left because of excessive red tape problems.
Maulsby's job also involves actively promoting the city as an attractive place for filming. He arranged with Maryland's film office to place a joint advertisement this summer in "Variety," the entertainment industry publication. He asked the District government for $10,000 to spend on a promotional brochure to distribute to film companies, but he said his request was turned down.
"I've been approached by a group called Women in Film and a Corcoran Gallery film class," Maulsby said. "They wanted to make videotape cassettes to distribute to producers. But I don't have the money to pay for their expenses and talent."
Maulsby believes that in order to draw on Washington's full potential as an attractive site for filming, the "non-postcard Washington," or the areas of the city outside the national monuments, must be advertised.
He added that "Being There," a recent film with Peter Sellers shot in places such as North Captiol and 14th streets NW, was the best example of "non-postcard Washington" he's seen.
"We're promoting it because the locations (filmmakers) want are here, not because it's the nation's capital," he says. "In New York, they don't just shoot the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty and leave. They stay."
He recalls that the company filming "The Matarese Circle," a movie based on a currently popular book, was rather unfamiliar with the Washington beyond the monuments.
"They didn't know Washington had an area with office buildings," he said.
Several feature films have been shot in Washington recently, creating what Maulsby depicts as a trickle-down stimulus to the city economy. The flow begins when local actors, cameramen and extras are employed, and it continues when producers need flowers, gas, costumes, posters, catering and film processing. They usually rent various kinds of vehicles and are occasionally required to pay fees to private property owners.
The city also asks for a voluntary contribution to the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls clubs.
All of this adds up to some fairly large sums spent by film production groups.
Recent movies made here, although not released, include: a feature called "Raise the Titanic"; "The First Family," directed by Buck Henry and starring Gilda Radner, Bob Newhart and Madeline Kahn; "The Haunt of Man," a British documentary of the world environment, and "The Virus," a Japanese film about a world in which everyone but a small colony of people is killed by a virus.
Maulsby is not affected by his associations with the celluloid heros who come to Washington. His greatest admiration is reserved for Buck Henry.
"He's a very funny person, a very nice and considerate person," Maulsby recalls. "He told me he wished he could have shot the whole film here, but he didn't have the budget. A lot of directors don't like to shoot in Los Angeles because all the backgrounds look the same. But that's good business for us."