Md. Film Commission Sizes Up County's Star Potential

May 22, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

The Maryland Film Commission is looking for hundreds of good spots to shoot a movie.

In a daylong tour of Carroll's highways and back roads, the commission's five-person staff saw plenty of spots that could end up on the silver screen someday.

"We are the eyes for producers and directors," said Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, the commission's director. "We need to be able to give thema lot of choices, a lot of unique settings."

The commission's informal ride around the county yesterday was their second one, and it was meant to reacquaint Carroll to the state's only official movie-location lobbying group.

"A good deal of what Hollywood is looking for, what they have on their back lots, is right here," the 37-year-oldSchlossberg-Cohen said, describing the many small towns and communities that dot the back roads of the county.

While the film commission -- with video cameras in hand -- was impressed with Westminster's grand Willis Avenue and Taneytown's Antrim 1844 add Union Bridge's historic train station, Carroll already has landed several roles in television and film.

John Waters filmed several scenes of his 1988 film "Cry Baby" in Sykesville; several trade groups and automobile manufacturers have shot training films on location in Westminster, Union Bridge and Union Mills; and the Union Bridge train depot starred alongside Burt Lancaster and Sidney Poitier in the recent ABC-TV miniseries "Separate But Equal."

Maryland's attraction as a place to film movies or television shows has increased over the last several years,and yesterday's tour was meant to give the commission even more ammunition -- in the form of video tapes, descriptive brochures and statistics -- as it shoots for a larger share of the Hollywood pie.

"I call filmmakers the ultimate tourists," said Drew Friedman, the commission's international marketing director who is leaving his job today to begin a career in the health-care industry. "They don't tax the infrastructure of an area, they pay for all of the services they use.It's the purest kind of economic development."

Friedman, who had been with the commission for four years, estimated that the film industry already has pumped at least $40 million into the state's economythe last two to three years.

Founded in 1979, the commission has an annual budget of $350,000, and is one of the earliest such organizations in the nation, Friedman said. New York City's, considered to be the nation's oldest, was formed in 1976, he said.

Yesterday's venture throughout the county was organized by the Carroll Department of Public Information and Tourism and the Department of Economic and Community Development. Maggie McPherson, assistant public information director, and Bill Jenne, business and industrial representative, guided the commission around Carroll in a 14-foot county van.

The tour began at the County Office Building on North Center Street and wound through Westminster, New Windsor, Union Bridge, Uniontown, Taneytown, Harney and the Carroll County Regional Airport.

And while members of the commission have at one time or another traversed most of Maryland's roadways in search of that perfect scene, several Carroll locales jumped out to them.

"Union Bridge is one of my favorite towns," Schlossberg-Cohen said. "It's like these towns don't really exist anymore."

In Union Bridge, the commission took in the 250-foot-deep Lehigh Portland Cement Co. quarry, the "Separate But Equal" traindepot and, on the outskirts of town, a number of multiacre horse farms.

Commission members said they hope to bring Tinseltown to Carroll for a long time to come.

"There are so many fantastic and interesting sites in the county," Friedman said. "And that's attractive tofilmmakers."

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