'Lights, cameras, action!'

June 28, 1993

If Baltimoreans want more movies filmed in their city, they ought to consider joining the Producers Club. This is a new non-profit group whose aim is to actively market Baltimore and Maryland as a site for Hollywood productions. It aims to step in when government efforts to lure movie-makers here isn't enough.

A recent premier of "Sleepless in Seattle" at the Senator Theatre marked the start of Producers Club events. Anyone who joins (annual fee: $500) gets to attend gala movie openings, dine with top cinema producers and stars, visit local on-site film productions and receive invitations to Hollywood events. The money contributed will supplement the Maryland Film Commission's promotional efforts.

Video and film productions can mean big business for Maryland. Last year, movie crews spent $26 million on local productions, which generated another $26 million in spin-off economic impact. No wonder those in film-related fields in this state are anxious to use the Producers Club to spread the word in Hollywood about the benefits of Baltimore and Maryland.

In this region's favor is the vast array of photogenic sites available. Want urban scenes, old or new? Waterfront shots? Horse country vistas? Suburban locales? Come to Baltimore. The state also offers a large number of skilled production workers, good technical facilities and government officials anxious to make filming in Maryland easy and cost-efficient.

And there's another advantage: Baltimore claims as its own a growing number of movie-makers who have hit it big, including Barry Levinson, James Robinson, Marc Platt and John Waters, to name a few.

Many of these celebrities are founding members of the Producers Club. They believe in this region as a film-production site. They know that the kind of extra marketing and promotion the club can generate could mean the difference in the final decision on where a movie will be filmed.

Another film shot in Baltimore, "Guarding Tess," starring Shirley MacLaine and Nicholas Cage, will premiere later this year. And John Waters' newest cinematic venture is "Serial Mom," also being shot locally. It stars Kathleen Turner and Baltimorean Bess Armstrong and is scheduled to be released over the winter. Filmmakers love working in Maryland. The trick is to get more of these Hollywood types acquainted with its charms.

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