'Made in Md.' means money Income: Businesses find it pays to deal with companies filming in Maryland, whether it's movies, television or commercials.

Film industry

November 20, 1998|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

When a set decorator needed a rusty mop bucket as a prop in the feature film "Liberty Heights" last month, the operator of a local antiques mall went to her utility closet and pulled out the perfect model.

Elaine Ezell, president of AAA Antiques Mall Inc. in Hanover, has been doing business with the film industry for several years, working from lists to provide items quickly.

Each film that comes in represents $15,000 or $20,000 in revenue to the 450 antiques dealers at her mall, she said. This year, she estimates, the film industry has brought in at least $50,000.

"We try to really accommodate them," she said. "These set decorators have a network, too, so they bring us more business."

Across the state, Maryland businesses are having similar

experiences. They got together yesterday with people in the film industry to swap tips and techniques at a program in Columbia sponsored by the Baltimore-Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce.

"We're at a point in time when this industry can shoot through the ceiling here," said Stuart Cooper, president of Cooper Productions Inc., who has worked on such television productions as "Unsolved Mysteries" and "America's Most Wanted." "We need you to support us."

Robert Bixler, president of Roberts Office Furniture in Annapolis, projects as much as a quarter of a million dollars in revenue next year from the film industry. Celia Blumenstein, president of Budget Car and Truck Rental in Glen Burnie, says three feature films and the filming of the television series "Homicide" have meant about $100,000 for her company this year.

In all, the Maryland Film Office predicts more than $77 million in economic impact during the fiscal year that will end June 30. Such revenue totaled $77 million last fiscal year, $62 million in fiscal 1997, and $42 million in fiscal 1996.

Features that have been filmed, at least in part, in Maryland, include "Absolute Power," "Accidental Tourist," "Die Hard With A Vengeance," "Guarding Tess," "Mosquito Coast," "Patriot Games," "The Pelican Brief," "Sleepless in Seattle," "True

Colors," "True Lies," "Space," "Species II" and "St. Elmo's Fire."

More recent movies filmed at least partly in Maryland include "Enemy of the State," which opens today, "Beloved" and "Liberty Heights."

Big budgets

With the average feature film budget ranging from $40 million to $50 million, the economic impact on the community where the filming is done is $1 million to $2 million a week.

"Runaway Bride," now being made in Maryland, is expected to spend 12 weeks filming, resulting in an economic impact of at least $12 million.

Although the state office does not track the revenue brought in by commercials being filmed in Maryland, officials estimate that the amount is comparable to that of feature films. The budget for a 30-second national spot ranges from $150,000 to $1 million.

Feature films and commercial business are markets that overlap, those in the industry said.

"The feature film industry is the brand establisher," said Jed Dietz, president of the Producers Club of Maryland.

"If you're good enough for Clint Eastwood and Jodie Foster and Barry Levinson, that resounds throughout the whole industry. The commercial people like being in a place where an artist has shot."

Competition in the film industry is fierce, with more than 200 film offices operating in North America doing what Maryland's office is doing, said Michael B. Styer, director of the Maryland Film Office.

Double duty

In many cases, getting business means that Baltimore must double for other cities.

"There just aren't enough scripts written about Baltimore," Styer said. "So we're out there trying to steal from everyone else. And we've been able to do it quite successfully."

Rita A. O'Brennan, president of Flite 3 Studio, said the film industry needs a wide range of goods and services.

"We've had requests for coffins, flowers, catering," she said. "You do what you have to do to make it work. The payoff is tremendous."

Some requests made of local businesses are unusual.

When Jodie Foster was in the Catonsville area a few years ago for the filming of "Home for the Holidays," a local high school band was hired to play "Happy Birthday" to her, Styer said.

Filmmakers are noted for changing plans in midstream. So flexibility, along with competitive pricing and good customer service, were recurring themes among those attending yesterday's meeting who have worked with the industry.

"We have options, and we have alternatives," said Jay Jeso, a producer with Raindancer Films in Columbia.

"We can go somewhere else to do the work we do."

Pub Date: 11/20/98

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