Tax credits now critical to region's film industry I...


July 21, 2008

Tax credits now critical to region's film industry

I would like to set the record straight on a number of inaccurate statements made by Sheldon H. Laskin in his column "Leave film tax credits on the cutting-room floor" (Commentary, July 14).

Mr. Laskin wrongly suggests that state and local governments provide police, fire personnel and other public services "at taxpayer expense."

To the contrary, these services are paid for by the production company and are not charged to Maryland's taxpayers.

Mr. Laskin also suggests that productions "do not create much in the way of temporary employment."

However, during its fifth and final season, the acclaimed HBO crime drama series The Wire hired 364 Maryland film technicians and 2,701 Maryland actors and extras, as well as contributing significantly to the local economy by renting or buying goods and services from 673 Maryland vendors.

In fact, many of Maryland's businesses, from hotels to lumber companies, from car rental companies to bottled water companies, depend on film production for a significant part of their revenues and may even be able to hire additional employees when they are working on a film.

Mr. Laskin's comment that one Bruce Springsteen concert or a play running a week at the Hippodrome Theatre has much the same economic impact as a feature film or television series shows his misunderstanding of the film industry.

In fact, when a production comes to town, it employs hundreds of citizens and does business with hundreds of Maryland companies for anywhere from four to eight months.

And, as for Mr. Laskin's criticism of the idea that film incentives foster economic development, I would direct his attention to New Mexico, where the production crew base has grown from barely 100 film technicians to more than 1,300 professionals since the inception of state incentives.

The state now has four new sound stages being developed by the private sector, and companies like Sony Imageworks, Lionsgate Entertainment, Clairmont Camera, Star Waggons and many others have invested millions and are expanding or relocating into New Mexico.

This certainly does not sound like the "minor, temporary boost" to the state's economy Mr. Laskin describes.

Jack Gerbes, Baltimore

The writer is director of the Maryland Film Office.

Sheldon H. Laskin's column "Leave film tax credits on cutting-room floor" overlooks the needs of those in Maryland who rely on the film industry to make a living.

In a film production, often only the lead actors, producers and key staff such as the director and cinematographer are based out of town.

The rest of the crew - including gaffers, best boys, drivers, makeup artists, background actors, day players, assistant directors, production assistants, accountants, wardrobe department personnel, casting personnel, catering service personnel, hair stylists, locations scouts, set dressers and script supervisors - is based here in Maryland and pays area property taxes, sales taxes and all other taxes

And while Mr. Laskin suggests that because 47 states compete for film business, this is a "race to the bottom," the truth is that 47 states are competing for the industry in a free-market economy because they know how much revenue it generates.

Competitive film incentives produced $900 million in economic impact from 2003 to 2006 in New Mexico and $2.5 billion in Connecticut.

Can Maryland really afford to ignore these numbers?

Maryland must competitively fund tax credits or we will end up watching an industry die instead of watching movies.

Tom Moore, Baltimore

The writer is a radio talk show host who has acted in or worked for many films produced in Maryland.

Plastic bag ban could clean harbor

The bill before the Baltimore City Council that would ban plastic bags at grocery stores and retail chains is an opportunity to remove one of the worst pollution offenders from the streams and storm drains that go directly to the harbor and the Chesapeake Bay ("City weighs banning plastic grocery bags," July 16).

These bags and other kinds of trash also contribute to high levels of bacteria in the water.

As the director of the Herring Run Watershed Association, I see first-hand the impact of these bags, Styrofoam food containers, and plastic bottles on Baltimore's waterways.

The Herring Run and other streams are frequently festooned with shredded bags and filled with floating litter.

Indeed, this year in Baltimore the 864 participants in Baltimore's Project Clean Stream retrieved more than 37,725 pounds of such items.

While public education is clearly needed, and is being done by local watershed organizations and the city's Cleaner Greener campaign, getting plastic bags out of the waste stream is another important thing we can do.

Remembering to carry a reusable bag takes a little training but is a good way to reduce our reliance on plastic bags.

Mary Sloan Roby, Baltimore

Drilling extends dependence on oil

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