State needs to help roll film

I just wanted to expand upon something that we discussed yesterday on the Ehrlichs Radio Show about Martin O’Malley’s work to eliminate the film production tax credit.

For those of you who don’t know, Governor Ehrlich worked with folks in Hollywood during his administration in an effort to procure more film business for the state of Maryland, and established a tax credit for the first $6 million that a production company spent to film television shows and movies here in the state. When you consider the number of productions that have filmed here in Maryland (from the good, to the bad, to the demented) providing more incentives for production companies to do business here in Maryland seems like a pretty good idea.

Except it didn’t seem like a good idea to Martin O’Malley, who worked to axe the tax credit…..never mind the fact that the cost to the state, in the grand scheme of things, was relatively minuscule.

Why is a tax credit important? Because it provides one huge incentive for production companies to do business here in Maryland. And when you talk about mid-size to major studio productions, that business provides a sizable impact to the state. I’m not sure how many readers have been on a movie set, but I got the opportunity to be an extra in a terrible Winona Ryder film that was filmed at Camp Fretterd. And there were hundreds of people working on that film at any given time; even David Paulson managed to get a gig with the film. And those hundreds working on the film didn’t even include all of the other ancillary business that was attracted by the film; food purchases, hardware purchases, port-a-potty rentals, etc.

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And those benefits are even greater if the state can attract an episodic television show to the area. While movies only need to film roughly 90 minutes of footage one time, episodic television creates about 26 hours of programming for every season. That means long-term, stable economic development in the area a film is being shot on location; you can’t tell me that city businesses in locations around Baltimore didn’t feel a sizable economic uptick that was directly attributal to the production of Homicide or The Wire.

If Governor O’Malley suddenly now wants to become a jobs Governor, why did he work to eliminate a tax credit that created jobs? Skilled labor that works in the film industry cannot survive the reduction in jobs that are available due to the elimination of the tax credit, which hurts union film workers. And the reduction winds up hurting small businesses. A small business owner from Baltimore County who owns a local production company that works on documentaries called into the show yesterday and noted that the elimination of the tax credit hurts his labor pool and his bottom line since so much skilled talent has left to the state. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the small business owners who run the flower shops and the food stores and the port-a-potty companies that would be hired to work on these productions.

Maryland remains attractive as a location for film companies; our state needs to be doing more to attract these large productions and the jobs and economic impact that comes with them…


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