Will We Ever Attract Film Companies to the District?

It may be old news, but it seems that District residents are increasingly tired of being snubbed when it comes to television and film portrayals of this fair city. It’s not fair that production companies go elsewhere to shoot the bulk of their scenes, even when the work is entirely set here in D.C.

Though set in D.C., Steven Spielberg’s newest film is said to bring $35 million to the state of Virginia.
Photo from Wikipedia

So the obvious question is: Why not film here? It seems easier, cheaper even. Well, not exactly.

Earlier this month, D.C. Councilmember Vincent Organe (D-At Large) proposed a bill attempting to attract more television and film production to the city. (This is the latest attempt of the sort.) Titled “The Art in Public Spaces Motion Picture and Television Production Funds Act,” the bill would collect money from D.C. government contractors.

As a result of this, two things would happen.

1. The funds would allow more works of art to be mounted in public buildings.

2. The funds would offer incentive for movie and television crews to use the District entirely as a prime spot for a production set.

Construction contractors and developers co-operating with the District government would be required to give one percent of the value of their contracts to these funds. Half would go to the public art initiative, and the other half to the film incentive program.

The bill was supposed to be debated by the Small and Local Business Development Committee today, Oct. 31. Instead, the hearing was postponed due to a report from the office of D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi.

Will these ideas ever come to fruition?

D.C. officials have been trying to promote the city to production companies for quite some time. While there are a multitude of movies and television series set in Washington, few of them are actually made here. States like Maryland and Virginia, for example, offer considerable tax rebates to those companies needing scenery similar to Washington. In fact, Virginia recently put up $5 million for its city film office program’s two-year budget. So naturally, production companies take their business to areas that are more economically beneficial.

The Washington City Paper noted that the HBO hit series Veep was filmed almost entirely in Baltimore and was expected to produce $25 million for the state’s economy and employ 2,000 locals.

The City Paper also wrote that Virginia expects a $35 million “economic bounce” from Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, coming out in theaters within the next few weeks.

The DCist noted that the D.C. film office tried recently to show off Adams Morgan to location scouts for Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  It looks like D.C. is pushing to get production companies here to stay and shoot beyond the stereotypical National Mall scenery.

In order to increase the film office funds, Mayor Vince Gray proposed a surtax on concessions sold at the District movie theaters last year. This “popcorn tax” did not do well at its Council hearing.

The Washington City Paper posted an article after the hearing.

It noted that Ward 2 Councilmen Jack Evans said, “We go out of our way to make it difficult [here in D.C.].”

In the District, there is a lack of quality production facilities, and companies have to deal with the “careful dance between city and federal agencies, and sometimes transit authorities as well.”

The City Paper wrote that Crystal Palmer, in charge of D.C.’s film office, said that the city is being easily beat by surrounding states.

“And with the District’s program outstripped by those of its neighbors, ‘we cannot compete effectively with other cities and states,'” said Palmer, who pushed for the mayor’s bill as a remedy. ‘With a healthy incentives package to offer, Washington, D.C., will remain secure as the destination of choice for films and television shows dealing with government, politics, and espionage.’ ”

Below are some other notable articles posted on the issue earlier this year:

Maryland has a new go-to role on television – WashingtonThe Baltimore Sun

Lights, Camera, No ActionWashington City Paper 

Why Movies and TV Shows Set in DC Aren’t Usually Filmed in DCWashingtonian

Lost in LocationWashington City Paper (MOST RECENT)


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