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Over the past few decades Baltimore has made its mark in the entertainment industry. No one knowledgeable in media and television hasn’t heard of the HBO series The Wire, Hairspray’s “Good morning, Baltimore!” has since touched the hearts of many a musical theater (and John Travolta) fan, and director, commentator, and visual artist, John Waters, has helped make a name for the city with a number of Baltimore-themed films.
This year, director Armando Iannucci (In the Loop and The Thick of It) is helping Baltimore make a comeback with the new HBO political-comedy series, VEEP. The show will star Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a Senator turned Vice President and is set in Washington D.C. Why Baltimore, then, you may ask? On day one of the filming of VEEP in MICA’s Mount Royal Avenue administrative building, I wondered the same.
HBO and the Baltimore film production community have a long standing, amicable relationship. This relationship played a large part in VEEP’s interest in coming to Charm City. In a statement announcing the show’s production, Governor O’Malley declared, “Maryland has had a long and successful relationship with HBO. We are pleased to welcome HBO back to our state for another first-class filming experience.” However even if the city does provide a dynamic environment for productions, the Baltimore film industry has been having a hard time as of late. The era of a beefy industry fueled by state-funded tax breaks has dwindled into the memories of yester year, along with the long list of projects that made it so well known (with films such as Sleepless in Seattle, Runaway Bride, The Wedding Crashers, and Ladder 49). With Governor O’Malley’s recent cuts, the film industry’s budget is now at a meager $1 million, in stark contrast to neighboring cities’ budgets, such as Philadelphia, that provide a staggering $40-60 million in funds. Production crews and workers have, evidently, started picking up and moving out of town due to poor funding and salaries.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore is, however, still used as a stand-in for D.C. due its close proximity to the capital and more lenient shooting restrictions. Additionally, the Maryland Film Office estimates that VEEP will have a positive economic impact of $6 million, creating more jobs for Maryland actors and production crews.
Even if it is as a simulation of D.C., Baltimore is fortunately being put to use. VEEP will hopefully attract more people to Baltimore and highlight the importance of the funding of an industry that has seen a successful past, that continues to house a distinctive creative hub of talent and artists, and that should not be overlooked.
Find out more from the Maryland Film Industry Coalition at http://www.mdfilm.org/.