Maryland’s economic future is bright, thanks in part to a recent resurgence in the state’s film industry and the attraction of some blockbuster television series.
The 2013 Regional Economic Studies Institute’s Economic Outlook Conference, held at Towson University on Nov. 6, showcased industry developments and presented a solid case for the benefits of Maryland’s film production tax credits, approved by legislators through 2016.
Experts shared their passion for keeping film production in the state. The following are 10 takeaways from their remarks and panel discussions.
1. The industry represents a major employer in the state, employing 6,893 people directly who were paid $592.4 million in wages last year, according to Regional Economic Studies Institute economist and executive director Dr. Daraius Irani.
2. The return on investment for every dollar in tax credit granted to the film industry is projected at over a dollar, representing significant potential gains as the industry grows, Irani said.
3. Film productions, made possible through Maryland tax credits, offer a huge boon to small businesses. “House of Cards,” which utilized 1,814 Maryland businesses in its first season, most recently helped prevent layoffs at National Lumber and helped to open a new product line at ABC Box Company—both companies are based in Baltimore City. According to Angela Miele, vice president of state tax policy for the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., “It’s not the Brad Pitts of the world who are the face of these incentives, it’s small businesses.”
4. Maryland has the same potential as any state to draw film projects. Determining a film’s location is simply a matter of “cost, creativity and convenience,” Miele said, and tax credits significantly reduce cost.
5. Without tax credits of up to $25 million in fiscal year 2014, and up to $7.5 million in fiscal years 2015 and 2016, continuing seasons of the critically acclaimed television series “House of Cards” and “VEEP” would not be filmed in Maryland, according to Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office within the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.
6. Maryland’s film tax credits come in the form of refunds to productions that have a minimum of at least $500,000 in qualified expenditures. Productions that Maryland secured because of the tax credits include “House of Cards,” “VEEP” and the indie films “Ping Pong Summer,” “Jamesy Boy” and “Better Living Through Chemistry.”
7. Experts agreed that Maryland offers some of the most diverse scenery available in the United States, from Ocean City to the Appalachian Mountains. They also discussed the state’s ability to camouflage into nearly any location in the world, whether Baltimore is playing Paris, France or Washington County is playing a Belgium battlefield.
8. In the past, Maryland film workers were forced to leave the state to work on film productions. But today, thanks to projects like “House of Cards” and “VEEP,” they’re finding work much closer to their homes and families. According to Wade Tyree, a union leader with extensive filmography experience and a mentor to film students at Towson University, “One of my favorite things to tell my students is that they don’t have to leave, they can work right here. They can keep working and continuing their lives here in the state,” he said.
9. Despite sometimes-controversial subject matter, successful films and series nearly always yield positive results for the state, according to Kevin Kilner, a Maryland native and accomplished actor, who most recently appeared on “House of Cards.” Kilner pointed to social programs and even tourism that benefitted from production of “The Wire.” “It’s one of the greatest television series ever made, in the world. It’s a piece of literature. … David Simon and all of the great writers, directors and artists who come out of Maryland—we should fight to keep them here,” he said.
10. Kilner confirmed that a third season of “House of Cards” is already being planned for filming. A show with multiple seasons and reliable support from state legislators provides an environment that fosters up-and-coming talent, including students and interns. “They can train young people over seasons, and that is a multiplier effect that we cannot measure,” Kilner said.
– Courtesy of Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development.