Dream of film industry in Bowie needs research, officials say -- Gazette.Net


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Bowie officials say a committee’s suggestion to create a film industry in the city could have great economic benefits — but caution that the likelihood of its success isn’t good.

The Bowie Economic Development Committee plans to vote Sept. 3 on whether to ask Bowie leaders to consider efforts to attract filmmakers to the city.

“I think it would be great as far as an economic development driver. It’s not just a standard guy in front of the camera. You get carpenters and electricians along with that,” said Mike Ahearn, chairman of the city’s economic development committee.

Committee members Lisa Ransom and Joan Pitkin will give a presentation on the suggestion before the vote.

Pitkin, a former state delegate, said she envisions the Bowie effort working in conjunction and coordination with the Prince George’s County Film Office, which was established in February to draw filmmakers and jobs to the county.

“It could enhance their agendas,” Pitkin said. “My vision is a satellite facility.”

The Maryland film industry provided 6,893 jobs in 2011, which yielded $592.4 million in wages, according to the Bowie EDC.

Pitkin said the film industry would help bring more jobs to Bowie and may help independent movie-makers because they could film in a place that was cheaper than Washington, D.C., or Baltimore.

Ahearn said the city has a great location being between Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington, D.C., but the process of creating the industry is still in its beginning stages.

“I think it’s really early right now to say we’re going to get the film industry,” Ahearn said. “I think right now it’s just a desire. [Bowie] does have a lot to offer.”

While worth researching, City Councilman Dennis Brady said luring the film industry to Bowie may be impractical because of the lack of city filming locations.

“The harsh reality is most sets are looking for themes,” Brady said. “Unless you’re doing a film about Bowie, I don’t know what we have to offer that would be unique.”

Some of the possible filming locations proposed by the Bowie EDC are Allen Pond, White Marsh Park, both libraries and City Hall.

City Manager David Deutsch said he was concerned that Maryland tax incentives weren’t very competitive with those of other states. Film credit incentives vary from state to state. For instance, Pennsylvania provides a 25 percent tax credit as long as more than 60 percent of the work is done in the state while California has a pool of $100 million in credits for filmmakers.

This year, Maryland’s General Assembly passed a tax credit increase for Maryland filmmakers from $7.5 million to $25 million.

“I’m not sure at this point whether this is practical,” Deutsch said. “I don’t want to raise expectations on the part of residents or the City Council that Bowie is going to be the mecca of the film industry.”

Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said he is anxiously awaiting the advisement of the economic development committee, but he had some reservations.

“It’s a matter of looking at what they want to do,” Robinson said. “I’m not really big on things that cost money that don’t really produce anything.”

alarkins@gazette.net