By Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun
7:57 PM EST, February 21, 2014
A leading Democratic lawmaker says the O'Malley administration isn't doing enough to keep the popular Netflix drama "House of Cards" in Maryland.
State Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, has introduced a bill that would authorize $18 million in tax credits for movies and television shows filmed in Maryland as part of an effort to keep the show here.
Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration has offered the production $4 million, much less than it is getting for the current season, and Kasemeyer fears it will leave.
"We've made an effort to attract these productions and we were successful. Why do something to make them leave?" said Kasemeyer, a Howard County Democrat.
"If I'm some filmmaker in Los Angeles and I'm looking at Maryland, I'm going to look elsewhere because these guys changed the rules in the middle of the game," he said. "They're saying, 'If we don't get this money we may leave.' That makes sense to me."
The political thriller is set in Washington but made on soundstages in Joppa and at Baltimore-area locations, including The Baltimore Sun.
In a letter to O'Malley, Charlie Goldstein, a senior vice president at Beverly Hills production company Media Rights Capital, said the show was halting shooting on a third season until June to make sure the tax credits are approved. The letter does not specify how much in tax credits the company is seeking.
"I wanted you to be aware that we are required to look at other states in which to film on the off chance that the legislation does not pass or does not cover the amount of tax credits for which we would qualify," Goldstein wrote.
"We wanted you to be aware that while we had planned to begin filming in early spring, we have decided to push back the start date for filming until June to ensure there has been a positive outcome of the legislation. In the event sufficient incentives do not become available, we will have to break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state."
A spokeswoman for Media Rights Capital declined to comment for this article.
Nina Smith, a spokeswoman for O'Malley, said the governor is "hopeful" a deal can be reached with the show's producers. She said the film tax credits are only one of O'Malley's economic development initiatives. Others include efforts to bolster cyber, biotech and advanced manufacturing industries.
"We love the show," she said. "The governor loves the show. We want the show to stay. But we have an obligation to balance priorities, and that's what we're trying to do."
"House of Cards" received $11.6 million in tax credits to film the show's first season and $15 million to film its second season, released this month. The state has pledged $4 million for a third season.
Jed Dietz, director of the Maryland Film Festival and president of the Producers Club of Maryland, said the show needs millions more than what's budgeted to stay in the state.
"If we don't correct it, why wouldn't they leave?" he said. "They love being here, and I would hate to see us jeopardize that. It would be horrible if we lost them. If we kicked them out, it would take us years to get our credibility back."
The show is streamed online, considered by some a new business model for the TV industry. It has built what amounts to a small Hollywood studio in Harford County. It also has filmed at Baltimore's City Hall, inside the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse downtown, and at the State House in Annapolis.
Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office, says the show has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact for Maryland, including providing thousands of jobs.
The production company's letter seems to contradict a statement "House of Cards" executive producer and star Kevin Spacey made this month to The Sun. Spacey said in an interview that the program will be back for a third season — and that it would continue to film in Baltimore.
Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.
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