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HBO picks up "VEEP" - Maryland back in TV biz

HBO will announce on Monday that it has decided to pick up "VEEP," the political satire pilot filmed in Maryland and starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

The decision by TV's top cable channel will put the state back in the film and TV production business at a level that it hasn't known since the end of "The Wire" in 2008. The pilot alone is estimated by the Maryland Film Office to have provided $6 million in economic impact for the state economy. More than 200 area actors found work in supporting roles and as extras.

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While HBO's official announcement is not expected until Monday, the channel did confirm the pickup, which the local production community has been holding its breath over since the pilot filmed here in late February and early March. Production in Maryland is expected to start in the fall -- with a debut in early 2012.

As previously reported the at Z on TV, Armando Iannucci ("In the Loop") will direct and produce. Other executive producers will include Frank Rich, of New York Magazine, and Simon Blackwell, who co-wrote the pilot with Ianucci. Louis-Dreyfus, the one-time "Seinfeld" star and two-time Emmy Award winner, will be a producer.

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In the Washington-set satire, Louis-Dreyfus plays a former senator who suddenly finds herself as vice president of the United States. Baltimore will stand in for Washington.

The cast will also include Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky and Reid Scott.

As previously reported here, such film and TV veterans as casting director Pat Moran sang the praises of Louis-Dreyfus, Ianucci and the team that filmed the pilot on locations around Baltimore and a sound stage in Columbia.

While the writing, directing and on-set chemistry seemed to be in place, some in the production community wondered whether Maryland could put together an attractive enough incentive package to get the series made here.

The news of the General Assembly upping TV and film incentives from $1 million this year to $7.5 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1 seems to have addressed that. That story was first reported here at Z on TV on Thursday.

And this is not a case of a state throwing money in the direction of Hollywood hoping some of it will return. This is a case of a cable channel already having spent some money here to make a pilot that was now in the can. It was a chance for the state of Maryland to work with TV's most celebrated cable channel to provide hundreds of jobs and support some of the film-related businesses that have struggled to hang on since "The Wire" ended.

And until production starts in the fall, members of Maryland's TV and film community will be employed working on another big-name HBO production, an adaptation of the political best-seller "Game Change," which told the backstage story of the 2008 presidential election.

The made-for-TV movie is scheduled to start production "in and around Baltimore" starting the last week of April. Its cast features Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris. Again, Baltimore will stand in for Washington.

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