Only a few years ago, it was a novel experience for Marylanders to watch movies like "Tin Men" or "The Accidental Tourist" and spot familiar locations on the big screen. As Maryland becomes an increasingly popular film location, the thrill is becoming more common.
The latest example is the summer hit "Sleepless in Seattle," in which Meg Ryan plays a Baltimore Sun feature writer destined for romance with a Seattle widower. And with the announcement this week of a two-film commitment from Morgan Creek Pictures, Maryland moves up another notch on the list of preferred locations.
It helps that James G. Robinson, CEO of Morgan Creek, is a Baltimorean who still lives in Baltimore County and "commutes" to Hollywood. In recent years, he has built Morgan Creek into one of the largest independent film production companies in the industry.
Movies may be glamorous, but the work of making them is tedious and costly. It's work, however, that can add millions of dollars into local economies -- for Maryland, $52 million in direct and indirect costs last year alone.
Shooting for Morgan Creek's feature film "Major League II" is beginning in Baltimore this week, using both Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium. Next week, Morgan Creek will begin filming a dramatic mystery starring Richard Dreyfuss and directed by Bruce Beresford, whose "Driving Miss Daisy" won the Best Picture Oscar in 1989. The Beresford movie, as yet untitled, was originally envisioned in a New England setting but now will be filmed largely on the Eastern Shore, with scenes in Baltimore City as well as Carroll, Baltimore and Howard counties.
At a time of too many stories about industrial contraction and too few about economic expansion, Hollywood's appreciation of Maryland's scenic riches is good news. Compared to other states, Maryland's budget for promoting filmmaking in the state is small, but the involvement of Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Secretary Mark Wasserman of the Department of Employment and Economic Development helped make the difference. With the Morgan Creek deal, Maryland is well on the way to creating a momentum that need not depend on expensive promotional campaigns.