ANNAPOLIS – Gary Weber was grateful to abandon his job as manager of a Berlin, Md., hotel for a bit role delivering mail to actor Richard Gere during the filming in November of “Runaway Bride.”
But Catonsville resident Susan Michener said she is still waiting to get paid by film crews who used her water to wash down her street during the filming of “Liberty Heights” that same month.
“You give up your time and your water and your land for the glory of being in the movie,” said Michener, 53.
When movies come to Maryland, they bring excitement, revenues and jobs, but also inconvenience as producers go for the perfect shot.
More than 50 films have done shoots in Maryland, bringing in more than $77 million dollars last year alone to the state and its businesses, said Michael Styer, director of the Maryland Film Commission.
For Weber, his brush with Hollywood was nothing but positive. The general manager of Berlin’s Atlantic Hotel said the filming in early November of “Runaway Bride” had a huge economic impact on the restored 1895 Victorian hotel.
The comedy is about a reporter’s (Gere’s) quest to cover a story about a Maryland woman (Julia Roberts) who habitually gets cold feet at the altar.
Two days of shooting took place at the hotel; for about 12 more days, the film crew took shots all over the town, Weber said.
“Every day we were closed, we were paid for [loss] of business and location fees,” said Weber. “It’s like being paid twice.”
Crew members also brought additional customers to the hotel’s dining room on days they were shooting around town, he said.
The excitement for Weber didn’t end there. He and his staff were given parts as extras in the flick. Members of Weber’s staff acted as waiters and maids, while Weber played a mailman in some scenes.
He said he hopes the movie exposure will help Berlin’s tourism, especially when the movie is released next summer.
Michener’s experience wasn’t as pleasant. Having a film crew in her neighborhood, the Catonsville resident said, was “kind of like having a parade on your street all the time.”
Michener, who lives across the street from a house that was used in both “Runaway Bride” and “Liberty Heights,” said while the film crews were gracious at times, they could also be self-centered about their needs.
“Liberty Heights,” Barry Levinson’s latest film in his loosely organized Baltimore series that includes “Tin Men” and “Diner,” used a house in Catonsville for a scene at a college party, but also shot scenes in Frederick and Baltimore. Filming has just about wrapped up; the film may be released this time next year, said John Strawbridge, associate casting director.
During the filming of “Liberty Heights,” Michener said her street was blocked off, her sleep disturbed by floodlights and her water used to wash down Montrose Avenue, to make the street appear rained on. She said she’s still waiting for payment for the water. -30-