BALTIMORE – Standing on a Baltimore street corner near the set of the HBO series “The Wire,” Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich on Thursday proposed doubling the amount of funding to help movies made in Maryland, saying the investment would bring jobs to the state.
Ehrlich, who said he and his wife, Kendel, are “addicted” to “The Wire,” proposed to increase film funding from $4 million to $8 million for the state’s wage rebate grant program as part of his budget proposal for the 2007 fiscal year.
The program was designed to lure Hollywood to Maryland after the state lost the film “Annapolis,” a movie that was filmed in Philadelphia because Pennsylvania was able to offer better incentives.
“That’s embarrassing to us and our state,” Ehrlich said. “That’s jobs right out of Baltimore [and] right out of Maryland.”
In its second year, the wage rebate program offers up to $2 million as repayment for certain wages that were spent while making a film or television show in Maryland.
Since the program’s creation, three projects filmed in the state have generated an estimated $70 million in economic impact, providing jobs for 800 local crew members and for local actors, Ehrlich said. Overall, he said, the film industry has brought an estimated $775 million to the state’s economy over the past 10 years.
B.J. Spencer, owner of VIP Security Unlimited, has provided security for “The Wire” since its pilot episode.
“Prior to the governor’s wage rebate plan we had five people working,” Spencer said. “Shortly after the bill was passed we got a call saying ‘The Wire’ was coming back . . . then I took those five [and went] from five to 70. Out of those 70 people we took 21 of them off unemployment.”
The governor called on members of the crowd, mostly made up of “The Wire” crew workers and union members, to go to Annapolis and tell the legislators how important getting the additional money is. “People listen when you show up and talk to legislators [and say] ‘This is my job. This will be dollars out of my pocket,'” he said.