“Made in Maryland”? Not Unless System Changes

by Rita A. O’Brennan
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ms. O’Brennan is president of Flite 3 Studios, Inc. and president of Maryland Production Alliance.

You’d think State agencies would at least encourage that film production work be contracted by local talent. Instead, too much work is being sent out of state, and even out of the country.

As president of the recently formed Maryland Production Alliance, I am barraged with inquiries about the current issue of “runaway productions”—film, video, television and new media work that is being produced outside of the U.S. for U.S. clients, including government agencies.

Our industry is greatly affected by “runaway productions.” A 1998 Directors Guild of America (DGA) study reported that the U.S. lost $10.8 billion to Canada in productions of films, television and commercials produced there. Several grassroots groups have sprung up all over our nation to combat this trend.

The Maryland Production Alliance (MPA, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to retaining, increasing and advancing the business of film, video, television and new media production within the State of Maryland. We have made it our business to lobby on issues of industry concern, to forecast industry trends, to represent all sectors of the industry, and to act as a liaison with current City and State offices, unions, guilds and trade groups.

In 2000, our grassroots lobbying had some success when the first-ever Maryland State 5% Sales Tax Exemption law was passed for the film, video and television industry. But incentives alone cannot change a culture that has existed for years among Maryland State agencies with respect to the awarding of advertising, marketing and public relations contracts.

For example, both State and Federal requests for proposals and contracts are awarded on objectives, requirements and criteria that do not promote the use of Maryland prime contractors, sub-contractors, vendors or suppliers. In fact, the requirements and policies encourage out-of-state vendor participation. They do not even suggest, let alone mandate, that the work be awarded to State vendors, or be produced within the State of Maryland.

Further, the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) requirements, recently increased to 25% of the contract dollars, are not being met.

In these economic times, we as a community of advertising and production professionals need to keep the work at home.

Mayor O'Malley brought it home at a recent Downtown Partnership meeting after the September 11 tragedy when he told to a room full of Baltimore business leaders that they have a responsibility to purchase products and services from Maryland vendors to keep our local economy strong.

My question would be to Maryland State agencies and businesses: Does it take a tragedy of this magnitude to make us understand the importance of supporting our own?— and of proudly promoting the slogan “Made in Maryland?”

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This story was published on December 5, 2001.