Last night I attended "Disconnecting The Wire, What's Next?" an event at the Baltimore Museum of Industry to mark the closing of their Wire exhibit and discuss the future of the film industry in Maryland. If you're a fan of the HBO series The Wire (and I'm a huuuge one), last night would have been totally surreal. At the beginning of the event, cast and crew from the show were just mingling and drinking cocktails with guests. It was hard not to run into your favorite characters from the show, including Slim Charles, Prop Joe, Kima, Dukie, and, of course, the beloved Bubbles.
Besides being star-studded, the event was also educational. There was a panel discussion, moderated by Ed Norris, about the current challenges facing the film business in Maryland. States offer financial incentives to producers, movie studios, and networks to convince them to film their projects here. There are 47 states that offer better incentives than Maryland. One of the panelists, Debbie Dorsey, director of the Baltimore Film Office, said that when films started going to Canada to cut costs, states needed to add these incentives and Maryland's have just never cut it. Senator Larry Levitan explained that it all comes down the state not willing to give money to support the film industry. And Keith Mehlinger, director of the Digital Media Center at Morgan State University added that it's getting increasingly more difficult to find his students local film internships.
A statistic I found particularly interesting, if not frustrating, is that Philadelphia provides $75 million in tax credits to production teams, while Maryland only provides $1 million. Sonja Sohn (Det. Kima Greggs) got up and made an impassioned speech, saying that if Maryland isn't going to get the money that other states do, then we need to start creating a culture that encourages filmmaking--that we need to make it indispensible. It was a really eye-opening panel and there is a lot more information at the Maryland Film Industry Coalition's web site.
Following the panel, guests were free to bid on silent auction items (everything from movie props to being an extra in a major motion picture) and tour the museum's exhibit "Local Scenes on the Silver Screen." I got a chance to talk to some of my favorite actors from the show, including Sohn, Andre Royo (Bubbles), Jermaine Crawford (Dukie), Anwan Glover (Slim Charles), Michael Kostroff (Lawyer Maury Levy), and Corey Parker Robinson (Det. Leander Sydnor). Crawford revealed that cast members only got their scripts an episode at a time, so they never knew what was going to happen, just like everyone else. Kostroff said that everyone assumes he's a jerk because he played a scumbag lawyer on the show. Robinson said it felt really good to be reunited with the cast and crew after the show ended nearly two years ago.
As for "what's next," the BMI is planning on creating an exhibit about the history of film making in Maryland in the future and the MFIC encourages everyone to support getting more incentives for Maryland. Oh, and The Wire has launched some great careers. Look out for Crawford in a Joel Schumacher film called Twelve. Looks like little Dukie is growing up.
[Image: courtesy of amazon.com]