If you see a motorcade circling the Mall this weekend it’s probably that fake presidential convoy for House of Cards that was canceled in August after a bureaucratic dust-up with the Metropolitan Police Department. The producers of the Netflix series recently received the go-ahead to drive some prop cars around downtown DC, a police official said at a DC Council hearing today, giving District officials a sliver of pride to hang to in their sisyphean effort to make the city attractive to film and television productions.
“We’ve worked with Netflix,” MPD Assistant Police Chief Lamar Greene said. The shoot, which was originally planned for late August, was kiboshed by MPD Chief Cathy Lanier over a concern that House of Cards viewers would be confused into thinking that DC police, and not the US Secret Service, are the lead law enforcement officers on presidential motorcades. In response, House of Cards’ producers said they would simply film the motorcade in their primary shooting base of Baltimore.
Film permits in DC are difficult enough to secure with the numerous local and federal jursidictions that must be satisifed. The District is even more unappealing to filmmakers because of its lack of an incentive program, which was the subject of today’s Council hearing.
The DC government offered cash incentives and tax breaks to filmmakers until 2010, but the program has been unfunded since. A recent economic analysis of the film incentive program found that for ever dollar it spent on film incentives between 2007 and 2009, the District only earned back 44 cents, though much of the losses can be attributed to $2 million given to How Do You Know?, a romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson that was universally maligned by critics and moviegoers.
Today’s hearing was led by Council member Vincent Orange, whose previous attempts to revitalize the film incentive fund have been received about as warmly as How Do You Know? was. Other than featuring the complaints of a few local filmmakers about DC’s lack of moviemaking kickbacks and Orange reading statistics from the Maryland and Virginia film offices, which both offer robust, well-managed incentive funds, the hearing did not move the District any closer to being alluring to Hollywood. It did, however, run for five hours and 47 minutes, long enough to binge-watch six or seven episodes of House of Cards.
Crews from Netflix series, which stars Kevin Spacey as a scheming congressman, are now schedule to spend the weekend in DC, with shooting locations in downtown, U St., NW, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Cleveland Park.