New Motion Picture Commission aims to attract movie projects

Gov. Jack Markell signs a bill establishing the Motion Picture and Television Development Commission Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

Gov. Jack Markell signs a bill establishing the Motion Picture and Television Development Commission Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

MIDDLETOWN — With its beaches and woodlands, modern architecture and historic buildings, the First State is a suitable setting for studios and directors looking for a place to film movies and TV shows, some Delawareans believe.

While the state has a sparse record when it comes to hosting shoots, some believe it is brimming with potential. To that end, the General Assembly unanimously passed legislation creating the Motion Picture and Television Development Commission to entice studios, networks and producers to shoot in the First State.

The bill was signed into law Wednesday at St. Andrew’s School, a choice attendees said was fitting: The school, with its picturesque campus and old brick building, served as the filming location for the 1989 film “Dead Poet’s Society.”

“This was like the only feature film that’s really been done of any significance in Delaware, and the whole state loved it, from top to bottom, sideways and whatever else, everybody participated in this film, and we’re just really happy to kick this off,” committee Chairman T.J. Healy said.

The commission, overseen by the Department of Finance, will focus on creating a TV and movie industry in the state, and supporters believe it has strong potential as an economic development tool.

It is designed to offer incentives to companies to shoot in Delaware and works with the nonprofit Film Delaware to help find suitable locations and gain the needed permits.

“Nobody’s going to come to Delaware to do a major film, unless they get some sort of rebate … and we think we’ve got a really good plan already, and it’s called, ‘bring the money and then we’ll give you some back after you spend it,’” Mr. Healy said, with state Rep. Jeff Spiegelman adding a crack that the body needs to come up with an acronym for the plan.

The legislation can help the state pull in money from a previously untapped source, Finance Secretary Tom Cook said.

Mr. Healy, who has worked on the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Home Alone 2,” “The Perfect Storm” and other movies, is excited about the promise he believes the bill offers.

The state currently hosts HGTV’s “Big Beach Builds” and was the filming location for several commercials starring WNBA star and Delaware native Elena Delle Donne, he said.

As an official body, the nine-member delegation now has the ability to work with Delaware and local governments to facilitate filming, such as in the event producers need a street temporarily closed for a few shots. The commission includes a representative of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to help people and companies who want to film in the state’s parks.

According to Mr. Healy, the commission is in talks with makers of two films, one of which is considering St. Andrew’s as a location.

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