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Arts & Culture

Lights, Camera, More Action in Maryland

UMD Alum Heads Maryland Entertainment Council, Geared Toward Attracting Films and TV Series to the State

By Sala Levin ’10

Screengrabs from "House of Cards," "Veep," "The Wire" and "We Own This City"

TV shows like "House of Cards," "Veep," "The Wire" and "We Own This City" have all filmed in Maryland. As chair of the new Maryland Entertainment Council, filmmaker Meryam Bouadjemi '10, below, was appointed by Gov. Wes Moore to bring more films and television series to the state.

"House of Cards" photo by Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo; "The Wire" photo by Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo; "Veep" photo by TCD/Prod.DB / Alamy Stock Photo; "We Own This City" photo courtesy of HBO

When the producers of HBO’s political satire “Veep” needed to send scheming, spineless protagonist Selina Meyer and her bumbling aides to the sleek headquarters of a tech company, they didn’t fly Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the rest of the cast to Silicon Valley. Instead, they looked no farther than the University of Maryland campus, a short trip from their usual Baltimore shooting location, where the Physical Sciences Complex stood in for the imaginary startup Clovis.

Meryam Bouadjemi ’10 headshot

If Meryam Bouadjemi ’10 has her way, more television series and films will make Maryland their home base; in May, Gov. Wes Moore appointed Bouadjemi senior adviser and chair of the newly created Maryland Entertainment Council, which will work to draw the entertainment industry (and some of its roughly $2 trillion in annual revenue) to the state.

The ongoing writers’ guild and actors’ union strikes offer an opportunity for a fresh examination of the industry, she said, giving the state a chance to position itself as a new hub for film and television. “The Maryland Entertainment Council’s aim is to surround ourselves with the strongest leaders, both locally and nationally, to help chart our path in this new economy.”

Bouadjemi has a history of showcasing Maryland on the big screen. In 2018, the Glen Burnie native produced “Charm City,” a documentary about violence in Baltimore that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was shortlisted for an Academy Award. She’s also a senior adviser at Pillars Fund, an organization founded by Oscar-nominated actor Riz Ahmed that offers grants to Muslim filmmakers and storytellers, and founded the Baltimore-based New Market Discovery Foundation, a think tank focusing on getting local writers, craftspeople and filmmakers involved in show business. Bouadjemi also earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California’s Peter Stark Producing Program.

Though she spent time in Los Angeles, Bouadjemi’s “deep pride for this state” brought her back home. “I wanted to be in a place to tell stories particularly about a community that I deeply, deeply love: Baltimore city.”

With the Maryland Entertainment Council, Bouadjemi hopes to capitalize on the recent passage of the Film Production Activity Income Tax Credit bill. It cuts taxes related to film production, offering an enhanced financial incentive for studios to choose Maryland when deciding where to shoot.

But it’s not just money that makes Maryland enticing. Its broad array of landscapes—from mountains in the western part of the state, to beaches in the east, to cities in the middle—mean that it can stand in for almost any location in the United States. UMD, the Maryland Institute College of Art and Johns Hopkins University produce a workforce full of creative talent, and the progressive politics of the state might make it more appealing to left-leaning Hollywood than states that have passed legislation restricting abortion or the rights of trans people.

Television and streaming series “The Wire,” “House of Cards” and “We Own This City,” all filmed in Baltimore, helped establish Maryland’s reputation in the industry, and of course Charm City’s mustachioed elder statesman, John Waters, showed its quirky side in movies like “Hairspray.” Bouadjemi hopes she can expand Maryland’s reach even further.

“I dream about having someone at the art czar level who can really focus locally but bring the understanding of the wider world of arts and film from New York and L.A., and that’s really Meryam,” said Elissa Blunt Moorhead, a Baltimore-based filmmaker. “She has the Baltimore heart, but the global perspective.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.