Home > Filming in Maryland > Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What does the Maryland Film Office do?

A: The Maryland Film Office is a marketing arm of the Maryland Department of Commerce. Our mission is to attract feature film, television, video and commercial production to shoot on-location in the state of Maryland.

For major productions, we provide scouting for specific location needs. We break down scripts and prepare customized photo files. We coordinate scouts and can accompany productions throughout the location survey. We provide pre-production research into production services, accommodations, production personnel, state regulations, weather and climate. We can make introductions to appropriate labor representatives.

We also coordinate and facilitate cooperation with local, state and federal officials, businesses, civic and institutional leaders, neighborhood associations and residents. Members of the Maryland Film Office are on call at all times during a production to address changing needs as they arise.

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Q: What is the difference between the Maryland Film Office and the Baltimore Film Office?

A: The Maryland Film Office provides location scouting and pre-production research, acts as a government and community liaison and provides full service throughout film production. Our primary goal is to promote the State of Maryland as an ideal location for film, video and broadcast productions. The Maryland Film Office, located in Baltimore, is an agency of the Maryland Department of Commerce, within the Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts.

The Baltimore Film Office acts as a liaison between motion picture companies and city agencies using Baltimore for film, video or television production. The commission will assist throughout the production to handle any contingency and to ensure smooth and efficient cooperation with city agencies. The Baltimore Film Office can be reached at 410.752.8632. .

Essentially, all permits to film in Baltimore -- along with requests for traffic control, special parking and overtime police -- are handled through the City Film Office.

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Q: Do I need a permit to film in Baltimore City?

A: This depends on what you are doing, how large the production is and whether you need City support with traffic control, parking or the location itself (such as a City building or park). The Baltimore City Film Office can determine what steps you need to take prior to filming, and what support the City can provide. The City Film Office can also help you estimate costs where they exist.

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Q: I want to shoot scenes of Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Federal Hill Park. Do I have to get permission for that too?

A: Permission to film on any Baltimore City property, including Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Federal Hill Park, is granted through a permit application. Contact the Baltimore Film Commission at 410.752.8632 to discuss your project details. If they deem a permit to be necessary, they will assist you with the permitting process. At the Inner Harbor, you may also need individual businesses depicted in your project to grant permission for use of their images/logos.

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Q: What about filming in places other than Baltimore City? What's the process?

A: Each jurisdiction has its own process, most of them very simple. Contact us and we will put you in touch with the Film Contact wherever you are in Maryland.

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Q: I need financing for my film. Can you give me funding or introduce me to a producer?

A: The Maryland Film Office does not provide funding. However, check the many links on our website, especially in the "independent film" section for useful portals to the world of independent filmmaking and financing suggestions. It may be very useful for you to join WIFV, the Creative Alliance, and other organizations that attract independent filmmakers grappling with the same issues.

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Q: When do the leaves change color in the fall?

A: Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can give you an informed estimate each season, taking into account that year's snowfall, summer rains, temperatures and the many other factors. It's weather after all, so this is strictly an estimate. Contact us at the Maryland Film Office so we can assist you in contacting DNR.

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Q: How can I have my property used in a film?

A: First of all, thank you for being interested. Movie companies and commercial producers often scout many different states and even several countries looking for the "right" locations. Without wonderful and numerous location options, our ability to attract more production will be hampered. We encourage everyone to consider allowing a film project to scout your property.

The Maryland Film Office keeps photo files, along with lists of "leads" for potential locations of all types: mansions, row homes, businesses, town squares, gardens, empty hospitals, farms, zoos, pools, schools and buildings both modern and historic, plain and fancy. It can be very exciting to work with a production company, and we depend on Marylanders to participate and help us grow this important industry. Please send photos of your property to: Maryland Film Office, 401 E. Pratt Street, 14th floor, Baltimore, MD 21202. Or, email your digital photos to us at: filminfo@marylandfilm.org along with your address, work, home and cell numbers. We'll keep the information on file until we have a project that is looking for your type of a location. (We may even call you and make an appointment to take even more location photos to further entice filmmakers!)

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Q: How can I be an extra in a movie or television show?

A: Many productions will put out a call for extras. Some want to receive a photo with your name, age, height, home, work and cell numbers clearly written on the back. Others will host "open calls" and invite you to a centrally located site where they will take photos and collect information.

Find out about these opportunities by checking the Maryland Film Office Bulletin Board on our website. Women in Film and Video of Maryland (WIFV) also sends emails to its members about these opportunities. Some casting companies offer the same information on their websites. Additionally, productions needing extras in large numbers may run television, radio and newspaper ads to attract extras.

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Q: How can I get a job on a movie crew?

A: Once a production company has decided to film in Maryland, it will open a production office and allow the Maryland Film Office to provide an email address or fax number where resumes can be sent. Check the Bulletin Board on the website or call the Maryland Film Office and we will provide the contact info as soon as it is available. WIFV also has job listings. Labor unions typically provide members' resumes to projects and offer their own hotlines and availability lists.

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Q: I want to contact the production companies directly. How can I do that, and why is it so hard to get the phone numbers?

A: Production offices are extremely busy and cannot field hundreds of calls from job seekers as they are preparing to film. That is why most film production companies provide email addresses or fax numbers only. Productions are not trying to avoid you; they are simply trying to do their work and control interruptions.

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Q: I got a notice that a movie is going to film on my block. Why do I have to move my car?

A: Think about filming the same way you would think about a parade of other special event on the street in front of your home. Just like a parade, film production companies apply for permits to use City streets the same way. Any city would be particularly eager to grant permission since filming creates lots of positive economic benefits for a municipality: locals gain employment, hotels gain guests, city businesses gain customers and on and on.

At the same time, filmmakers are careful not to ask for more parking than they need. Sometimes they need cars removed because the actors are going to be filmed in front of a particular building and for continuity reasons; the producers need to control the street (so cars aren't popping in and out). More often, the city permits the use of city streets to park necessary movie trucks and equipment close to the set. The goal is to keep the cast, crew and the public safe so the parking plans are made with these factors in mind.

If you have health concerns, or special considerations, be sure to call the contact number listed on the notice so that the production company can work out special arrangements for you. You'll usually find they are both polite and creative. Best of all, if they are working on your block, you'll have a front row seat to enjoy the action!

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Q: Being a location scout sounds like lots of fun. Can you help me get started?

A: The life of a location scout is never boring. However, it is tremendously hard work, and most people are surprised when they discover how much goes on behind the scenes. Having said that, you should make sure you are well informed about filming; join some of the local film organizations like WIFV and the Creative Alliance. Consider working on some smaller projects to gain experience. Then, fax your resume over to the next production you hear about and tell them you are especially interested in working in the locations department. Also, contact some of the location people listed in the production guide and let them know of your interest. Keep trying; and when they tell you to show up at 4:30 am on location, make sure you are early!

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Q: Why does everyone make such a big deal about films anyway?

A: It's no longer a secret: filmmaking provides enormous economic impact to whatever locality wins the business. Films that end up working in Maryland may have initially contacted 20 other states and countries for location photos. The reason for so much competition is that films employ many locals, sometimes for months at a time. Filmmakers stay in hotels and short term housing; they rent cars: they buy and rent enormous amounts of supplies, feed hundreds of people one, two or three meals a day for several months, and often make improvements to locations along the way. Filming is a clean industry (as opposed to certain types of manufacturing) that provides professional training and creates infrastructure that can attract even more filming in its wake.

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Q: Does Maryland have special rules for the Employment of Minors?

A: There are regulations pertaining to the employment of Minors. These are included in the Production Guide and you can call the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Division of Labor and Industry, Employmnet of Minors (Work Permits): 410.767.2239. The work permit office is conveniently located at 1100 N. Eutaw St., 6th Floor, in Baltimore City. Their website is: http://www.dllr.state.md.us/labor/wages/empm.shtml.

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Q: I am making a student film; can I be exempted from taxes?

A: The tax exemption applies to projects made for broadcast outside of the immediate region. If your project does not qualify for sales tax exemption, you may want to approach your local vendors and inquire about any student discounts they may offer.

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Q: How can I break into the film business?

A: Everyone enters the business in a different way. Many people start by becoming a Production Assistant (PA), sometimes rotating from department to department until they discover what area they like best. Getting that first PA job can seem like the hardest thing you'll ever do. It is very competitive (yet friendly). So volunteer for every film project you hear about and talk to the other PA's. Experienced PA's are usually very generous is giving out newcomers' names. Make a resume and highlight your computer/office skills. Join a few film organizations (see previous FAQs) and keep checking hotlines. Also, consider interning (if you are still in school) in return for credit; show up, work hard and come in for your internship more than once a week. Keep asking questions and be a productive team member (this advice will also help you be a better PA too).

A popular way to get your first break is to contact production companies in the area. (Some of these advertise in the Production Guide.) Also contact freelance producers, production managers and production coordinators. Ask if you can mail or fax them your resume. Ask for their advice on getting started. Eventually someone may actually offer you a day (or more) of work. At that point, you have broken in! The rest is up to you.

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Q: Actually, I meant I'd like to be on-camera.

A: Look into SAG and AFTRA, research local casting companies (some give excellent advice on becoming "talent"), try working as an extra to see if you really like it. Remember, the competition is fierce, but friendly. Try to connect with others who have the same ambition and share notes and tips. Keep checking those hotlines and websites. Consider joining WIFV of Maryland and other organizations where you can meet producers, production managers and other actors and where casting calls are often shared.

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Q: What is the deal with the hotel tax?

A: Hotel taxes vary from city to city and county to county. All locales do collect the 6% state sales tax on hotel rooms. However, if you are staying (for any reason, not just for production) for more than 30 days, you will not have to pay the state tax portion of the total tax after 30 days. Local taxes may or may not still apply.

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Q: I need lights, a camera, and lots of other production services. Where can I find this information?

A: Right on the Maryland Film Office website under Crew and Resources.  Additionally, you can check out the Maryland Regional Production Guide, published by Network Publications. The Guide can also be accessed through our website. You may contact the Maryland Film Office for information provided by other film companies who have worked in Maryland recently.

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Q: I was approached by a "location scout" who said my property could be used in a movie. How can I be sure they are legitimate? And, if they are, what is the process?

A: At any given time, numerous productions are scouting locations for commercials, television series and feature films. Ask for identification or call our office at 410.767.6340 to verify the identity of the scout and/or the production. While the Maryland Film Office is not always aware of each individual project, we often have a relationship with the scout and, sometimes, with the production company.

If a production wishes to work with you, their location representative (location manager, production manager or producer) should talk you through the entire process. Expect them to explain the project and detail the scenes planned for your property. They should also tell you about any alterations planned for your property and ask for your permission. Don't be afraid to ask questions and voice your concerns. The last thing that anyone wants are surprises.

The film company will also need to know any special circumstances. For example, make note of anything that is especially fragile, or would concern you if you were to have, say, a wedding on your property. For example, if you are on well and septic and would be unable to accommodate a few dozen people (don't worry, large projects bring their own facilities), or if you just landscaped an area you need the crew to avoid), work it out with the locations representative. They will want to make you happy, so they should leave each location in as good, or better, condition than they found it.

You know your property better than anyone, so offer ideas for where to park film vehicles, where the crew can eat, and, on small projects, where makeup might be done.

The production company will have a location agreement. It should contain liability language, and a description of the number of days/approximate hours/dates. It should also spell out ownership of the footage (the production company keeps all rights) and other legal matters. The location fee, or, in some cases, the donation, is spelled out in this document.

The production company should provide you with proof of insurance protection naming you specifically on the "insurance certificate." If this is not offered, request a copy prior to the beginning of any work.

Finally, have fun and enjoy the process. Most film crews are hardworking, interesting and charming. If they have the time, they often enjoy discussing their work and are grateful that you have allowed them onto your property. You and your immediate family or staff (please keep it small and always ask the production before you invite over the neighbors as some sets are "closed" or just plain cramped!), will learn more about the filmmaking process, up close and personal, than you could ever imagine! Many people so enjoy the process that they offer their property for filming again and again.

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