Thanks, Congress -- Filming U.S. Capitol Now Even Harder

Fri Feb 3, 2012 4:57pm EST

Last year was a banner year for production in the nation’s capital -- more than a dozen high-budget film and television projects ranging from “Bourne Identity 4 to “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss ‘Obese’ Season 2” spent time in the city -- but its future as a film location may be in jeopardy.

noted this week, filming there got even harder this year, thanks to security concerns and jurisdictional tugs-of-war over the city’s more picturesque locales.

Jurisdiction for Union Square -- which provides a popular film perspective of the U.S. Capitol -- shifted from the National Park Service to the Architect of the Capitol and Capitol Police as a result of the 2012 omnibus spending bill. But the new overseers of the area did not have a provision for filming in their regulations, said Leslie Green of the District of Columbia Office of Motion Picture and Film Development.

Also read: Dennis Hall, Veteran TV Cinematographer, Dies on Location for USA's 'Common Law'

So Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s Congressional representative, convened a series of meetings with the Architect of the Capitol, the Senate Sergeant at Arms, the House Deputy Sergeant at Arms, the U.S. Capitol Police Chief, the heads of the National Park Service and the Trust for the National Mall, and District of Columbia government officials.

As a result of the meetings, it was agreed that filming would be allowed for 90 days while Capitol authorities worked “toward making these practices permanent under the new jurisdictional arrangement.”

Also read: L.A. Film Production Up Slightly, but TV Production Drops in 2011

Shots of the domed Capitol are especially prized in Hollywood and contribute to the $20.5 million that location filming brought to the city last year.

“The vista of the U.S. Capitol is among America’s most iconic. Limiting commercial films and photography, an important vehicle for telling the nation’s story, does an unintended disservice,” said Holmes Norton in a statement. “Most of the people of the world know us and revere our system of government largely through commercial photography and films of the Capitol, which symbolizes our democracy at work. The nation can only gain by putting our best face forward.”

Green welcomed the developments. She said the city still receives a good deal of interest from production companies, though it cannot provide the financial incentives to attract productions like its neighbors in Virginia and Maryland.

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