The “House of Cards” motorcade fiasco is the result of “some serious miscommunication,” according to Mayor Vincent Gray’s office.
Pedro Ribeiro, Gray’s spokesman, told me Thursday that the Metropolitan Police Department’s role in filming is strictly “logistical and tactical support.” The planned Aug. 3 presidential motorcade shoot for the Netflix political drama was abruptly canceled on the day of filming, he said, because the MPD “was not going to have its assets actually participate in the shoot.”
“MPD is not going to rent itself out as extras for film,” Ribeiro said. “That’s what MPD’s decision was focused on. We’re not going to be actors."
The shoot was moved to Baltimore, where the Baltimore Film Office and the city’s police were happy to step in.
Paul Quander, D.C.’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice, has scheduled a meeting next week with the “House of Cards” producers “to really lay it out for them exactly what we can and cannot do,” Ribeiro said. He added that the D.C. Film Office "may have dropped the ball" in communicating the District's policies.
Ribeiro's comments are more detailed than the two-sentence statement issued by the MPD Wednesday, which read: “The Metropolitan Police Department is not the lead agency on presidential motorcades and we did not want to portray ourselves as such. We are sorry that the ‘House of Cards’ representatives are disappointed.”
Ribeiro further emphasized that same point, that the Secret Service is in charge of motorcades and D.C. did not want to put itself out there, on film, as the lead. And Chief Cathy Lanier weighed in as well, in an email to Joseph Martin, a D.C. -based location manager.
“We have no problem if House of Cards wants to use actors and their own vehicles to portray anything they want,” the chief said. “We cannot use MPD motors, officers or cars to portray a presidential motorcade.”
Martin said the use of MPD as a motorcade extra used to be “routine” for television series productions such as “The West Wing.”
“This is new,” Martin said of the policy laid out by Ribeiro. “We always used real MPD vehicles as well as National Park Service police motorcycles. It was off-duty officers at production expense. They can make fake ones, but it’s going to be costly.”
Perhaps this issue can be settled diplomatically. But word is already out among location managers, in this region and elsewhere, that the District is a difficult place to film, and that reputation could get worse.
If producers continue to use D.C. for little more than “plates” — the high-resolution still photography used to create fake D.C. backdrops — then the city loses out on revenue. And city businesses — from caterers to equipment suppliers — lose out on jobs.
© 2013 American City Business Journals, Inc.