Last month, Mayor Vince Gray and the head of D.C.’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, Crystal Palmer, visited Hollywood to woo studios and production companies to the nation’s capital. Competition between D.C.’s film office and neighboring states’ has been heating up in recent months, but whereas Maryland and Virginia are able to use tax incentives to attract long-term projects, D.C. rarely manages to draw major productions for more than a few days.
It makes sense: Most movies set in the District seem to involve politics, espionage, or both—and it’s easy to impersonate federal Washington using government buildings in Baltimore and Philadelphia, which are both cheaper places to film. But D.C. has other charms, our film office would have Hollywood know, and so every 30 days since March, it’s highlighted a new “One City Location of the Month.” So what kind of movie would require a shoot at the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Arena Stage; the Atlas Performing Arts Center; Hillcrest, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish; or Ben’s Chili Bowl? Better yet: What kind of movie would require a shoot at all of them?
SCENE 1: A theater company in residence at the Atlas Performing Arts Center (June One City Location of the Month!) is having trouble making ends meet. Its latest show, a postapocalyptic staging of David Mamet’s Boston Marriage, was a flop. Rent is due soon, and the artistic director’s cat needs an operation. The only options are mounting a crowd-pleasing but critically embarrassing jukebox musical—or doing something even more drastic.
SCENE 2: The next day, two members of the company are waiting at an audition at Arena Stage (April One City Location of the Month!) and discussing how to save the company. They can’t get rid of the idiot artistic director—he’s got the board wrapped around his little finger. As it happens, every member of the company is an accomplished stunt performer. They’re the perfect group to pull off some kind of robbery!
SCENE 3: The company’s actors decide to knock over a museum. The Smithsonian, the Corcoran, and the Phillips are way too obvious. Nobody knows where the Kreeger is. What about the National Museum of Women in the Arts? (July One City Location of the Month!) It’s small and forgettable but has some valuable stuff.
SCENE 4: The nimble actors make it out of the museum with two lithographs by Elizabeth Catlett, a Kahlo, and an O’Keeffe, but they set off every alarm. They haul ass back to Hillcrest (May One City Location of the Month!), where they’re going to stash the loot at the home of the company’s chief benefactor, who happens to live next door to the mayor.
SCENE 5: But one of the actors-cum-robbers is a rat! A struggle ensues, a gun goes off, and the traitor takes a bullet through the throat. For some reason, the troupe decides to bury him way across town, in the cemetery of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rock Creek Parish (August One City Location of the Month!).
SCENE 6: The actors find a black-market buyer for the stolen art, who wants to do the hand off at Ben’s Chili Bowl (March One City Location of the Month!). The buyer is already there, but because it’s a weekend at the height of intern season, the line stretches out the door and down the alley. Just as some rising sophomores from American are blathering on about how they want chili fries with cheese on the side, the cops yank the actors out of line and bust them. Ben’s is declared a crime scene and evacuated. No one gets their chili fries.