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Anywhere but Washington: Why DC stories rarely film in DC

It's a hobby among District of Columbia locals: Picking apart glaring geographic and architectural inaccuracies in movies and television shows set in Washington.

One of the most famous is the 1987 film "No Way Out," where Kevin Costner escapes pursuers by taking a subway from Georgetown. No subway station has ever existed in the tony neighborhood. The opening credits of the new Amazon show "Jack Ryan" show the title character biking to work via a route that makes no geographic sense.

The reason for this disconnect is simple: Few TV shows or movies actually film in Washington. That's something district officials are trying to change. They scored one success last summer with the filming of the Wonder Woman sequel in the district. And they have a high-profile ally in author George Pelecanos, who has set all 20 of his crime novels in the Washington area and is on a personal mission to turn the nation's capital into a film hub.

But they have difficulties overcome. Other cities offer more generous tax incentives. Filmmakers say Washington can be a difficult place for them —the entire district is a no-fly zone for helicopters and drones. Those seeking film permits must sometimes contend with several overlapping police forces: the district's Metropolitan Police, National Parks Service police, the United States Capitol Police and the Secret Service.

So Washington-centric series like "House of Cards" or "Veep" typically come to the District just to shoot what locals call the "postcard shots" of the monuments or the White House, then do their principal filming elsewhere. "The Americans" was set in Washington, but filmed in Brooklyn; "NCIS" has been set in Washington for 16 seasons, but fakes the district in southern California. "The Post" was filmed in Brooklyn and "Lincoln" was filmed in Richmond, Virginia — the capital of the Confederacy.

But Angela Gates, director of Washington's Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment, feels like the district is on a roll after the "Wonder Woman" shooting.

"That says a lot about how far we've come," Gates said. "When you do a project well, word of mouth starts to get around."

Gates said 2016 was a turning point. That's when Mayor Muriel Bowser reinstituted Washington's dormant tax rebate program. A production spending more than $250,000 filming in the district can apply for a rebate of up to 35% of taxable expenditures, with further incentives for hiring local residents. Her office also helps secure permissions from law enforcement.

"We have a seat at the table now," Gates said. "These are game-changing times for us."

Pelecanos' support has also helped. His popularity is surging due to his work as a writer on "The Wire." Now he's the executive producer of the HBO show "The Deuce." He recently completed an independent film, "DC Noir," based on his stories, and made a point of filming in all eight of Washington's wards.

"The city's beautiful, and it hasn't really been exploited yet," said Pelecanos, who grew up just outside the district in Silver Spring, Maryland, but regularly came into Washington to work in his father's diner.

Pelecanos recalls many inaccuracies in Washington-based movies and shows, but he has a particular peeve about fire escapes. It bothers him when movies purportedly set in the district show apartment buildings with New York-style zigzag escapes.

"Baltimore or New York can look like D.C. to anybody but Washingtonians," said Kyle David Crosby of Pictureshow Productions, who worked on "DC Noir."

Still, competing against film hotspots like Georgia, Louisiana and New Mexico is hard. Washington's funding package is relatively modest--about $5 million per year.

Vans Stevenson, senior vice president for state government affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America, said Washington's rebate funding is dwarfed by most of its rivals.

"They've put some money in it, but it's still not competitive," he said.

Still Stevenson said Washington has "a wonderful track record" and enjoys "a good reputation of being able to accommodate productions."

Crosby said the difficulties of filming in Washington are often exaggerated. It can sometimes take a little longer to secure permission, but generally the process works. However certain sites like the Vietnam Memorial are off-limits and, "You're not putting a camera crew on the steps of the Capitol ever. You're just not," he said.

Crosby said local filming increased after the tax rebates were reinstituted, with movies like "Jackie" and "Spider-Man: Homecoming" filming there. But he describes a chicken-and-egg problem: there's a shortage of specialized equipment because there aren't enough productions to justify keeping them in Washington.

"For now if you're going to do a major project here, you're bringing most of your trucks from outside," he said.

The same goes for behind-the-camera talent and technical crew. Crosby describes the local talent pool as wide, varied and accomplished, but not particularly plentiful.

On "DC Noir," Pelecanos said he employed 60 interns from Howard University's film department to give them professional experience. Chadwick Boseman, the "Black Panther" star, is a Howard graduate, as is Bradford Young, the first black cinematographer to be nominated for an Oscar for 2017's "Arrival." But Howard assistant professor Jami Ramberan said the lack of local work is "a huge reason that many of our students leave."

Pelecanos said productions like the "Wonder Woman" sequel boost Washington's reputation, but what would really help the city is television.

"What you need is an ongoing series that lasts for five or six years," he said. "We need to get it to the point where people are working all year long for many years."

Attracting those projects often comes down to money. Pelecanos said that unless you're a location ideologue like him, the production incentives generally determine filming locations.

For now, bringing major productions to Washington remains a hard sell.

Pelecanos recalls pitching a film based on his novel "Hard Revolution," which depicts the 1968 riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. where large swaths of Washington were set ablaze.

"I told them, 'I have one catch. If we're going to do this, it has to be 100 percent filmed in Washington,' " he said. "The whole room went silent."

The deal didn't go through.

Dave Dave, who was set afire as boy, died of natural causes

Medical examiners in Las Vegas have determined that artist Dave Dave, who was badly scarred when his father set him on fire as a boy, died of natural causes.

Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg (FYOU'-den-berg) said in a statement Monday that the artist born David Rothenberg died July 15 of sepsis due to pneumonia. He was 42.

As a 6-year-old, Dave was set afire and badly burned in 1983 by his father in a Southern California motel room near Disneyland.

He underwent numerous skin grafts but refused to define himself as a victim. He became a close friend of Michael Jackson's.

Dave's father, Charles Rothenberg, went to prison for attempted murder and later amassed a criminal record for other crimes before being sentenced in California in 2007 to 25 years to life in prison.

Bible Museum admits some of its Dead Sea Scrolls are fake

When Washington's $500 million Museum of the Bible held its grand opening in November 2017, attended by Vice President Mike Pence, there were questions even then about the authenticity of its centerpiece collection of Dead Sea Scrolls.

Now the museum has been forced to admit a painful truth: Technical analysis by a team of German scholars has revealed that at least five of the museum's 16 scroll fragments are apparent forgeries.

The announcement has serious implications not only for the Bible Museum but for other evangelical Christian individuals and institutions who paid top dollar for what now seems to be a massive case of archaeological fraud.

Jeffrey Kloha, chief curator for the Museum of the Bible, said in a statement that the revelation is "an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artifacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency."

The scrolls are a collection of ancient Jewish religious texts first discovered in the mid-1940s in caves on the western shore of the Dead Sea in what is now Israel. The massive cache of Hebrew documents is believed to date back to the days of Jesus. With more than 9,000 documents and 50,000 fragments, the entire collection took decades to fully excavate.

Most of the scrolls and fragments are tightly controlled by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. But around 2002, a wave of new fragments began mysteriously appearing on the market, despite skepticism from Biblical scholars.

These fragments, they warned, were specifically designed to target American evangelical Christians, who prize the scrolls. That appears to be exactly what happened; a Baptist seminary in Texas and an evangelical college in California reportedly paid millions to purchase alleged pieces of the scrolls.

Also eagerly buying up fragments was the Green family — evangelical Oklahoma billionaires who run the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores and who famously sued the Obama administration on religious grounds, saying they didn't want to pay to provide their employees access to the morning-after pill or intrauterine devices.

The Greens are the primary backers of the Museum of the Bible and went on an archaeological acquisition spree in the years leading up to the museum's opening. In addition to the alleged Dead Sea Scrolls fragments, the Greens ran afoul of the Justice Department, which said they had acquired thousands of smuggled artifacts looted from Iraq and elsewhere. The family agreed last year to return those artifacts and pay a $3 million fine.

Amy Schumer took long way around to announce she's pregnant

Amy Schumer took the long way around to announce she's pregnant with husband Chris Fischer.

The comedian and actress broke her baby news Monday on the Instagram stories of friend and journalist Jessica Yellin . Yellin, of the site, showed at the end of a list of Schumer's recommended congressional and gubernatorial candidates the line: "I'm pregnant-Amy Schumer."

Schumer is known for her liberal politics: She was recently arrested protesting the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 37-year-old made her film debut in the 2015 film "Trainwreck." She starred this year in the movie "I Feel Pretty." Schumer married Fischer, a chef, in February.

Man shot by guard in lobby of local Washington Fox station

A security guard shot a man at Washington's local Fox station Monday after he kicked through a pair of locked doors and tried to enter the lobby, police said.

Commander Melvin Gresham of the Metropolitan Police Department told reporters that the man was apparently unarmed and was in stable condition at an area hospital.

The incident just after 3 p.m. in Washington's Friendship Heights neighborhood put the Fox 5 news crew in the unusual position of covering their own shooting incident live from a building on security lockdown.

The channel broadcast security camera footage showing a man in a red, hooded sweatshirt kicking through the plastic or Plexiglas doors. It also showed footage of the still-conscious man being loaded into an ambulance. The channel reported that the 38-year-old man was shot in the "upper chest" by a security guard.

The building in question contains several different offices, but the lobby the man entered is only for the Fox station.

Judge: Michael Avenatti must pay $4.85M in ex-lawyer's suit

Porn actress Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti must pay $4.85 million to an attorney who worked at his former law firm, a California judge ruled Monday in an order that holds the potential presidential candidate personally liable in a lawsuit over back pay.

The Los Angeles judge ordered the payout the same day a separate ruling came down evicting Eagan Avenatti LLC from its office space in Southern California after four months of unpaid rent.

In the case over back pay, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin ruled that Avenatti personally guaranteed a settlement with attorney Jason Frank, who said Eagan Avenatti misstated its profits and that he was owed millions of dollars.

Avenatti, who is best known for representing Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump following an alleged 2006 affair, did not appear at Monday's hearing and never filed arguments in the case.

He told The Associated Press that Frank owes him and the firm $12 million "for his fraud." He did not provide details and declined to comment further. It's unclear whether Avenatti has filed any litigation in the matter against Frank, whose attorney said Frank doesn't owe Avenatti a dime and that saying so is defamatory.

Avenatti, who is toying with a possible 2020 presidential run, can appeal the ruling but since he never filed arguments about why he shouldn't have to pay the $4.85 million, any such effort would be "dead in the water," said Frank's attorney, Eric George.

"He's managed to delay this for ages," George said. "At the end of the day, this is money that's owed. No matter how you try to spin it, it comes back to the fact that he took money, it wasn't his and now there's a judgment saying it's owed to my client."

Frank had worked at Avenatti's former firm under an independent contractor agreement and was supposed to collect 25 percent of its annual profits, along with 20 percent of fees his clients paid, court documents say.

"It'll be important to keep an eye on him and sources of money that are coming in, see what his assets are, and take it from there," George said.

Meanwhile, Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Moss issued an order Monday terminating Eagan Avenatti's lease from office space in Newport Beach and ordering the law firm to pay $154,000 for four months of back rent. No one appeared in court on behalf of the firm.

Monday's developments came five months after a U.S. bankruptcy court judge ordered the firm to pay Frank $10 million. The $4.85 million for which Avenatti is now personally liable is in addition to that judgment.

In July, the Justice Department accused Avenatti of making misrepresentations in the bankruptcy case and said his former law firm owed more than $440,000 in unpaid federal taxes.

Avenatti's lawyer said at the time that the matter had been resolved. The Justice Department insisted that settlement negotiations were continuing but the debt was still owed.

The ruling against Avenatti comes a week after a federal judge dismissed Daniels' defamation lawsuit against Trump, saying the president made a "hyperbolic statement" against a political adversary when he tweeted about a composite sketch that Avenatti has released.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump in April after he said a composite sketch of a man she said threatened her in 2011 to keep quiet about an alleged affair was a "con job." Avenatti has appealed the ruling.

The defamation claim is separate from another lawsuit that Daniels filed against Trump, which is ongoing. Daniels was paid $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement signed days before the 2016 election and is suing to dissolve that contract.


Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey contributed from Washington.

Hailey Baldwin reportedly files trademark for 'Hailey Bieber'

Hailey Baldwin has filed a trademark to register the name “Hailey Bieber.”

The Blast obtained documents filed by Baldwin on Oct. 10, nearly a month after her reported courthouse wedding to singer Justin Bieber. The filing was for the purposes of a clothing line, the website reported.

>> Read more trending news 

People reported that, according to a source, the wedding was Baldwin’s doing.

“The city hall marriage was her idea. It was ‘you and me against the world,’” the unnamed source said. “Let’s show (everyone) we’re serious and it’s not just some crazy fling.”

Related: Reports: Justin Bieber, Hailey Baldwin get marriage license

Although Baldwin denied she was married in a since-deleted tweet last month, The Blast reported that the two referred to each other as husband and wife during a visit to Stratford Perth Museum in Stratford, Ontario, Oct. 1.

“We were so pleased to have such a warm and special guest visit the museum yesterday (along with her very special husband,” the museum said in an Instagram caption of a chalkboard message Baldwin wrote to Bieber.

“Justin very graciously introduced Hailey as his wife. Perhaps just a term of endearment? We loved their visit,” the museum said in the post’s comments.

'Wonder Woman' sequel pushed back to summer 2020

The world will have to wait a little longer for the "Wonder Woman" sequel, which will now arrive in theaters in summer 2020.

Warner Bros. announced Monday that "Wonder Woman 1984" will now open on June 5, 2020. The film starring Gal Gadot as the Amazonian superhero had been slated for a November 2019 release.

Patty Jenkins is returning as director and has teased fans with tidbits about the series' time jump to the 1980s.

The first "Wonder Woman" was a major blockbuster for Warner Bros.' DC Comics franchise. The film earned more than $800 million globally. The original became the most successful live-action film directed by a woman.

The sequel would have been released a month after the "Joker" which is scheduled to open on Oct. 4, 2019.

Billionaire Boys Club's Joe Hunt seeks cut in life sentence

The young Joe Hunt once used his intelligence, a high-energy salesman's patter and powers of persuasion to get wealthy friends to invest in his Billionaire Boys Club to fuel an opulent lifestyle that abruptly ended with a first-degree murder conviction and a prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Now he's using those same skills in to try to close the biggest deal of his life.

He's calling on California Gov. Jerry Brown to make him eligible for parole and give him a chance to leave prison after spending 34 years behind bars.

A Los Angeles County jury convicted Hunt in 1987 of killing Ron Levin, who disappeared in 1984. Prosecutors have said Hunt killed Levin over a false promise to rescue the financially struggling "club," which purported to invest members' money in commodities but was mostly a Ponzi scheme that relied on new cash infusions to keep it afloat.

Hunt argues Levin faked his own death to escape a pending fraud case. Levin's body has never been found.

Hunt, 59, is hoping to capitalize on Brown's desire to burnish his gubernatorial legacy during his last two months in office. The termed-out Democrat took office eight years ago vowing to reduce the prison population and reform harsh criminal justice laws, which includes reconsidering some life without parole sentences.

Brown's office said the governor has given 42 inmates with those sentences a chance at parole during his two terms in office.

With time running out on Brown's final term, Hunt and his family have launched a publicity blitz to sway the governor.

For most of an hour-long telephone interview with The Associated Press, Hunt displayed the same confident, enthusiastic and articulate hustle that he used to convince his wealthy high school buddies to join his "investment club" with their families' money. Hunt originally named the group after a favorite restaurant — Bombay Bicycle Club — but it became known as the Billionaire Boys Club because of the hedonistic gang's larger-than-life presence in Los Angeles.

During the interview, Hunt discussed prison culture, what he believes are inherent inequities in the legal system and — most of all — his claim of innocence.

But Hunt went quiet when asked what would happen if Brown turns him down. He tenaciously but fruitlessly fought for three decades to win his freedom in the courts. He said he had resigned himself to never leaving prison when he lost his final appeal in 2016 but that his hope was renewed after inmates serving the same sentence walked out of prison because of Brown's intervention.

"I see other men similarly situated getting commutations and figured 'Why not me, too?'" he said.

Brown's spokesman Evan Westrup declined comment on Hunt's appeal, saying the governor does not comment on commutation applications.

But Leslie Zoeller, the retired Beverly Hills police detective who led the Levin murder investigation, is opposed to Levin's release, saying "a man like that doesn't reform overnight." Zoeller said he remains convinced that "Joe Hunt did a great job of disposing of the body."

In 1984, the then 24-year-old Hunt was elated he had met Levin, who was 18 years older. Hunt thought Levin was the financial savior for a scheme badly in need of new investment. Hunt had squandered most of the original investments on luxury condos, sports cars and Armani suits.

"With high overhead, lavish personal spending and little income, the BBC was essentially a pyramid scheme," Hunt's attorney Charles Carbone wrote in his client's application to the governor.

Levin gave Hunt access to a $5 million commodities trading account and the two agreed to split profits. Hunt quickly racked up $13 million in profits, but when he went to cash out he discovered the account was not real.

Levin, who operated a video news agency, had convinced a brokerage house to open the dummy account. Levin told the brokerage firm he was working on an investment documentary, that Hunt was his subject and needed to believe the account was real for the project to work.

Prosecutors argued that Hunt was angry and humiliated when he discovered that summer that he was the target of Levin's hoax.

Levin went missing in the summer of 1984 and has never been found. Kevin Spacey played Levin in the 2018's financial flop "Billionaire Boys Club."

The jury convicted Hunt on the strength of club members' testimony that Hunt had bragged he killed Levin — and a macabre "to-do list" Hunt wrote that was found in Levin's home.

"Closed blinds, scan for tape recorder, tape mouth, handcuff, put gloves on, explain situation, kill dog," the note read.

Hunt said he wrote the note and left if for Levin to find to scare him. Hunt has always maintained his innocence and argued that Levin faked his death to evade a pending fraud case.

But now, he's changed tactics with Brown and is highlighting his stellar prison record of volunteer work, religious service and good prison behavior. His commutation cites his legal work with other inmates, helping them write briefs and fill out court forms.

Hunt's application also discusses in depth his embrace of yogi and meditation and a brand of Eastern religion as practiced by the Ananda Church of Self-Realization.

He was recently transferred so he could work helping other inmates at the California Health Care Facility at Stockton, a medical prison and much less stressful place for inmates than the maximum-security lockup where he spent most of prison time.

Hunt filed his commutation application in January, but has not heard back.

So he and his family recently launched a publicity campaign, with a website, and accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. His family has hired a publicist to arrange phone calls with reporters and he eagerly recounted his story.

"Was I a catastrophic, world-class jackass in in 1984? No doubt," Hunt said. "But it's not right that I get to be the garbage dump of everybody's peccadillos."

PBS docuseries 'Native America' recreates cultures pre-1492

The story of Native America taught in U.S. public schools usually begins at contact with European explorers. Children then get lessons about Thanksgiving, maybe the Trail of Tears or the 19th century wars over the removal of tribes in the American West. Rarely discussed is life in the Americas before Columbus' 1492 voyage.

A new four-part PBS docuseries entitled "Native America" seeks to recreate a world in the Americas generations prior to the arrival of Europeans. Using archaeology, Native American oral traditions, even high-tech 3D renditions, viewers are presented images of busy cities connected by networks that span from the present-day United States to South America.

The docuseries shows how Chaco Canyon in New Mexico became a busy spiritual and commercial center that stood five stories high in the desert sky, centuries before skyscrapers went up in New York.

They also discuss the tunnel under a pyramid in Teotihuacán, Mexico, that revealed an intricate belief system that was also found elsewhere. And outside present-day St. Louis, Missouri, 10,000 people helped erect massive earthwork pyramids into a city now known as Cahokia around the time the real-life Macbeth ruled Scotland.

Series executive producer and director Gary Glassman said the project took more than a year to plan because producers wanted to make sure they had buy-in from Native American communities the documentaries sought to cover. Filmmakers wanted to include animated pieces of sacred art and stories to illustrate the importance of the site and wanted to be sensitive, Glassman said.

"We wanted to give them ownership to their own stories," Glassman said. "It was about building trust."

That's how producers convinced Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office of the Arizona tribe Hopi, to allow directors to briefly film a group of elders conducting a smoking ceremony at Chaco.

In one episode, Kuwanwisiwma explains the religious significance of the Kiva and how elders used the smoking ceremony to contemplate the power of the universe. "The bird world, the reptilian world, the animal world, the insect world...they are all part of who we are as Hopi people," Kuwanwisiwma tells viewers.

The docuseries then takes viewers to the rock art of the Amazons and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of New York to show how similar spiritual theologies through diverse practices linked people thousands of miles apart from the pyramids of Mississippi to the Andes in present-day Peru.

The first episode of "Native America" is scheduled to air on most PBS stations on Tuesday. Other episodes will air on following Tuesdays until November 13.

Episodes will be streamed for free for a limited time after airings.


Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP's race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at

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