CAMDEN, Maine — Tight land restrictions caused a startup film company to back out of a contract to build a movie studio in Camden, city officials said Wednesday. The deal was further spoiled by anti-Semitic remarks allegedly made by one or more Camden residents, according to the film company owners.
Earlier this month, Camden entered into an agreement to give the company B.D’Turman’D (as in “be determined”) Entertainment, about 3 acres of riverfront land for free as long as the business created two dozen jobs in five years.
The company’s owners made trips up to the plot of land to assess if the two large studios would fit. They looked at abutting properties for sale to see how much land they could acquire in the area to squeeze in the studios, offices and parking, but the nearby properties were too expensive, according to a letter from the company owners asking to be let out of the contract. Without buying another plot of land in addition to the free site, the company could not fit the two sound studios, the owners said in the letter dated April 25.
The town agreed to terminate the contract. Now the land is back on the market, and available for free to any company that can create 24 jobs in five years.
The land deal also was tainted by anti-Semitic comments emailed to the startup film company’s staff, according to the letter.
Larry Reed, chairman of B.D’Turman’D’s board of directors wrote that although many Camden residents were kind and supportive, some malicious individuals painted the town as inhospitable.
“There are a select few in town who have affected an aggressive and mean-spirited campaign that has crossed the normal boundaries of civility, one which would make the environment a difficult one in which to do business … [or] live comfortably in the community,” Reed wrote in his April 25 letter telling the town thanks, but no thanks to the free land.
Reed then attached emails sent to him from an anonymous person who wrote anti-Semitic and arguably racist comments about B.D’Turman’D staffers.
“It was disturbing to us in the town of Camden,” said the town’s economic development director, Brian Hodges. “This should not be considered indicative of the town. One bad apple does not spoil the bunch, but this project was destroyed by a small bunch, which is unfortunate. I hope businesses look at this as outlier comments.”
Reed and actor Bill Ferrell of B.D’Turman’D Entertainment had planned to produce $270 million in movies over the next three years in Camden.
Most people in Camden were civil and expressed either support or respectful objection to the project, Hodges said. Some of those people included a handful of movie industry workers or retirees in Camden who voiced strong opposition to the project calling B.D’Turman’D’s plan “a joke” that was just “smoke and mirrors.”
Hodges said three businesses have expressed interest in the land.
As for this particular company, “It’s a lost opportunity,” Hodges said.