By: Micah Berger-Sollod
Baltimore has been the site of many hit TV shows, such as The Wire and We Own This City. Recently, Alma Har’el’s directed Lady in the Lake has begun filming here. Set in 1960s Baltimore, an unsolved murder pushed Jewish housewife Maddie Swartz to reinvent her life as an investigative journalist. It’s based on Laura Lipman’s famous book of the same name. While the release date is not yet known, the show has been filming since April and is set to release on Apple TV.
Alma Har’el, an Israeli film director, is both directing and writing the show. She is working with Endeavor Content, a film and entertainment studio working out of Los Angeles. The TV show involves many big names in the film industry, including Natalie Portman and Baltimore School for the Arts alumnus Moses Ingram. While the film brings lots of excitement to Baltimore’s arts scene, a fake claim of extortion and mounting heat from locals threatens the show’s support. No matter the opinion, most agree that Lady in the Lake is one of the biggest events in Baltimore’s entertainment industry in a long time.
Laura Lipman’s novel tells the story of a Jewish housewife and a Black bartender who show the deeply embedded institutions of racism underneath Baltimore’s investigative journalism. It follows two murders, one is of a White Jewish woman who is heavily publicized, and the other of a Black woman who is only mentioned by African American newspapers. The book is actually based on two murders from Laura Lipman’s childhood.
Filming began smoothly with shooting at locations all over the city. Many shooting locations are in Jewish communities in Baltimore, including many synagogues such as Beth Am and Chizuk Amuno Congregation. Some Jewish community leaders such as Rabbi Daniel Burg have been asked to help facilitate the proper use of sensitive locations like these. But the story itself is not the only dramatic part of this TV show.
In August of 2022 Lady in the Lake producers claimed that during a shoot Downtown, a group of men approached them and demanded $50,000, or they would shoot someone. This was reported by a spokesperson for the Baltimore Police Department and is easily classified as extortion.
“Friday afternoon, on the Baltimore set of our production Lady in the Lake, prior to the arrival of the cast and crew, per their call time, a driver on our production crew was confronted by two men, one of whom brandished a gun directed at our driver, and then they fled the location. We are working with the Baltimore Police Department as the investigation is ongoing,” the studio behind the series, Endeavor Content, said in a statement. After temporarily pausing filming, details about the crime became murkier.
Police then spoke with the private security supervisor, and she claimed they actually asked for just $4,000 and only threatened to shoot the gun in the air. The private security supervisor then retracted all claims on the incident, and later that day police declared it a false report.
“There were some threats made, I do know that for a fact,” said Venneith McCormick, a business owner. “There are some vendors up there by Lexington Market who think that they should’ve been paid because they’re vendors on the street.” McCormick owns a business that was taken over temporarily by the production company for shooting purposes, and while compensated he estimates he has lost up to $5,000. After the police declared it a false report, Endeavor Content went silent.
Thiru Vignarajah, a community leader, had this to say “Every time we hear these fabricated stories about violence in Baltimore, it tells the world that this is not perhaps a place to do business [or] to bring your families, and that hurts all of us.”
Al Hathaway, a community activist, claimed it was a slap in the face to the city and a blatant act of fear-mongering.
Filming for the series has now continued and despite the fake extortion incident, there is still a lot of support for the series among the Baltimore community. On the 22nd of October Moses Ingram and many other members of the Lady of the Lake cast and crew came to BSA and hosted a panel discussion. Nearly 20 different students and parents joined BSA faculty to discuss all sorts of parts of the creative process and experiences from the industry. The crew included BSA alumni Ron Jeffries and Moses Ingram.
Back in March of 2021, Natalie Portman and Lupita Nyong’o were set to star in the show. However, in May of 2022 Nyong’o exited the series and was replaced with Moses Ingram in June. Other names like Noah Jupe, Mike Epps, and Bryon Bowers were added in July. According to the production team filming is nearly done but a release date has not been set.
To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at email@example.com.
Headline photo caption:
A set from The Wire in Baltimore. Photo courtesy of J. M. Giordano.