Bill Kramer lives in Los Angeles, ensuring the creation, preservation and celebration of the kinds of movies people fall in love with through his job as the CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But his own love story with the big screen began thousands of miles away at a theater in Joppatowne.

“The first movie I ever saw was ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ I was 4 years old,” said the Timonium native, whose organization’s big yearly shebang was Sunday night’s Oscars. “My parents took me, and I was enthralled. I loved it. I fell in love with [Barbra] Streisand, who’s just a great comedian, and it was a hilarious film. And then it was off to the races.”

Those proverbial races were show business, or literally the business side of it. Kramer has spent his life not only finding funding for films and filmmakers — including his tenures with the Sundance Institute and Columbia University School of the Arts — but making sure movies can be seen for generations to come.

As a budding cinéaste, Kramer made his rounds to the Charles Theatre, “where I saw a lot of John Waters films,” the former Towson Twin (now The Recher) and the former Yorkridge Four at York and Ridgley roads. (It is a very native Baltimorean thing to get one’s bearings by mentioning a lot of landmarks that don’t exist anymore.)

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It was at the Yorkridge that Kramer saw the movie that really kicked his passion into high gear: 1984′s twisty noir classic “Blood Simple,” directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. He saw it the summer before leaving for college at the University of Texas at Austin, where the movie was shot. “I remember it so vividly,” he said. “It was just this moment of this art, of storytelling at a very high level. It really changed my view of moviemaking beyond the big blockbuster.”

Kramer, who was named CEO of the Academy in 2022, loves the art of movies. He has been interested in the business of making them since he was a young teen, poring over copies of Variety and Billboard that his grandmother would bring him when she came to dinner each week.

“I was there, reading the trades,” he said. “I loved lists. That was my entry into the film and movie world, not just as an art form but as a business. I went to business school, but I didn’t understand a path to get there. I didn’t have friends in the film or music industry.”

Kramer’s path was unconventional but seemed meant to be — just like in the movies. After graduating from Texas, he got his master’s degree in urban planning at New York University, then worked for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. There, he was “funding big grants, bringing movement into the city. That’s when I realized, ‘This is what I like doing, facilitating the work of artists. I’ll be the money guy, who raises money so that artists can realize their projects.”

Like Kramer, I pay my bills doing something I love — in my case writing about movies and pop culture and the things that make people tick. I also know that sometimes the work part of that can overtake the enthusiasm and just seem, you know, like work. Is being behind the curtain as much fun for him?

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“It’s so magical!” he said. “It’s so much fun going to the movies. The magic is still there for me, every day. The film industry is still vital every day.”

He cites as a recent example the “John Waters: The Pope of Trash” exhibit at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where he worked from 2012 to 2016 prior to a three-year stint at Brooklyn Academy of Music, before eventually returning to the museum in 2020. “Nothing makes me more proud than to have this 11,000-square-foot exhibition of that work I love. It’s come full circle.”

I’ve written a lot about Baltimore-made movies, so I was curious about Kramer’s favorites as a fellow local. “I love ‘Diner’ so much, and ‘The Accidental Tourist,’” he said, mentioning Mount Vernon and Fells Point as two particularly cinematic-looking spots here. “All of John’s [Waters] films, all of them. Baltimore’s a great filmmaking town, and for TV, it’s Barry Levinson, and John, and ‘The Wire.’ It’s known as a place to film and tell a great story, and that makes me very happy.”

This doesn’t surprise me. I just wrote about how I think everything, including 2024’s seemingly unrelated Academy Award nominees for best picture, has a Baltimore connection. Sometimes the link is figurative, or in the case of Kramer and ND Stevenson, the Maryland Institute College of Art graduate who created the graphic novel that served as the basis for this year’s Oscar-nominated animated film “Nimona,” it’s quite literal. There’s something in the water — or Waters — here. (Sorry, bad pun.)

So what is it about Baltimore that makes it so inspirational? “I just think there are so many pieces of Baltimore that are steeped in history that people don’t know about,” Kramer said. “It’s a city holding onto its past but very progressive in its thinking about the future.”