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Standardized skills up ante for film offices

New AFCI Global Initiatives help industry

Film commissioners mean business.

The Assn. of Film Commissioners Intl. unveils today its slate of AFCI Global Initiatives, aimed at educating the professional and standardizing the profession.

“The AFCI board is implementing a new vision for the organization, and part of that are new strategies to boost skills,” says AFCI board prexy Robin James. “The certified film commissioner program is the first part of this strategy.”

As production incentives and tax breaks have become de rigueur in the world of film and TV production, the role of the local film commissioner has matured from that of the person at the local government office who OKs parking permits to a sophisticated entertainment industry professional who cuts red tape, negotiates for location managers, finds hotel rooms, caterers and local staff, plus has a firm grasp of local fiscal regulations and diplomatic skills.

“Studios are trying to cut costs, and they can’t waste time with issues that the film commissioners should be doing,” James says.

Indeed, at the Locations Trade Show, the AFCI will launch expanded commissioner training programs and master classes that cover various areas including marketing and communication, film office operations, business management and all aspects of filmmaking as well as the film commissioner’s role in economic development, since they are often leading the charge to change government regulations relating to production.

Standardization benefits both producers and the profession, James says.

“The level of skill and capabilities varies around the world, and some of the feedback from major studios and other big producers worldwide indicated that there’s an expectation that film commissions will provide the level of expertise that they expect,” James says.

“When you’ve got a big, complex project, a film commissioner has to understand how to implement policies, tax incentives and anything the production might need,” he adds.

The AFCI is also launching the Dynamic Incentive Tool (afci.org/incentives), which contains up-to-the-minute information about regulations, tax incentives and other information germane to a production. AFCI members can access the site 24 hours a day to update their state’s, country’s or region’s profile.

“Members can enter new information to the Web site 24/7. Once that information is entered, it is available seconds later,” says Walea Constantinau, AFCI board VP, marketing.

Another new development is the Location Inquiry Service Tool, which aims to streamline requests made to members.

James sees the initiatives as a boon to everyone in the entertainment biz. “The response has been overwhelming in that the major players think (the certification program) appropriate and timely. The majority of film commissioners see the value in having a qualification. It gives them credibility with their governments. It makes sure that taxpayers’ money is in good hands.”

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