Cineposium bows in New Zealand

AFCI conference runs Nov. 19 - 23

The Assn. of Film Commissioners Intl. will hold its 33rd annual Cineposium Intl. Conference Nov. 19-23 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Peter Jackson, whose “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy lensed on location in New Zealand, said the Cineposium helps filmmakers who work on a variety of locations and rely on the local film office to aid production teams on the ground.

“It’s great that the AFCI Cineposium brings film commissioners together to learn and exchange information and best practice,” Jackson said.

The event will draw AFCI members from more than 20 countries for professional development courses, issue-oriented industry discussions and master classes.

“Given the financing challenges currently facing the film industry worldwide, this year’s Cineposium could well be our most important ever,” said AFCI board president Robin James.

James added that film commissioners face three key challenges amid the volatile nature of pic production: The residual effect of the Writers Guild of America strike as well as the threat of a Screen Actors Guild walkout continue to make production companies nervous, while economic woes have affected hedge funds and larger banks, causing investors to pull back.

“After last year, I didn’t think it could get any worse,” James said. “But it has.”

Film incentives, which have become a driving factor in the choice of location for movie/TV production, have “become a Dutch auction that ironically leads to a race to the bottom and no one wins,” James said.

However, even with the introduction of incentive caps, James believes perks will continue to drive the market because they create competition.

As for California’s issue with runaway production, James said the film biz reflects the larger reality of the global community.

“Protectionism is not an option, but California will remain the engine room of production, and that won’t change,” James surmised.

AFCI’s kickoff event, When Cultures Collide, will feature keynote speaker Richard D. Lewis, chairman of Richard Lewis Communications and author of the book “When Cultures Collide.”

Closing day’s studio exec session spotlights Kate Bedya, senior VP of production at New Line Cinema; Bryan Noon, VP of business affairs at ABC Studios; and Russ Nissen, exec director, feature reporting, for Fox Filmed Entertainment. Dialogue will focus on how studios and film commissions can work together creatively and as partners to make productions more efficient and successful around the world.

General sessions and development courses include the Film Commission Professional; Master Class — Advanced Studies in Film Production; Master Class — Marketing for Film Commissioners; and Positioning Yourself as a Financial Partner.

Jackson added: “The region is a terrific environment for filmmaking and filmmakers. The residents and local government are incredibly enthusiastic, helpful and friendly.”

Go to Afci.org for info and registration.

* * *

Locate This …

A couple of years ago, while working on ABC’s “Day Break,” location manager Scott Poole was in need of a Los Angeles neighborhood locale in which the series’ hero could escape in his car from the trailing bad guys.

With the original neighborhood of choice too dense, Poole scouted a section of the city street one block away that had been closed to the public in the ’60s because it was deemed too steep for public traffic. Since then, the section had been overgrown with greenery and was a community garden cared for by local residents.

Enter “Day Break’s” production team. For the shot, they wanted to replace the existing guard rails with those that break away for the hero to break through and drive down the steep grade at high speed while dodging the existing foliage.

To secure a permit for the shoot, Poole met with the area’s City Council member, Tom LaBonge, who, according to Poole, arrived on site in his government-issued blue sedan looking like an undercover police officer.

After Poole walked LaBonge through the proposed scene, LaBonge looked at Poole, then at the closed block and held his chin before spotting a resident walking her dog.

“This young man is with a film company and he wants permission to do high-speed stunt driving all through the park here, which is going to tear up a lot of the vegetation. What do you think about that?” LaBonge asked.

Poole resisted the temptation to jump in and defend the production plan. The woman looked at Poole, the closed block and then LaBonge.

“Well, in any experiences that I’ve had with film companies, they not only do exactly what they say, they generally leave the location in better shape than when they found it. I’m all for it,” she said.

Amazed, LaBonge said, “Well, I guess you have your answer.” Then he asked, “Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking, what line of work are you in?”

She smiled. “I’m an actress,” she said.

“The shoot went great. No vegetation was harmed in the making of the show, and we donated about 25 new plants to the community garden when we were done,” Poole said.

Poole is the location manager for AMC’s Emmy-winning series “Mad Men” and was a 2008 California on Location Awards nominee.

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