In 1999, location manager Jamie Lengyel spent a good couple of months scouting locations in Northern France for a low-budget TV adaptation of “Madame Bovary.”
But online tools have made scouting faster, cheaper and easier. “Last year I did some research for a film set in 12th-century France, where we did a three-day (research trip) with a packed agenda going to different chateaux that we’d shortlisted from a few days’ research,” recalls Lengyel, whose credits include “The King’s Speech” and “Hugo.”
But film commissioners are going beyond just websites and photo galleries with social media, which offers the film commissions opportunities to promote the locations, film incentives and production services in their region.
“When people go into Google and type in the name of our film commission, we provide more than one entrance to our activities and our services,” says Fabian Desmicht, deputy head at Location Flanders, which last year won an award from the Assn. of Film Commissioners Intl. for its use of digital media.
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Desmicht says that the key factors behind the effective use of online tools are their user friendliness and their interconnectedness. Social media, in particular, works best when there is a dynamic relationship with other users in the film and TV biz, whether it is production companies, facilities companies or other film organizations.
“The re-tweet function, for example, is a vital tool. You hardly have to put any work into re-tweeting, and yet just by doing it people from your own region and abroad can follow whatever’s happening across the entire region,” he says.
Another reason to use social media is its cost effectiveness.
“The younger crowd seem to be using it more and more because — let’s be honest — a lot of film commissioners have had their (marketing) budget slashed. So this is a good way of getting their brand out in a cost effective way,” says Clara Le, commercial director at the Location Guide, an online directory and news service for the pre-production sector.
Most film commissions are funded by the public purse, so social media can help remind local residents that it is money well spent.
“Whenever we get pictures that were taken on a set somewhere in Flanders or we have a teaser or a trailer of a film that has been shot here, we try to post it as quickly as possible, because as a film commission you are right in the middle between the production side of things and the local community,” Desmicht says. “We have to make sure that shooting on location can take place, but also that the inhabitants of the area don’t feel too much discomfort while it takes place, and social media is an essential way to involve that local community.”
Marijana Stoisits, head of the Vienna Film Commission, started using Facebook in 2009, shortly after the org was set up.
“It quickly became clear that Facebook was a good marketing tool for us. As the film commission is quite young a lot of people don’t know what a film commission does. So we use Facebook to promote our work and the service we provide filmmakers.”
Recent Vienna Film Commission posts on Facebook have included photos of a location tour that it organized for helmer-producer Ron Howard and exec producer Todd Hallowell, who were prepping “Rush.”
But for Lengyel any online tool is only as good as the person utilizing it. “Having someone with location experience who will correctly understand your brief and what you are trying to achieve is going to be more useful than a whole bunch of random images,” he says.