Film commissions all over the world have seen a run on their services as production has boomed across the globe. And AFCI Week, the big confab hosted by the Assn. of Film Commissioners Intl. that runs June 27-29, couldn’t have come back as an in-person event at a better time.
After two years without an in-person event, “people are excited to be together, to see their friends, to meet new people and to find out what’s going on in the industry, and meet with industry professionals and executives,” says AFCI president Eve Honthaner, who took over the post in August.
“AFCI Week is a uniquely exclusive annual event for film commission professionals held on a global scale,” she says.
AFCI Week, although abbreviated this year to two days rather than five, with one optional day, will give film commissioners access to key entertainment industry executives, and panels on sustainability and “green” production, workforce safety and the need for below the line crew training and infrastructure, like soundstages. Glenn Gainor, head of physical production at Amazon Original Movies, will be a keynote speaker.
As more governments enact production incentive programs, and others sweeten their pots, competition gets more fierce.
“In fact, I went to the Cannes Film Festival for the first time and I couldn’t believe all the different pavilions and the different countries,” Honthaner says.
That competition makes the programs, classes and connectivity that the AFCI offers even more important.
“A lot of our members are very appreciative of our efforts to connect them with industry decision-makers. So at events like ours, we get them in front of executives and producers, the people who make decisions as to where films are shot and we help facilitate those connections for them,” she says.
At AFCI Week, Honthaner notes that there are panels keyed to what the members want and need, and right now, the pandemic and what comes after COVID eases are on the mind of every film commissioner and production executive.
One panel deals directly with that: “It’s called the Future Production in the Post-Pandemic World, and that’s going to be very interesting,” Honthaner says.
She also points to a panel on publicity — how to work with studio PR departments and unit publicity pros, and how to promote “your own film office as a way to let producers know about what your jurisdiction can offer.”
While production is experiencing a high, countries including Saudi Arabia are making a huge bet on that to grow even more by spending to lure shoots. Netflix has been upping its game, building a production hub in New Mexico — which already has a well-established production culture — Spain and other announced hubs in Sweden, Italy, Turkey and New Jersey. That state recently made a play for more production with attractive incentives and more infrastructure to compete with New York. Massachusetts also made its perks permanent, spurring more shoots and infrastructure development.
All that production means that the biggest challenge film commissions face is a lack of crew and facilities.
“There’s so much need for soundstages, refurbishing old soundstages or converting other structures into soundstages, and also for training, especially below the line crew,” Honthaner says. “Those are a couple of big needs, and again, film commissioners can’t make those things happen on their own, but a lot of them are very involved in those types of issues in their jurisdictions.”
What AFCI provides is education and an opportunity, at its events AFCI Week and Cineposium, which will be held in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 20-22. It’s the first time it will be held in Latin America, pointing to the rise of that part of the world in terms of content output, incentives and embracing TV and film productions.
“We want to be known as an organization that provides our members with the tools, education and resources needed to run their film offices and to serve the international film community and support economic growth in their regions.”