Film Commission Format – Government

Because film commissioners spend a great deal of time working with government entities and helping with the economic development of a region, a government office is often the most logical place to start an office. These offices might be part of a city or county government, a state or province or even represent an entire country.

Cape Town, South Africa
Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Film London, United Kingdom
Dallas Film Office, TX, USA
Vilnius, Lithuania

Otero County, New Mexico, USA
Cheongpung Film Commission, South Korea
Kern County, California
West Sweden Film Commission

State/ Province
Georgia (US) Film Office
Ontario, Canada
Ohio Film Office
North West Territories

Royal Film Commission – Jordan
Thailand Film Office
Malta Film Commission
Italian Film Commission

Within each government structure, film commission offices are frequently placed in either an economic development, a tourism or cultural division of the government entity. A few offices are independent agencies or placed in other areas, but the goals of a film commission make it a very good fit for one of these three areas. For instance, the Thailand Film office represents Thailand as a whole and is part of the Department of Tourism.

Placing a film commission office inside of a government entity has a variety of benefits as well as some challenges. Let’s take a look at a few of these.


1. In a healthy, supportive administration, you may have the support of the other agencies within that governing body. For instance: the Ministries or Departments of Transportation, Finance, Tourism, Energy and Minerals, Cultural Affairs, Military Affairs, Forestry, Parks System, Wildlife, Public Safety, Fire and Police, and a multitude of others. The cooperation you can receive, and therefore that a production can receive through your office, just by being a sister agency, can be invaluable in contrast, a non-governmental film office will often not receive the same level of cooperation, as it is an “outside” entity.

2. While funding might not always be stable, you at least know where the funding is likely to come from and may have some sense (based on elections, political climate, funding rhetoric) of what direction funding is headed.


1. A film office often does not know what funding will be available year to year – and funding can even be revoked in a crisis. As a result, government contracts often state that a contract can be made null and void if sufficient funding is suddenly not available. This makes it difficult to work with the private sector.

2. Film has become a political football in many jurisdictions simply because it is so visible, gets a great deal of press attention and is often the pet project of a particular politician. That can render a film office a political target. At times, film offices can be under fire or even eliminated based on a political battle.

3. The decisions that are made in government can sometimes seem illogical to someone from outside the sector. For instance, a film office can be doing extremely well and having tremendous success in growing local business and yet their budget can be decimated if film is not a priority for that given administration. On the other end of the spectrum, some jurisdictions operate on a performance-based budgeting system, which means that funding is only increased if the film office is “successful.” This is a Catch 22 scenario since a new or struggling film office will not have that kind of track record and yet desperately needs funding in order to become successful.

4. Having to cut through bureaucracy without breaking the rules (or the law!) can be extremely challenging.

5. Time is measured very differently from the public sector to the private sector. A movie company is on a compressed, intensive schedule while the public sector can have a very different view of the time a task should take and thus a lack of urgency.

6. Trying to make the government understand and work with film and film to understand and work with government is often like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. This is where your job is essential, as the person who is diplomatic and finds creative solutions that meet both parties’ needs.

Reporting structures within government entities are generally pretty straightforward. As a film commissioner, you will generally know exactly whom you report to and exactly whom that person reports to, and so forth, up the chain of command. However, what you are able to accomplish is strongly dependent on the current political and fiscal climates. Who is in charge at the “top” whether that be a commissioner, a governor, or other governing entity can strongly impact both funding and what tools and resources you have at your disposal.

We will talk a little more in-depth about how changes in government administrations and political parties might impact a film commission office.

While there are differences in governmental structures, a few key questions remain constant.

Answers you Need to Work in a Government Office

1. Who do you report to and what expectations does that person have for communications and reporting?
2. Who is my boss responsible to? What information do I need to gather for my boss in order to demonstrate growth, effectiveness, and compliance with existing policy and/or law?
3. Are their laws that govern the operations of your film office? And are there laws regarding procedures and policies about film production in your jurisdiction?
4. Where does your funding come from?
5. Who manages the funds and how do you best interact with them?
6. Who makes the decisions that may impact your funding and priorities in your office?
7. What are the policies regarding interaction with your law/ policymakers? With the local film community (if one exists)? With the film unions and guilds (if they exist)? Are you allowed to “lobby” your law or policymakers?