The men and women that are employed to perform the roughly 185 technical crafts that cover everything from script supervisor to scenic artist to generator operator to marine coordinator. There are hundreds of other technical crafts in the postproduction realm, but in this context we are focused on the crafts involved in physical production.
How does the workforce affect the work of a film commission office: The local workforce, if one exists, is a major selling point for producers/studios considering your jurisdiction. Bringing crew in from elsewhere is expensive: air flights, housing, and per diem and the crew are union/guild members they will also be paid for days off, travel days, etc.). And local crew represents local employment and (where applicable) also means income taxes being paid into the jurisdiction. When we talk about the economic impact of film on a region, local employment can be a major contributor.
But not all regions have local crew as it may simply not be practical. For instance, a very rural area may attract filmmakers specifically for its isolation. And there is not the infrastructure in place to grow a workforce. Or there may be a neighboring city that has a good-sized crew base and all who become trained in the business flock to that city.
Not having a crew base actually creates another form of economic impact. Crew being brought in from elsewhere can mean large numbers of hotel occupancy, and sometimes for an extended period of time. In addition, large numbers of car rentals, increased restaurant patronage, purchases of gifts and artwork, etc.
What role does the film commission office have with the workforce? The relationship between a film commission and the local workforce varies greatly from one office to another, one state to another, one country to another.
For some, the relationship with labor as well as the health, vitality, and growth of labor’s member base is central to the mission and overall success of the film commission.
Local crew often makes up the majority of a region’s’ film community, along with film-specific and non-film-specific businesses and services. The film commission office that works closely with its film community knows the true assets available to incoming filmmakers and therefore better equipped to promote the region.
If working to build a crew base, it can be tempting to oversell the skill levels of your local crew. You may also find that there are gaps in the crew that work in certain crafts. While you always want to support your local crew, be honest with producers about the size of your crew base and their skills available. And it is important to separate yourself from the actual hiring process as it is not ethical for a government representative to promote some crew members over others. This is where a local production guide, where your local crew lists themselves, their skills and credits, is invaluable. Simply supplying a producer with your production guide takes away any perceived impropriety.
When is a crew union and when is it non-union: This varies, again, from place to place. In the U.S., all of the major studios are a signatory to union/guild agreements. And all of the major studios have Labor Relations personnel who deal with the union negotiations. While it has nothing to do with the film commission office whether a state is a “right to work state” or a “right to negotiate state,” union workers are generally employed in the U.S. on U.S. studio projects. This is not, however, an absolute and there are exceptions.
Some of the reasons that a crew member may wish to be represented by a union are as follows:
There are top-notch non-union crew members all over the world and it should not be assumed that union is preferable to non-union. The labor practices vary greatly in different parts of the world and that needs to be taken into account. The basic human needs should still apply – union or not. The film commissioner’s role is not to police these activities, but there are often state and federal minimum wages, labor laws that have their own methods of assuring compliance.
As every country has its own labor laws, work visas, permits, etc. it is highly recommended that you become educated about your jurisdiction’s workforce, the laws regarding labor (including child labor laws), and to know the protocol under which they are bound.