Funding the work of a film commission office can look very different depending on the type of organization, the regions, the size of the office, the mission and many other factors. Your office might not look anything like the office in the next region. Because of this, budgets vary a great deal as well.
Here is a point of reference for the funding levels of film commissions: Offices/Commissions may range from an annual budget of $50K or less with one part-time employee; to over $2 million dollars with eight to ten employees. The size of the organization will depend greatly on the area served, the level of support for the film industry in the region and the support of the local industry. Funding will also depend on where it comes from.
The level of funding for your office will depend on your mission and your goals as well as resources available to you. If you have spent the time determining your mission and creating a plan, you will have some idea of what you will ideally need for funding. Let’s take a look at how both government-based and not-for-profit entities approach funding.
As a film commissioner in a government-funded office, you will probably not have extensive say over the overall budget for your office. Funding will generally be allocated via the government structures that are in place. Depending on where you fit in the government structure, you may have funding directly allocated to your office or it may be routed through a larger agency such as a Travel and Tourism or Economic Development Department. You are likely to be expected to submit potential budget numbers but first, ask yourself these questions:
If you do not know the answers to these questions, asking your superiors is a good place to start.
Government funding may be set well in advance. Many government entities are moving to a budgeting process that may set funding levels (dependent on revenues) for eighteen months to two years in advance. This means that you will have to be able to forecast needs well in advance and then be ready to adjust based on changes in revenue. Forecasting this far in advance can be tricky in today’s economy, but it gives you an opportunity to propose new programs that will take longer than a year to bring to fruition.
However, just because budgets are set in advance, does not mean that they won’t change suddenly. Being prepared for these changes will put you well ahead of the game.
As a government employee, you may feel that you do not have a great deal of control over the funding that is allocated to you by the governing body. Dealing with this reality does not mean giving up on other ways to accomplish your mission.
Before dismissing the possibility of other sources of funding, you might want to explore creating an “enterprise fund.” There are many terms for this but it basically refers to the lawfully sanctioned ability for your office to take funds from other sources such as:
Selling t-shirts, mugs, other paraphernalia with your office or regions logo on it.
Selling advertising on your website
Charging for businesses and services to be listed in your online or printed Production Guide (but be aware, film offices often offer this free of charge)
Putting on an event that requires tickets and a piece of the ticket price goes towards supporting your office.
Having the ability to create such a fund can involve a legislative action so find out what is required before taking any steps in this direction.
While not-for-profit entities do not have the same restrictions that come with direct government funding, the majority not for profit entities are funded through grants and contracts with local and regional government entities. Governments provide funding to these organizations to assure that the roles of a film commission are being fulfilled in their region without having it be directly attached to any one entity.
The government grants allow for a fairly consistent source of income for most not-for-profits, however, this funding also comes with significant risks. First, if a government entity has to cut back, grants and contracts are frequently the first things to go. This can cause uncertainty in funding for film offices that depend on the funds in this format. Additionally, the funds usually have to be reapplied for on a regular basis or at least renegotiated with the sponsoring agencies. This might happen annually or it might happen every few years, but it takes time and the funding is never certain.
Additionally, because government entities may not run on the same fiscal cycle as the not for profit, decisions on funding may not come until well into the not-for-profit organization’s fiscal year. Thus, the organization may have to create budgets that make funding assumptions that may or may not ever materialize. This leads to the need to be ready to adjust, just as government based entities do.
Unlike government-based film commissions, the not-for-profit offices have the possibility of applying for grants from non-government sources. These types of funds can come from a variety of entities and can usually be found with a little bit of research and some time spent on applications. While most of these types of grants can’t be used for general operations, there are a variety of funds available for special projects such as technology upgrades or staff training.
Grant writing can be intimidating, but if you are willing to put in the time and effort, they can pay off well and provide additional resources for fulfilling the mission.
A few tips for writing grants:
is discussion, what funding you will need to accomplish it.