Lesson Seven – Film Commission Staff

The success of a film commission office is highly dependent on having a well-trained, dedicated staff. Many offices have very few staff members or their numbers change depending on funding.

Pay scales

Just like every other job category, pay scales vary greatly. But in general terms, government jobs pay less than private sector jobs. But, these positions often offer health care benefits and sometimes retirement plans. Not-for-profit employees probably have the lowest pay scale of all because their jobs frequently come without benefits. However, not-for-profit entities may allow for more non-financial benefits such as flexibility.

Employment changes due to budget cuts/politics: In general (again, this changes from place to place) there may be more security in a government job than with a non-profit organization. It is not unusual for government employees to be covered under a union in which case, they are quite well protected. But being “protected” can mean that the government can move an employee to an entirely different secretariat (Department of Transportation, for example), not necessarily maintaining the position in the film office.


Staff members that do not have any prior production experience will take quite a while to train. A great deal can be gleaned by osmosis, listening to the Director or Film Commissioner working with the industry. But it’s suggested that they are brought to a few sets so that they can learn about the workings of production experientially. Having staff take Film Commission Fundamentals is a great way to begin training.

Staff members that come from the production world and are unfamiliar with the workings of government are going to need acute monitoring. It is so easy to make a mistake in government that is completely standard in the private sector. Frustration is also common since government procedures can seem illogical or less expeditious than they are used to. Going into the position, make sure that the new staffer has the patience to learn and a willingness to accept that they are working in a completely contrary realm.

Managing staff

There are different thoughts on this, but experience seems to confirm that the more a film office can be a hybrid between government and production operations, the more natural a fit and thus a more successful venture. For instance, if you are on the US East Coast and your employees all leave at 4:30PM each day, realize that is only 1:30PM in Los Angeles! If your government allows for a “flex” schedule, it may serve you well to try to implement this type of scheduling.

Not-for-Profit Employees

A large advantage of being non-profit is that you are more likely to attract staff who come out of production and you don’t totally need them to understand government procedures. You may be fortunate enough to hire a former location scout, for instance, and that can be a huge leg up for your organization.

Non-profits often do not offer benefits to their employees. This can make it harder to find the right employee. However, not for profits can offer some non-financial benefits that are more difficult for government entities. As is true in general terms, working in a non-profit system is far more flexible than working in a government system including the hiring, firing, and management of employees. This holds true for control of your employee’s tasks, hours, etc. In addition, you may have more ability to control budgets, how money moves, what can be paid for and how employees are dealt with.

Being a film commissioner means being in the business of people. You must be able to work well with many different types of people, rules, regulations and ideas. Some days you may be dealing directly with a lawmaker and the next helping the shop owner down the street understand the benefits they will see to a production company coming into their area. Understanding who the stakeholders are, how they are structured, what their needs are, how to communicate with them and how to adapt your style to facilitate communication between stakeholders makes your job much easier.