Let’s begin by looking at the groups of stakeholders that film offices must build relationships and partnerships with.
• The Film Industry – The film industry itself, being your primary client, should be a group to which you are open and accessible to during and often outside of operating hours. Just as the site selection industry is an economic developer’s primary client, it is imperative for film commissioners to stay involved with the industry and professional development organizations it is associated with. The film industry includes those who come from outside your jurisdiction, as well as individuals and businesses that work within your boundaries.
• Elected Officials and Government Administrations – Many of the activities of a film commissioner are political in nature. The film commissioner may deal with elected officials on city, town, parish, regional, state, provincial, tribal and/or federal levels. Your specific jurisdiction’s officials should be an integral part of any communication strategy, sharing good news with them (along with the credit) as well as shielding them from less than pleasant outcomes or issues.
o The term “workforce” is synonymous with “labor” and “crew base.”
o The term “labor” is primarily used in the context of “organized labor,” meaning a union or guild that represents one or more crafts, disciplines and/or talents.
For many but not all film commissions, a primary goal is to gain employment for local crew members. Some commissions’ regions do not have a crew base. In this case, the economic development focus is generally shifted to hotel occupancy, filling rooms with crew members brought in from outside the jurisdiction. This then extends to the increase in other types of spending, similar to the tourist trade: restaurants, the purchase of gifts, clothing, art, rentals, etc. All of which can be hugely significant to the economy of a region.
• The Community at Large – A distinct advantage that the film community has over the traditional economic development function is that the general public is very familiar with movies and television and there can be (though not always!) an inherent excitement about having a production in the region. This excitement can be soured very quickly if community members are not clear on what to expect when the ‘movie comes to town’ or have not had their expectations managed. Is can be very easy to excite a community, but even easier to disappoint them if the stars are not readily available to meet or sign autographs. While there is the potential for wonderful opportunities to become extras, to have your location used in the film, gaining business from the film company, it is impossible to know ahead of time what and who will benefit. Film Commissioners need to be cautious about making promises (or perceived promises) or overstating the opportunities that a movie can offer the constituency.
The more a community knows about what is actually involved with making a film or television show, the easier it is to manage. Engaging neighborhoods and businesses, and keeping residents apprised of any disruptions, night work, noise, traffic and parking alterations, goes a long way towards heading off trouble.
A “thank you” to helpful organizations, neighborhood associations and the like will also help ensure that your community remains film-friendly.
• Business Community – Tying film opportunities into the business community is another essential part of providing value to your community and at the same time strengthening support for the film commission. A well-functioning commission will maintain active relationships with businesses to make filming easier, ensure goods and services are readily available and assist in building political support. As was mentioned above, the Film Commissioner should be very careful not to overstate or promise anything on behalf of the film company.
• Media – The role of communicating your successes and downplaying your challenges, will, in part, be made much easier with the involvement and commitment of the media. A close working relationship with the media will allow your film commission to communicate to all the groups above and help to control the message you choose to get out to the public.
• Real Estate Community – The availability of locations for film shoots can often be facilitated by close ties to the real estate industry, both residential and commercial. The industry knows what homes, land, and buildings exist in your community and is often pleased to be involved.
• Your Board – If a film commission is a not for profit entity, the board of directors will play an important role in the success of the organization. For not for profits that are organized with a board who are active in the industry, the members provide potential connections to resources and potential partners. For boards that are organized with neutral outside members, they bring perspective and ideas that may not always be as obvious. Either way, it is important to build strong relationships with not just the board chair, but all board members. Keeping them up to date with relevant information (just be sure not to overstep what you are allowed to tell them. Check the privacy agreements.
Education will also be a big part of working with your board. Educating them on what is and is not appropriate to talk about, what is expected of the organization, what role they are to play and what roles they are to stay out of are crucial to assuring board members are helpful and not a hindrance to the process.
• Your funders – Funders play a unique role in the life of a film commission. Whether the funder is a government entity or a private donor, helping them feel included and involved without stepping over any lines is important. Building relationships with them and providing them with as much information as possible is important. Inviting them to events, assuring that they have any information that you are allowed to share, providing them with updates on the benefits of your work can go a long way to assuring continued funding and advocacy for you to other potential funders.