Cinematic Synergy

21 BKLOT AFCI Disney Studios Burbank
Claire Rydell/Newscom

The studio will host the Produced By Conference 2011 in association with AFCI Locations.

In a move to better connect industry players and film commissions, AFCI Locations and the Produced By Conference team up.

Looking around at last year's edition of Locations, its annual trade show, the Association of Film Commissioners International decided it was attracting too many lookie-loos and not enough decision-makers who determine whether a film or TV production should set up base in another city, state or country.

"It was very difficult to tell who was serious or not at the event," says former film commissioner Martin Cuff, the AFCI's interim executive director. "Being a global organization, people from more than 40 countries travel a long way on the promise of actually doing business. So we've been looking for alternate ways of doing the event."

To that end, AFCI is joining forces for the first time this year with the Producers Guild of America's 3-year-old Produced By Conference, which explores all facets of film and TV production. The thinking is, if you want to lure Hollywood to your neighborhood, the best way to do that is to show off your neighborhood to Hollywood.

"It just seemed like a perfect combination," says Gale Anne Hurd, co-chair of the Produced By Conference, which will open its doors in association with AFCI Locations June 3 to 5 at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. It's a marriage of more than just convenience. Last year's Produced By attracted about 60 exhibitors; this year, about 270 are expected. "We essentially have much the same interests," Hurd adds. "In addition to location managers, the people film commissioners most want to speak with are producers. I hope it's a partnership that makes sense for both organizations."

Film incentives are sure to be a leading topic of conversation. Some locations are currently offering rebates of 40 percent or more, and that can make a significant difference in production budgets. But from year-to-year, the available incentives change quickly, and that presents a challenge to producers banking on continuity.

In a state such as Michigan, for example, there's already been a chilling effect on production after Gov. Rick Snyder cut the annual cap to $25 million (compared to $116 million in 2010) while indicating he has plans to cut it even more. So far in 2011, 19 projects have either stopped or pulled back from the state completely now that there isn't enough money for all the films that want to lens there.

"It's an uncertain time," says Joseph Chianese, senior vp of Entertainment Partners, which provides payroll services and tracks incentive opportunities for the entertainment industry. "Incentives aren't going away, but they're going to change and move. Some will drop out. Others will pop up. It boils down to an industry that is very mobile, that spends a lot of money very quickly and that doesn't require any real infrastructure. In a few weeks, or 90 days, they might drop $50 million in a local economy on labor, hotels, restaurants. Every jurisdiction in the world wants that."

Some film commissions attending the dual event plan to man booths to show off their wares, but others will be just as focused on listening to producers to learn more about production trends, locations minutiae and what the actual work of producers entails.

Newly appointed Colorado film commissioner and veteran producer Donald Zuckerman says most commissioners come from business or political backgrounds and only learn the movie business by hands-on experience over a period of years.

"Unfortunately, when there's a change in administration," he says, "somebody new comes in and has to start the learning curve all over again," which makes attending the conference potentially valuable.

The Colorado team, led by Elaine Mariner, Zuckerman's supervisor and Colorado's director of creative industries, is planning on taking a two-pronged approach. "We will have a team of people from the state and from four of the 80 local commissions in our state," she says, "and we'll tag-team in the booth so we can also attend sessions."

Producers should expect to find themselves much in demand, since, Cuff adds, it's vital to network. "It's not just about hard sales," he says. "It's also about connecting and understanding and learning what other people are doing so that you can apply those things in your own destination and remain competitive."           

Produced By Conference 2011
In Association With AFCI Locations
June 3 – 5
The Walt Disney Studios, Burbank

WANNA BE A PRODUCER?: Produced By serves up what you need to know

When the third edition of the Produced By Conference begins June 3, producer and co-chair Gale Anne Hurd will be there, ready for combat. "Part of our campaign is to battle the misconceptions about what a producer is and what we do," she says. "A lot of people still mix us up with directors or studio executives." To that end, the confab will shed light on many facets of producing through workshops, mentoring sessions and panels with industry leaders such as producers Marc Cherry and Mark Gill, Disney's Sean Bailey, NBC's Bob Greenblatt and ABC's Albert Cheng. "We want to show how it works with representatives from both sides," says Hurd, "the producers and the buyers. We want to look behind the curtain and see how decisions at studios and networks are really made." Event highlights include:

  • Raising Your Tentpole: Producing Motion Picture Franchises (June 4)
  • Conversation: Mark Gordon and Harvey Weinstein (June 4)
  • The "Real" Deal: Selling Reality and Non Fiction Television (June 4)
  • Why Didn't They Buy My Show? (How A Network Really Works) (June 5)
  • Smaller Stories on Bigger Screens: Producing the Micro-Budget Feature (June 5)
  • Conversation: Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary (June 5)