Taking the initiative

New education programs will help film commissioners learn the growing complexities of the profession.

The 22nd annual Association of Film Commissioners International Locations Trade Show 2007, running today through Saturday at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, features an impressive lineup of 260 exhibitors that represent more than 30 countries spanning six continents -- in addition to an array of seminars. But this year's edition of the event -- which reigns as North America's longest-running entertainment-industry trade show -- has special significance for officers of the AFCI because it will serve as the official unveiling of the AFCI Global Initiatives, which include a worldwide educational program, easy access and a major upgrade to the incentives database accessible through the organization's Web site, afci.org.

"Its principal raison d'etre is to raise the standards and capabilities of its film-commission members worldwide," Robin James, AFCI board president and CEO of the Pacific Film and Television Commission in Queensland, Australia, says of the initiatives. "Over the years, the responsibilities of film commissioners have changed. They've had to become multiskilled. They've had to be business managers, first and foremost, as well as economic developers, marketing experts. And, underpinning all that, they've had to have an understanding of the film industry and how it works."

The most ambitious portion of the initiatives is the AFCI Certified Film Commissioner Program, which has two primary components. The first is Film Commission Fundamentals, an online starter course that can be taken by office staff around the globe at any time. The second is a series of five master classes designed to build competency in six core disciplines -- including marketing and communication, film-office operations, business management and economic development, among others -- which will initially be presented during AFCI's two main industry events: the Locations Trade Show and Cineposium, the annual education conference.

"The online course is pretty exciting because not a lot of offices can afford to send their entire staff to an educational forum, so this reaches out on a global level," explains Walea Constantinau, AFCI board vp marketing and film commissioner of the Honolulu Film Office. "And the master classes teach people about the complexity of what a film commissioner's job is these days and how to give them the tools to run a commission office."

The other two portions of the Global Initiatives are designed primarily to provide filmmakers and studios with better access to the latest incentives data through two new Web-based features: the Locations Inquiry Service Tool, which enables users to request specific location- or production-resource information from as many AFCI members as desired at one time with a single form, and the Dynamic Incentive Tool search engine.

"The DIT is the most-up-to-date information about incentives around because it's not a static document," Constantinau says. "When you go and ask for the information, it actually compiles the data at the moment. Each AFCI member has access to update their portion of the database 24/7. They can post it at 3 p.m., and if you go on there at 3:05 to check the incentives, you'll see that new information."