LocationEXPO at AFM Draws Traffic, Favorable Feedback
Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission
  • SANTA MONICA, Calif.
  • --

Film commissioners contacted by SHOOT gave generally favorable reviews to the inaugural LocationEXPO at the American Film Market (AFM) which wrapped last week. 

For several, the high-quality traffic at the event (11/1-8) came as no surprise in that they had attended and/or exhibited at past American Film Markets. Still, this year marked the first in which AFM organizers formally put in place an EXPO designed for the film commission and resources community. A couple film commissioners noted that in the past they decided not to exhibit at AFM due to the high price point. But when the AFM launched its EXPO, the price for designated space on the exhibit floor at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica was brought down, enabling more film commissioners to fit showcase participation into their budgets.

LocationEXPO’s first year drew 61 film commissions and agencies from around the world including Chile, Spain, Norway, New Zealand, Thailand and Russia. Together the organizations presented more than $1 billion in production incentives. 

Tracy Bennett, film commissioner for the Maui County Film Office in Hawaii, manned an EXPO exhibit booth, and found the show to be worthwhile, yielding “amazing” contacts in independent film, giving him the opportunity to “educate filmmakers about our tax incentive and deep infrastructure.” He noted that discussions began at the EXPO on a $1.5 million-budgeted indie film for possible lensing in Maui. Bennett related that Maui offers a 25 percent tax incentive on cast and crew salaries, location expenses, airfare and accommodations, equipment, postproduction and other aspects of a project be it a feature, TV fare, commercial or other form of media content.

Bennett added that he was so impressed by the value of the EXPO that he would like to take on bigger booth space at the event next year.

Meanwhile California enjoyed that bigger space at the inaugural EXPO, housing not only the California Film Commission (CFC) but local and regional film offices within the state. “Attendees got a sense of what we offer production all over the state--from Lake Tahoe to Shasta County to Santa Barbara,” said CFC executive director Amy Lemisch who experienced “good traffic” at the California booth as indie producers came by in-between making deals with buyers and distributors at the overall AFM. 

Lemisch and her colleagues fielded varied queries spanning location options in the state, and what kind of assistance is offered for productions. But the most frequently asked questions were centered on California’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program 2.0 for which there are six application periods a year. 

Three big-budget films--Captain Marvel, Island Plaza and Midway--were selected for a recent round of California tax credits, which allocates nearly $68 million to eight independent and studio projects. Based on data provided with each application, the eight films chosen are on track to employ more than 2,600 cast and crew, and generate nearly $385 million in qualified spending (defined as wages to below-the-line workers and payments for equipment/vendors). Four of the eight projects plan to shoot at least partially outside the Los Angeles 30-Mile Zone (as far away as Northern California). 

Also showcasing incentives was the Southern Kentucky Film Commission, which was represented, along with Kentucky itself, at the EXPO by Branscombe Richmond, an actor (perhaps best known for his recurring role on the TV series Renegade), stuntman and entrepreneur. Richmond had incentives and infrastructure offerings for EXPO attendees, the former ranging from 30 to 35 percent for qualifying projects. He also is a vendor who in tandem with Manhattan Beach Studios provides equipment and resources to facilitate all varieties of production in the state. Richmond gave the EXPO a thumbs-up in terms of helping to drum up business for Kentucky.

Alternate avenues
Film commissions sans exhibit space were also able to showcase their wares during the course of the EXPO. Krystal Jones, film commissioner for the City of San Antonio (Texas) Department of Arts & Culture, shared, “While we did not have a dedicated space this year and instead opted for a banner, inserts in welcome bags and an advertisement in the show guide, we were still able to meet with attendees to discuss the benefits filming in San Antonio offers productions. In evaluating the traffic we experienced while on the LocationEXPO floor, we are heavily considering having a dedicated space at next year’s event. Overall, the attendees we met with were not previously aware of our local film incentive, so it is certainly an avenue to further market our city’s offerings.”

Among the messages Jones imparted at EXPO was that “when filmmakers pair San Antonio’s 7.5 percent film rebate with the State of Texas’ rebate program, filming in San Antonio means an incentive of up to 30 percent for productions. Combine this with no fees to apply for City film permits, diverse locations and an average temperature of 70 degrees, and San Antonio is a great choice for filming.”

Louisiana Entertainment, part of Louisiana Economic Development, also managed to make an impression at EXPO without formal exhibit space. Working with the Independent Film & Television Alliance (ITVA)--the Los Angeles-headquartered global trade association of the indie motion picture and TV programming industry, which is behind the annual AFM--Louisiana Entertainment hosted a Monday (11/6) evening reception at the Loews Hotel to court independent filmmakers, producers and distributors, 

Christopher James Stelly, executive director of Louisiana Entertainment, said the four-hour reception was valuable in terms of connecting with viable prospects in the indie community, helping Louisiana get the word out on its enhanced incentives program which offers tax credits of as much as 40 percent on qualified spend, with an $150 million annual production cap. Stelly noted that the incentives initiative also offers a new measure of stability with a “five-year super initial certification” for scripted television series, allowing TV producers to plan for the long haul.


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