Film Commission Survey: Production Prospects and The Pandemic
Various film commissioners discuss permitting, precautions, restrictions, concerns

“Location, location, location.” This proverbial mantra for buying real estate also applies to the state of filming during a pandemic. So much depends on where you are--and whether rates of COVID-19 infections are high, have flattened or even better are on a downward curve. Public health and safety guidelines should evolve accordingly--and so too does film permitting, the nature of projects that are feasible and thus allowed.

Thus it’s imperative that the prevalence, presence or hopefully at some point the absence of coronavirus be constantly monitored as these conditions will directly impact what is permissible during a given time within a given jurisdiction.

Towards that end, the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) has launched the AFCI Global Production Alert--a resource that provides updated information on COVID-19-related policies and restrictions impacting filming locales worldwide. It can be accessed on AFCI’s website (

The goal is to ensure that film and TV production industry decision-makers have the information they need to make informed decisions during and following the pandemic, while helping film offices prevent misinformation, speculation and confusion about COVID-19’s impact.

“AFCI’s new Global Production Alert provides a one-stop source for COVID-19-related information direct from film offices around the world,” said AFCI president Jess Conoplia.

“We’re focused,” she continued, “on helping the industry stay up-to-speed throughout each phase of the pandemic, from the current shutdown through the lifting of restrictions and return to production.”

AFCI member film offices are using the Global Production Alert to communicate updated information on how their jurisdictions (cities, states, provinces or nations) are dealing with a range of issues such as:

  • Restrictions on public gatherings and business activity (including film/TV production),
  • Restrictions on travel (inbound and domestic),
  • Availability of key filming locations,
  • Processing of on-location permit applications, and --Government programs, industry relief funds and other resources to help out-of-work crew members.

Listings may also include links to government agencies that deal with relevant issues (e.g., immigration, economic development, public health, etc.).

The Global Production Alert includes entries from a diverse array of film offices on six continents. AFCI expects the number of participating film offices to continue to grow as more locales clarify their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AFCI Advisory Board member and HBO senior vice president of production Jay Roewe said, “AFCI’s Global Production Alert is a key tool for the industry as it waits for the green light to re-commence work on projects around the world. We rely on updates from trusted sources internationally with respect to travel restrictions, location access and industry readiness. Film Commissions are well positioned to provide honest intelligence in this regard.”

Fellow AFCI Advisory Board member Kimberly Rach, who serves as global head of production for YouTube Originals, added, ”While we continue to work together behind-the-scenes to manage productions in hiatus, the ability to connect with film commissions at the click of a finger is key. AFCI’s Global Production Alert is a terrific resource for the latest information on COVID-19 related shooting restrictions, and when we need more information, the organization’s member directory connects us to city, state and national offices worldwide.”

Information in the Global Production Alert is provided directly by AFCI-member film offices, which are encouraged to submit updates as soon as their jurisdiction policies and restrictions change.

Pandemic patterns indeed are constantly changing and evolving. At press time, coronavirus cases were rising in close to 30 states in the U.S., with the outbreak’s center of gravity seemingly shifting from the Sun Belt toward the Midwest.

The disease can hopscotch geographically. There are rising percentages, for example, of COVID-19 tests coming back positive in states like Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana. Social distancing, personal hygiene and mask-wearing remain our best defense in this ongoing battle.

Study findings
As for measuring the impact of the pandemic on lensing, AFCI was one of several intergovernmental bodies around the world--including the Asian Film Commissions Network, the European Film Commission Network and the Latin American Film Commission Network--endorsing the Global Screen Production – The Impact of Film and Television Production on Economic Recovery from COVID-19, recently published by Olsberg•SPI.

The study found that after several years of groundbreaking growth, spending on screen production reached $177 billion in 2019, driving total global economic impact of $414 billion. The study’s valuation of screen production focuses on scripted film and television and documentaries, but not sport, news or commercials.

Screen production also drives employment across the screen value chain, with 14 million full-time equivalent jobs created in 2019.

A number of film and television drama project budgets were analyzed, with results demonstrating the rapid spending that production delivers. For example, analysis of a $220 million film shows that an average of $10 million per week was spent during its 16-week shoot.

This spend has wide-ranging impacts across business sectors outside of screen production--including in sectors disrupted by COVID-19 such as travel, hospitality, and catering.

The study also found that the impact of COVID-19 on production has led to a loss of $145 billion in economic impact over the first six months of 2020 and a loss of 10 million global screen sector value chain full-time equivalent jobs--though the impact is likely to be temporary as production resumes.

For a grass-roots perspective on the state of filming and prospects for the resumption of production--some of which has already taken place--SHOOT surveyed a cross-section of film commissioners, asking them the following questions:

1) Are you accepting film permit applications at this juncture? If not, is there a timetable as to when you will--or at least when you will consider accepting them again?

2) What precautions, restrictions and/or advisories have you put in place to help protect the health and welfare of crews and those residents in the locales where filming takes place?

3) How have your film commission’s procedures, modus operandi, process and responsibilities changed in light of the pandemic?

4) Are you finding--or do you expect--certain kinds of productions generally being more feasible at this time than others? Commercials and shorter duration projects, for example, as opposed to longer form feature and TV series commitments? Are you opening up sooner to the prospect of short-form projects?

5) Have local and state film commission policies coincided or are there differences between them relative to the jurisdiction you work in? If there are differences, please share with us what the key ones are.

6) What advice or guidance have you to offer to the production community at large during these challenging times?

Here’s the feedback we received:

CLICK HERE to page through the survey responses, or click on the NAME or HEADSHOT below.

Name Title Company
Nora C Brown Executive Director Rochester/Finger Lakes Film Commission, New York |
Natasha Caputo Director Westchester County Tourism & Film, New York |
Anne del Castillo Commissioner New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment |
Debbie Dorsey Director Baltimore Film Office |
Angie M. Gates Director Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME), Washington, D.C. |
Jack Gerbes Director Maryland Film Office |
Susannah Greason Robbins Executive Director San Francisco Film Commission |
Sandy Lighterman Film & Entertainment Commissioner Miami-Dade Office of Film & Entertainment |
Virginia Pearce Director Utah Film Commission |
Luana Wheatley Director US Virgin Islands Film Office |


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