The Association of Film Commissioners International, (AFCI) brought over 155 exhibitors from around the world to the 2013 Locations Show at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, June 27-29. The conference showcased a display of incentives, production locations and business support services – from local production companies to payroll services to housing. Film commissioners, industry veterans and new filmmakers alike attended with the purpose of finding or providing the perfect location.
A sampling of exhibitors included the big boys in film production, such as the British, Australian and New Zealand film commissions and smaller countries such as Iceland, that served as a location for Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers, as well as parts of this summer’s Star Trek into Darkness. Locations such as South Africa offered not only diverse environments, but could also supply experienced crews. Costa Rican companies exhibiting included a local production company that works as a facilitator for productions in Panama, and a location in the jungle spared from clear-cutting that has incredible tree house lodgings. Of course, various American locations were present, from the film capitol Los Angeles, to New Orleans with its strong production incentives and crews, to Montana, a state that is trying to build its reputation. Its stunning vistas set the scene for the recent L.A. Film Festival indie, Winter in the Blood.
In addition to the exhibits from around the globe, the show featured seminars on the state of the industry presented by key decision makers. Topics of discussion included how incentives shape industry business models over the long haul, how the Web and shows like House of Cards have changed the way we view content, how the proliferation of new distribution channels have created opportunities for producers and locations around the world and how the latest in high-tech production tools, such as cloud computing, are not only changing the way content is delivered and managed, but also affecting remote collaboration.
One thing was apparent from the show: film incentives in the U.S. and around the globe are here to stay, but the environment is constantly changing as the various film commissions from individual states as well as foreign companies compete for production dollars. The incentives come in many forms, from cash rebates to the waiving of local taxes. At a time when studio production is dominated by mega-budget tent-pole franchises, these financial “discounts” have not only lured studio films concerned with their bottom-line to international locations, but also enabled independent producers to bring their more modest projects to the screen by giving them the most “bang from their buck.” These options have not only allowed blockbuster filmmakers to create ever realistic fantasy worlds, but also made it possible for independent film production to not only exist, but flourish.