The Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) is a non-profit educational organization founded in 1975 to serve the growing needs of film and television production. The AFCI was initially formed by a small group of film commissioners who wanted to share information and learn from one another's experiences. Since then, the AFCI has expanded into a worldwide network of more than 300 commissions representing six continents. All are devoted to the business of facilitating film and television production activity which generates billions of dollars annually.
The first major educational event hosted by the AFCI began in 1976 as Cineposium. Held annually, this program features professional development seminars designed to teach film commissioners about the management and processes unique to the film commission business.
In 1985, the AFCI partnered with the American Film Marketing Association to host Location Expo, the first on-location trade show for film and television production. This annual event, now Locations Show, continues to respond to the growing marketing needs of film commissions, and provides an unmatched forum for film commissioners to promote filming within their respective city, state, provinces, or countries—all in one venue in Los Angeles, Calif.
The Evolution of Film Commission Services
During the late 1940s, the first film commission was formed in the United States in response to the need for film companies to have a local government liaison who could coordinate police, state trooper, and highway patrols; road and highway departments; fire departments; park rangers and other essential municipal and government services for shooting a production on location.
According to AFCI archives, George White established the Moab Film Commission as an offshoot of the Moab Chamber of Commerce in 1949.
"In existence for 60 years, the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission holds the title of the longest running film commission in North America."
"Utah Native George White saw the need for a film commission when John Ford had expressed such interest in the Moab and Monument Valley areas. Originating with Stagecoach in 1939, and filming Wagon Master ten years later, Mr. White officially established the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission in 1949."
Vanity Fair also ran an article that talked about Harry Goulding being responsible for bringing Hollywood attention to Moab/Monument Valley. As a result of the rich filming history, the Moab area has an established crew base and ample production services capable of accommodating just about any project, large or small.
The Colorado Film Commission was the first "government-sanctioned" film commission in 1969. Karol Smith was the first official film commissioner. Colorado is recognized as the first AFCI film commission and, obviously, a charter member.
As more production companies began to look beyond the limits of a regular production center for realistic and varied locations, more cities and states began to see the need for production coordination liaison. They were also keenly aware of the economic benefits brought by film and video production companies to their areas.
Time to Organize
The AFCI incorporated in Washington, D.C. in 1983. The first Location Expo attracted 60 film commissioners and 1,200 people from the film industry to a Los Angeles exhibition site. During the next four years, the Expo's space demands increased so that by 1990, the show had to be held at a site different from the AFM conference. Attendance tripled. Then in 1991, Expo relocated with the AFM to Santa Monica. The annual trade show, now an AFCI-sponsored event known as Locations Show, averages more than 200 film commissions and commercial affiliates exhibiting their services to more than 3,000 industry delegates.
On-Hand & On-Location: Services of Film Commissions
The services provided by film commissions have expanded in response to the growth of on-location filming. For producers of film, episodic television and commercials, film commissions today provide a gamut of free services, from scouting locations within their area to trouble-shooting with local officials and helping cut through paperwork and bureaucratic red tape. Some provide hard economic incentives, such as tax rebates and hotel discounts for location scouts. Others offer a variety of essential free services including research for screenwriters or liaison work with local government agencies.
As the services of film commissions have grown, so have their marketing efforts. From advertising to direct mail to Locations Show, film commissions are reaching industry decision makers where they live.
Commission Structure and Responsibilities
Established by cities, counties, states, provinces or federal governments, film commissions are generally operated and funded by various agencies of government, such as the governor's office, the mayor's office, the county board of supervisors, chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus, travel commissions, and business and economic development departments as well as non-profits.
Their primary responsibility is to attract film and video production to their area to accrue the locally-realized benefits of hiring local crews and talent, renting local equipment, using hotel rooms, rental cars, catering services, or any number of goods and services supplied on location.
While attracting business to their area, they also attract visitors. Film scenes at a particular location are in themselves "soft-sell" vehicles that also promote that location as a desirable site for future tourism and industry.
Although the AFCI's membership is uniquely diverse, all the commissions have one goal in common: to attract filmmakers and videographers to their respective regions by providing services that a producer would be hard-pressed to acquire without their assistance. The benefits of working with Film Commission are ever-expanding as they meet the ever-changing global production demands.