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Film commissioners and producers team up for conference

The unusual alliance between the Producers Guild of America and the Assn. of Film Commissioners International for the third annual Produced by Conference is in keeping with the increasingly global nature of the movie business.

May 18, 2011|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

Each year, hundreds of film commissioners from Serbia, South Africa, Michigan and elsewhere around the world descend on Santa Monica, pitching their locales with tax breaks and other incentives designed to entice filmmakers.

This year, however, the Assn. of Film Commissioners International will for the first time join with the Producers Guild of America in holding one major event at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank in recognition of the increasingly global nature of the movie business.

Seeking to broaden the scope of its third annual Produced by Conference, the Producers Guild invited film commissioners to co-host the June 3 to 5 gathering so that its 4,500-plus members could glean information about the growing number of film tax credits available worldwide.

Filmmakers are ever more reliant on tax credits to get their movies made, especially at a time when financing is harder to secure and studios are making fewer deals with producers and cutting back on the number of movies they release.

"The difference between getting your film made or putting a script back on the shelf is often the tax incentive and rebate money," said Producers Guild member Gale Anne Hurd, who is co-chair of the conference. "Producers are constantly in need of up-to-date information on where the credits are stable, which ones are disappearing or are being reduced."

The alliance may seem unusual, given how many producers have bemoaned the flight of production from California. After all, the Producers Guild was among the groups that supported California's move in 2009 to enact film tax credits that would curb runaway production. But organizers say the partnership between producers and film commissioners is mutually beneficial and a sign of the times.

"We wish it were easier to make films in Los Angeles, and we're very concerned about the extent to which production has left L.A.," said film producer Marshall Herskovitz, another co-chair of the conference. "Nevertheless, we have to deal with the world as it is. Films are made all over the U.S. and the world right now, so there's no reason for us not to provide those opportunities to our members."

Event organizers say there will be more than 200 booths for film commissioners from countries, states and territories that boast about $2 billion in tax credits and other incentives.

For their part, many of the film commissioners are looking to expand their outreach to producers, for example, by getting involved in co-financing movies. The conference "allows us to talk directly with the people we'd be making partnerships with," said Martin Cuff, interim chief executive of the film commissioners group. "Film commissions are no longer just passive recipients of production work."

The conference will include a program called On the Ground With, billed as a series of "candid conversations" among producers and film commissioners to highlight their experiences shooting in a specific location.

In addition, the Producers Guild organized a competition, selecting 10 filmmakers from the U.S., Canada, Spain, South Korea and Australia to participate in one-on-one meetings with studio executives, financiers and film commissioners.

Herskovitz, who hatched the idea for the competition, hopes it will result in actual movies being made. "We're hoping to build this into a real film market," he said.

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