How To Bring Film Companies To Your Town

One of Billy Murray’s best characters has to be the manipulative obsessive-compulsive Bob “Bobby” Wiley in “What About Bob?”

“I’m sailing.  I’m SAILING!”

If you remember the flick, much of it occurred at New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee…not! It was actually shot at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia and that begs the question, “Why?” Why go to Smith Mountain Lake instead of the actual location? Let’s look at some reasons.

Many states and even some of our bigger cities have commissions and departments set up to bring film productions into their areas. Some of these woo producers with various tax breaks in hopeful return of income from the company and more tourism when the name of the area gets out.  However there are some pretty vigorous debates going on as to whether or not those tax breaks pay off in the long run for anyone other than the Hollywood producers.

Setting that issue aside, let’s look at some things successful areas do to bring film shoots into their backyards.   Even individuals and small groups have successfully campaigned to bring producers to their neck of the woods.

Location, location, location

Just like real estate, location is of prime importance to movie producers and directors. For example, getting back to Smith Mountain Lake playing the role of Lake Winnipesaukee, the Virginia Film Office has an excellent database of locations. Scouting locations is a specialized art and by having a good searchable database complete with photos and descriptions, location scouts can cut their travel expenses and reduce the amount of time they have to spend out in the field.

Of course, towns and areas that can offer more varied types of locations will appeal to a broader range of movies. Pittsburg, Pennsylvania has a broad enough visual palette to have stood in as Detroit in “The Temptations,” San Francisco in “Desperate Measures,” rural (yes, rural) Mississippi in “The Piano Lesson” and even the Ukraine in “The Oksana Baiul Story.”

Have a Portfolio Ready

One way you can be ready at a moment’s notice is to have a portfolio of some really picturesque locations.   Take good quality photos from angles that would be useful in scenes.  Use varying times of day for examples of the natural daylight.

Most companies actually travel extensively, filming just a few scenes in any location.  They are looking for the exact representation of the story they are creating in their minds.   It just might be a park setting, or river, or downtown – even a home.   Find things in your town that draw the eye and make you say, ‘That would look great in a movie.”

Then document it well photographically.  These images can be sent off to many companies, like this one.

Talent and Expertise

If movie companies can hire local talent and contractors, it saves them a lot of money versus having to bring in companies and individuals from Hollywood. For example, film shoots require a lot of transportation. Does your town have the limousine and trucking companies that can handle the jobs?

Just like armies fight on their stomachs, actors and crews make movies on their stomachs. An area needs some excellent catering services to meet the demands of film companies when they hit town. Serve some bad food and the word will get around.

Films need lots of extras. Perhaps there’s a local modeling agency that can develop the expertise to supply directors with extras on short notice. Of course, quality lodging is very important as well.

Flexibility and User Friendliness

Think about the permitting process that residents have to go through to build an addition to their homes. Do they complain about all the red tape and hoops they have to jump through? Unless you’re controlling access to a place like Rockefeller Plaza, that can’t be easily substituted for, film companies don’t have the time to deal with lengthy permitting processes.

Expedite applications and permits with film companies. Also, understand that a myriad of conditions can cause the filming time line to get pushed back. Be flexible.

Get Yourself Seen

Check out the websites of the various state a local film commissions. Note the ones that are very well done as well as the ones that seem inferior. Make yours rank among the best.

Contact professors and administrators in local film schools and encourage them to shoot in your area. Today’s talented and eager film students will someday soon be working in the profession. If you make it easy for them to operate in your community, they’ll remember it and return someday. These student projects will also serve as “shakedown cruises” for when major film companies arrive.

Also, the more personal connections your film liaison makes, the better. Much of the film industry is built on personal relationships and networking. Attend conferences and industry events to press the flesh.

Additional Sources:

Paul Moore works for  a local Smith Mountain Lake real estate company.  For fine, lake-side living in both luxurious residences as well as modest ones, please stop by and see the gallery.