Written by Claire Banks
It is common knowledge that the Film and TV industry is growing healthily. An art form that can provide escapism whilst flirting with the reality of people and society, our love for film has never waivered since the birth of cinema a century ago.
The recent Covid-19 Pandemic has added rocket fuel to the demand for Film & TV. Millions of people resorted to online streaming services as a result of the ‘stay at home’ rule. Netflix now has 182 million paying subscribers, that’s including 12.4 million households in the UK. This leaves no doubt that entertainment has become an essential driver of economic growth, and The United Kingdom is one of the leading box office markets worldwide.
So what does the UK do to nurture and facilitate this industry? There are a few key operations and at the centre of most of them, is the humble film office (or commission).
Film office/commission definition
Film commissions are quasi-governmental, non-profit, public organizations that attract motion media production crews (including movies, television, and commercials) to shoot on location in their respective localities, and offer support so that productions can accomplish their work smoothly.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
There are over 1000 film offices in operation globally, with the majority in the United States, Europe & Asia. They are generally set up by local government bodies and serve the productions that come to their locality. In the UK they have often evolved from within their local authority’s economic development department.
There are 3 ‘layers’ of benefits in attracting productions to an area:
- Direct economic benefits through rental of locations, film permits and employment in the Film & TV industry.
- Indirect economic benefits like increased exposure and inward investment on local goods and services.
- Thirdly, a longer-term goal: By utilising the unique characteristics of locations that first brought in productions, local governments can then support growth of the visitor economy.
The data backs this up well. Stephen from Stephen Follows sent out nearly 800 Freedom of Information requests to local authorities in 2016 to build up a picture of the costs of location filming in the UK. He found that since 2008, the average amount local authorities have earned from location filming has increased each and every year. Camden Council alone earned almost £2 million in 3 years.
Now we know what a Film Office is and why it’s an economic benefit to an area, how exactly does it do this?
Film offices supply production coordination liaison and can have a role to play with every step of the film production process. They provide local contacts and resources, and in some circumstances assist with funding opportunities. They also work to facilitate permit applications, policing and traffic management. An essential support network to anyone coming into the area to film. A great film office should always be learning best practises, and be ready for changes in processes, technology and regulations as the industry evolves.
“Film LBBD has some of the best locations in London. It’s a great stomping ground for us scouts and Lisa and Kayne offer an incredible support network keen on promoting filming in their borough. They will help you achieve the impossible.”
Algy Stone (Location Manager) on Film LBBD
Film locations play a vital role in the making of any film. They influence the look and atmosphere of the entire work. On a practical level the location must be easy to get to, film crew and equipment needs to be moved back and forth from the location easily and efficiently. Parking is crucial for larger shoots to accommodate equipment, automobiles and trailers. An experienced film office can either help to secure the locations a production has in mind or suggest ones. They will generally have a database of locations with different aesthetics and for different purposes. An officer will regularly scope out new film locations to add to their portfolio, often encouraging locations registration on their websites.
Local Crew & Facilities Base
Hiring local crew can make a lot of economic sense for productions, this presents a huge opportunity for film offices to plug their local talent. Locals have superior knowledge of the area, can get last minute items, secure rental equipment and tap into their network to bring on additional crew. They may also be familiar with specific film locations and will be able to foresee parking problems or safety issues. Again, a well organised film office will have a rich database to hand with a variety of local crew & facilities. To grow their database they should always be reaching out to freelancers to register themselves, increasing their chances of getting hired. To go one step further, if a local authority helps to facilitate training within the screen sector, they are nurturing the area even more! Win win.
Another mark of a successful film office is a studio. If your area has creative brief-worthy locations, home grown talent and modern facilities you’re guaranteed to be in demand. The UK can take inspiration from other places around the world, like Troy Studios: It’s Ireland’s largest studio facility and it’s set to make Limerick a big hub for the screen industries, becoming a significant employer in the region.
The screen industry is here to stay, and will continue to make a huge impact on our lives for the foreseeable future. Local Governments in the UK have started to realise the benefits of investing in film-friendly infrastructure, but there is still plenty to do to ensure the UK is taking a good slice of worldwide box office revenue (£29.7 billion in 2019).
There are simple steps a local authority can take to set up an efficient film office, in fact there is software available that is already utilised by the biggest film offices in the UK. MovieSite (Made by us at Openbrolly) enables location & crew promotion, economic impact monitoring and tracking, and the issuing and approving of permits through easy admin.
It’s designed alongside screen agencies and film offices to ensure the very best support is offered to the industry, at an industry standard.