Posted on 16 May 2016
The Association of Film Commissioners International’s (AFCI) 2016 Locations Show, designed to help producers find new regions to shoot, took place in April in Los Angeles. On the margins of the event, KRIFCom film commissioner Stanislav Solovkin talked to AFCI executive director Kevin Clark about importance of film and TV in promoting countries.
— How it all began? Who was the first who got this idea that government can support producers in terms of financial incentives?
Back in the 1940’s, when Hollywood would go to Utah to shoot western films, there was a gentleman there, who got the idea. Both Colorado and Utah claim to have had the first film commission. I remember watching those western films with my dad.
— Watching those movies, would you be interested where they were actually produced?
Oh, completely, That’s what really put the Monument Valley on the map. Today, it’s everywhere. Game of Thrones and what it’s done for Northern Ireland, and Walking Dead, what it’s done for Georgia, and, of course, Hobbit for New Zealand… Even today, when Close Encounters of the Third Kind is shown on TV, and that was back in the 1970’s when it first came out, the Wyoming Office of Tourism sees a spike in its website traffic.
— Kyrgyzstan is not the richest country in the world. Regarding a film commission, the government normally says «We understand the importance of it, but it’s not our first priority to spend money on.» What would you tell them?
Attracting the film industry is one of the few [cases when] you can have an immediate impact and financial return.
It doesn’t require a substantial amount of capital and infrastructure development as compared to manufacturing for an example. The film industry knows there are affordable alternatives.
Great examples are the new film incentive offerings out of Serbia and the country of Georgia. A decade after launching their film office, Serbia has garnered success and Georgia recently introduced a 25% rebate that has allowed them to get the attention of all big six studios. These examples are evidence that you can make an impact in a relatively short amount of time.
— I can tell you that 90 percent of visitors of the show didn’t even know that such country like Kyrgyzstan existed.
It’s an opportunity to introduce country to the world.
— Do you think that spending billions on direct advertising of the country, like Turkey and Malaysia do, is more effective than indirect advertising through film and TV?
If it’s the right project, it can be. The hard part,though, is that you don’t know if the film is going to be successful and tell the investments have already been made. There were a lot of tourism efforts made by New Mexico and Utah for Walt Disney’s The Lone Ranger film that came out a few years ago. Then, it did not do well in the box office. There are no guarantees. But when it works well, it works really, really well.
— Do you think that there is an indirect influence for local production of foreign crews coming to country?
Usually we see it when it comes to training. Depending on what crew is available locally, some positions may need to be brought in from the outside. But then, usually, after just a few films, or some really good commercials, the crew base begins to train up and their skill improve.
Any area that offers any kind of financial incentive to come there should emphasize hiring local people.
— Do you have examples of real, big contracts happening at this show in previous years?
Last year, the Netherlands came with a Netflix production. New Mexico had three 30-million-dollar pictures. So it does happen. This industry is really relationship-based. So, a lot of the value of the show is being able to reconnect with the people you haven’t seen for a long time.