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REGIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

Job Title: Film Commission Or Film Office And Location Manager

Job Overview

There are approximately 250 film commissions around the world that represent locations and interests under their jurisdiction. Each state has a film office with additional offices in counties or regions of the state. There is a film commission for Australia and even one for Bosnia. “Everyone is vying for film production activity on behalf of their community,” explains Virginia Film Office location manager Andy Edmunds, “for the obvious economic impact it brings to the region in terms of jobs and dollars. It's the type of industry that comes into an area and doesn't require you to build more schools or roads. Kind of like tourist dollars.”

Although offices vary, most film commissions have a director or manager who oversees all the office activities and strives to promote the area they represent to filmmakers. The commission director also works with government agencies to ensure their support in allowing filmmakers to work in the area with maximum ease. The marketing and communications managers are charged with publicizing the area and advertising why it is a great place to make movies, television series, or commercials. They create brochures and press materials, and service them to filmmakers and the media. Often, the design and maintenance of a web site falls under their management. The location manager is responsible for maintaining photographs and information about various locations around the state, for assisting filmmakers in finding appropriate locations, and for obtaining the necessary permission, permits, and licenses to shoot in that location. The Film Office serves as a liaison between the production company and various government entities.

Edmunds obtains copies of scripts or storyboards for commercials, television, and feature films that are considering shooting in Virginia. He formulates ideas for potential shooting locations by going through the office files of nearly 14,000 photographs from around the state. “They are separated by categories and subcategories, so if I'm looking for barns or a plantation home, I can go to the various categories and pull those files.” The office is in the process of converting files of photographs to digital images that can be accessed and searched on the Internet. Sometimes Edmunds might go out, or send a scout, to look for specific sites and to shoot photographs for the specific project they are pitching, which will later become part of the permanent files.

“It's a lot of detective work. If you're looking for pools for a movie, you look for a big mansion that might have a pool, or you might call pool companies and ask where they service pools. Then you have to convince them to tell you who has a nice pool.”

The package of potential locations is assembled and sent off to the production company. Often they will narrow their selection of potential sites to a particular region and then scout that area in person. “We rent cars, a suburban or helicopters, whatever it takes, depending on the level of the production and what we feel would be justified to spend on this client. We show them the locations and turn on our charm. We'll wine and dine them and develop a relationship, because it's totally a relationship business.”

When a production has chosen to shoot in Virginia, the Film Office provides logistical support, including access to a database with local support services and potential crew members. “Once they start shooting, inevitably there are public relations issues that pop up: ‘Why are these trucks parking on my street and disrupting my life?’ We help solve those issues by educating people to the economic development … why this temporary inconvenience is worth the trouble.”

When not working on a specific project, Edmunds makes calls to line producers and other filmmakers to discover what they are working on, hoping to convince them to film in Virginia.

Special Skills

Location managers must possess social skills that enable them to work well with a variety of personalities, the ability to convey trust to the property owners and production crew, a talent for problem solving, and tenacity. “You don't really have to be that great of a photographer,” says Edmunds. “The job is about 35% photography, 50% detective work, and the rest is sales skills to convince someone to let you go on their property and shoot pictures of it.”

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

Visit the film office in your area and let them know you would like to work for them. Offer to serve as an intern. Look through their photo files and study the presentation, then offer to go out and shoot some location for free, to show them what you can do. “Work for free,” says Edmunds. “just to get in there and meet people. All the information about productions coming to the state funnels through the film office.”

What do you like least about your job?

“What I like the least is the politics. Because we are a government entity, there are political issues that you have to be sensitive to that may not seem logical in the big picture. Fortunately, Virginia is very supportive of the industry. Sometimes things take longer than they should in terms of making decisions.”Andy Edmunds

What do you love most about your job?

“What I love most is being involved in the creative process, getting involved in telling the story with the locations and images we can provide. I also like the sales part of it: ‘What are we going to do to position ourselves to get this project?’ I like the detective portion of finding solutions to unique location challenges.”Andy Edmunds

Professional Profile: Andrew Edmunds, Location Manager, Virginia Film Office

At the age of 13, Andy Edmunds was a professional musician, writing songs and dreaming of becoming a rock and roll star. He developed his musical talent growing up in a small Virginia town of 1,200 people. While studying music at Virginia Commonwealth University, he became interested in filmmaking. Taking classes in the mass communications department allowed him access to their camera gear, which he used to make music videos of his band.

Devising a unique idea for a music video, he convinced a bank officer to loan him $20,000 to make it. “I ended up having to basically make BMW payments for the next seven years.” Although the video did not land the band a record deal, it received critical acclaim at the Houston International Film Festival. “It was the pursuit of the dream. You get this vision in your mind and you pursue it doggedly until you get there.”

Edmunds' break into the film business came through a roommate who offered him some construction work on a television movie titled Lincoln that was coming to town. While Edmunds was building wardrobe racks in a warehouse, location manager Charlie Baxter spotted him working hard and asked if he would like to be the assistant to special effects person Russell Hessey. “I said, ‘Well, what does that mean?’ He said, ‘$750 a week.’ I said, ‘Okay, I'm you're man.’”

When the production wrapped, Baxter asked Edmunds to scout locations and shoot some photographs for him. “I said, ‘What does that mean, location scout?’ He said, ‘$750 a week.’ And I said, ‘I'll do that.’ He sent me looking for a gas station that looked like 1950s and gave me a list of what he was looking for.”

CAREER TIPS

* “The people who do a job and give up when it's done or do something halfway are the ones that won't succeed. People who are relentless and always come up with a creative solution for a problem are successful. “Andy Edmunds

* “Location managers are the most unrespected and unrecognized part of a production. You never hear about them, but they are such a key component to a production. If it had not been for the location scout going out and finding these cool locations and options for the production designer and the director, a lot of movies you see wouldn't have looked that cool.”Andy Edmunds

For the next few years, Edmunds continued to pick up work scouting locations, often serving as assistant to the location managers of the productions coming to the area, including First Kid, The Monroes, My Name Is Bill W., Sinbad, True Colors, and other projects.

Due to become a father, Edmunds decided to give up his entrepreneurial self-employed lifestyle for a permanent position. Having gotten to know the staff of the Virginia Film Office, he called director Rita McClenny and offered to come in and do anything, including working for free. “She threw me a few dollars and I started working freelance as a scout for the film office.” When the office created a communications position, Mary Nelson moved from locations manager into the new slot, leaving a vacancy in her former job. About 110 individuals applied for the position, with Edmunds landing the job. Since being hired in 1997, he has worked on numerous productions, including The Contender, Forces of Nature, Hannibal, Hearts in Atlantis, Major Pain, Minority Report, Random Hearts, The Replacements, Rules of Engagement, and The West Wing.

Additional topics

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