Film Commissioner

Who is the filmmaker's best friend? If you're shooting on a location in another state or even in a different part of your own, your best friend is probably going to be the film commissioner for the area. The film commissioner is the one who is going to help you set your locations, make sure you have the necessary permits, and generally try to ensure your happiness on location.

You see, the film commissioner is almost like a sales representative for the city or state. The commissioner wants you to come in and spend your production dollars, and with the money a film can generate, that can be quite a bit. In Nevada, for instance, the fiscal year of 2001-2002 brought in an estimated $154 million. Considering that the film commission responsible spent less than half a million to get it, that's a lot of profit.

In Nevada, the film office director is Charlie Geocaris, and it's his office Steven Soderbergh went through to get permission to film Ocean's 11 on the Las Vegas city streets.

For all film commissions, though, the job starts with the script, which is broken down by the commission's staff. The staff members review all the different locations the script requires and determine which ones they can provide.

But the greatest responsibility of a film commissioner is to balance what the client (the production company) needs with what the community will tolerate. You can't have huge explosions on a residential street at three o'clock in the morning without causing some complaints. And in Las Vegas, where 70 percent of Nevada filming is done, the balance is especially important. The office of the film commission works as a liaison with the hotels and resorts of the city to accommodate film crews whenever possible.

Once balance is achieved, the next obstacle is to try to get more work for your state. In Nevada, the lights of Vegas are great for certain scenes, but a short drive out of town and you're in the middle of the desert, or a few hours north and you find yourself in snow-covered mountains. For example, the film Misery, which was set in Colorado, was shot almost entirely in Nevada.

When all the schedules are set, the film office handles day-today problems as they occur and even acts as a disinterested third party for union negotiations.

It's not a very glamorous job. You won't get wined and dined, and the only time you visit the set is to handle complications. But if you have a thorough knowledge of film and TV, and if you want to bring some of it to your community, apply at your local film commissioner's office.

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