What is a film commissioner' 'On one end of the spectrum, they can be basically not much more than civil servants allocated film as part of their portfolio but they can also be people who have worked in the industry and know how we think and what we need. The range is very wide indeed,' says UK producer Iain Smith, whose credits include Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain and Alfonso Cuaron's Children Of Men (pictured).
For a commissioner, the primary goal is to promote inward investment and make film-making possible in their territories. Commissioners need diplomatic, networking and marketing skills.
Above all, they need to be persuasive: the newly appointed British film commissioner Colin Brown, for example, recently returned from Los Angeles, where he had to address studio concerns over the recent upheavals in UK tax legislation and the closure of the Gaap funds.
While one leading UK producer posits that commissioners are 'often trying to peddle something and you have to be mindful of that', most producers will agree that a robust film commission oils the wheels of a shoot.
Getting in touch with the people that matter
One key task facing any film commissioner is ensuring producers are put in touch with 'the people that matter'. They are mostly involved in the early stages of a production when there are still logistical hurdles to overcome.
'Once you've started, their usefulness tends to diminish and they tend to take a back seat,' says Smith.
Colin Brown, however, says: 'We are also important after the studio has finished its production. We do a post-mortem to find out what went right and what went wrong so we can feed that back into the infrastructure and make their next visit as good or even better.'
The ideal film commissioner, Smith suggests, is someone who knows the film industry and has close contacts with government. 'The more experience they've had with front-line film-making, the more useful they are because they understand the whimsical nature of what we do. It is important to have someone who can understand that and move with it.'
Often, film commissioners will be the mouthpiece for a range of authorities with who the film-makers need to work.
Smith says the UK's production support is 'extremely sophisticated... not only are we making sure that contacts are good on the ground and that contacts with local authorities are as good as possible, but we also look after the tax situation and the environment within which the film is being financed and set up.'
Working with film commissions in countries with a less developed production infrastructure, that level of support is not always available.
The film commission movement started in the US and has grown outward. Now, there are more commissions in central and Eastern Europe and in Latin America. Certain territories do not have film commissions as such but have film boards that work closely with producers who want to set up shop in their territory.
So do producers court commissioners or do commissioners come after producers' 'It is a bit of both,' says Smith. 'When something comes up and I think this could be done in Texas or Louisiana or whatever, just as due diligence, I will contact the local film commission and get to know them.
'That way, you can find out pretty immediately if there are any fundamental problems that would stop you going there.'