US-based physical production executives are now thinking more globally than ever – and are not yet being put off shooting in Eastern Europe by the war in Ukraine.
Those were among the insights offered to film commissioners from around the world this week by a panel including executives from Netflix, HBO and Amazon at AFCI Week, an Association of Film Commissioners International conference event running June 27 to 30 in Los Angeles.
On a panel about production in a post-pandemic world, Jay Roewe, HBO’s senior vice president of incentives and production planning, said that when considering where to shoot a project “we now think globally, in a way that we never did before. We think about every single state, every single country.”
The decisions that follow, Roewe added, are now about more than just locations and incentives and can bring what amount to major new business ventures to a region: “We’re spending billions of dollars around the world,” he pointed out, with a big project representing “a business that’s going to come and employ hundreds of people and have a substantial economic impact in your state or country.”
HBO is filmed its Game Of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon on locations in a number of European territories.
Asked about the effect on production planning of events like the war in Ukraine (where HBO shot its Chernobyl limited series), Roewe said that in the current climate “I have to be aware politically of what’s going on around the world.” Supply problems and currency fluctuation might affect his thinking in the future, he said, but at the moment, “We are continuing productions in Eastern Europe. We’re not going to let them stop us.”
Noelle Green, director of production management for original series at Netflix, said her company “had several shows ramping up [and] heading toward Eastern Europe as the war was starting to surface, and all the shows still wanted to go.” As a company, she said, “We lean into the filmmaker’s choice.”
This year’s AFCI Week marks the event’s return after a two-year hiatus, with the format abbreviated from the usual five days to three. The conference, open to AFCI members, affiliates and sponsors, offers networking opportunities with industry decision makers, educational sessions and a ‘Meet the executives’ day.
Organisers said that more than 130 commission members are attending the event, together with “several hundred” industry professionals as speakers and invited guests.
The conference opened on Monday (June 27) with a keynote speech by Glenn Gainer, head of physical production for Amazon Originals.
Gainer praised the part that commissioners played in getting the industry back to work during the pandemic: “Throughout the world, film commissions worked with the studios and labour to ensure smooth restarts,” he said. “Thanks to the [AFCI] members in this room the global movie and television and streaming industry is back to telling stories.”