Film commission helps keep Missouri in the spotlight

jacobFor three decades, the Missouri Film Commission has been working to attract film investment to the Show-Me State.

With increasing media diversification, growth in independent film, and the continued success of reality television, more production is happening in Missouri. Last year, the Missouri Film Commission provided assistance to 123 projects.

Missouri Business asked Amy Susan, the director of marketing and communications with the Missouri Department of Economic Development, to explain the state’s film efforts.

Missouri Business: What attributes make Missouri an attractive place for film?

Amy Susan, director of marketing and communications with the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Amy Susan, director of marketing and communications with the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Amy Susan: Missouri’s diversity makes it an ideal location for a variety of projects. Missouri offers bustling city scenes and quaint country towns, beautiful waterways and forests, wide-open prairies, and the rolling hills of the Ozarks. These settings provide great visuals for any kind of filming. We are also centrally located and easily accessible by plane from either Los Angeles or New York. Additionally, cost of living can be a factor, and a dollar goes further here than in other places. We also pride ourselves as being very film-friendly. Communities are very welcoming to the production industry across our state.

MB: How is the state reaching out to national film and commercial producers?

AS: The major marketing trip this year was attending the Locations Trade Show presented by the Association of Film Commissioners International in Los Angeles. Several communities supported this effort either financially or by attending and helping staff the show. The Columbia, Jefferson City, Cape Girardeau, Kansas City, and St. Louis tourism offices participated.

More than 3,000 studio executives, producers, directors, cinematographers, and location scouts from all segments of the entertainment industry attended the three-day trade show.

While there, the Film Office hosted a Missouri Meet-Up reception for film and TV professionals with strong Missouri connections, specifically those who grew up in the state, went to college here, or generally lived for a period of time and consider themselves Missourians. We had 100 attendees at this year’s event. We hope this event encourages new projects to come to Missouri.

Also, a major tool in attracting production is our REEL-SCOUT state-wide database of location photos of diverse filming locations across the state. We work with communities, businesses, and individuals to add locations to this database year-round. The database is available on our website, MoFilm.org.

MB: When Missouri attracts a production to our state, how do local businesses benefit?

AS: Film and digital productions spend money in the community where they film. From lumber to dry cleaning, hotels, and grocery stores, many businesses benefit economically.

As an example, more than 70 businesses were noted on the list of frequent vendors from the film Up in the Air, starring George Clooney, not counting many others not listed with fewer transactions. In addition to production-related equipment rentals, the list included florists, art supply companies, caterers, computer companies, furniture companies, hardware stores, couriers, office supplies, security, and more.

We also have a strong crew base—skilled laborers who make above average wages when hired by production companies.

MB: Is there growing interest in filming in Missouri?

AS: There is a lot of production happening, more so than in the past due to a greater need for content on diversified channels. The kinds of projects are changing, too. There is a real need for reality programs, whether they are travel and food shows or history shows with re-enactments. Also, there is an increase in independent film production—non-studio funded projects that are looking for unique locations, which are described almost like characters themselves by producers.

In addition, the University of Missouri School of Journalism recently established a new documentary journalism program. This program will draw talented young filmmakers to Missouri from around the world. That certainly bodes well for our future and is a testament to the type of filming environment we provide here in Missouri.

MB: Are there immeasurable benefits the state receives when films are made here, such as being in the focus of the national spotlight?

AS: While numbers are difficult to come by, we know people are willing to travel to locations where TV shows and films are made, and destinations can benefit from those travelers. In Georgia, for example, towns like Senoia and Grantville have seen more visitors who want to see locations where the AMC show The Walking Dead is filmed. You see the same kind of thing happening in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Breaking Bad, also an AMC show, was filmed. Projects that capture the public’s attention have a way of bringing in visitors, and those visitors need places to stay, places to eat, places to fill up their cars; all of those things benefit communities. There was a lot of interest around the movie Gone Girl when it filmed last fall in Cape Girardeau, and we anticipate that when the movie comes out, people from outside the local area will be interested in traveling to see the various locations featured in the movie.

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