|Posted by affttennessee on July 28, 2011 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
This week, Nathan Lux of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission has resigned his position with the state.
You might not know Nathan personally. He maintained a fairly low profile at the Commission but was responsible for nearly all of the technical innovations adopted by the Commission over the last eight years. Since incentives were implemented in 2007, he has also been the one overseeing the incentive process and keeping tabs on every dime promised and paid.
It’s impossible for most of you to realize what a loss Nathan will be to the small group of dedicated people who have recruited projects, held producer hands, worked through the bureaucracy of state government, adapted to the ways of several Executive Directors and worked overtime to respond to the entertainment community’s calls for help.
Nathan was the first person at my door when I arrived at the 9th floor of the Tennessee Tower in Nashville to act as the Deputy Director of the Commission. A newlywed, not long out of college, longish hair, a drummer for a rock band and keenly savvy about the new wave of technology, Nate sped around my office helping me through the state maze of procuring a phone (and figuring out how to use it), setting up a computer with a state email account and showing me all the mundane details of working within a governmental framework.
I have watched Nathan mature over the last eight years into someone the state should have made a grand effort to keep. He wanted to stay. Now a young man with a wife and a son, it was simply impossible for Nathan to refuse an offer that would immediately and significantly increase his income along with assurances of career and financial advances in the future.
The administration should have pulled out the stops to retain such a bright and enthusiastic employee. The state commissioners should not be the only ones receiving better incomes to alleviate the issue of their being recruited away by the private sector. Here is a state employee with nearly 10 years of experience in a highly specialized field and a depth of knowledge of state government workings to boot. Is it any wonder that state employees are perceived by the public as bottom feeders? I know that to be a sad misconception, but you have to ask yourself why they let the best and brightest get away, don’t you? And for all of us fighting to create better days for the industry, the disquieting notion hangs like a sinister cloud over our heads: is this a process of gradually dismantling the state film office? Now there are only two people remaining.
The administration (like it or not) has been very slow in determining the future for the film commission and the use of incentives to recruit projects to the state. They want to be sure that they do the right thing and that is understandable. However, allowing the small but highly knowledgeable staff of the film commission to dwindle only makes implementing a new or different plan that much more difficult. Without confidence that there IS a plan, the staff must, certainly, consider their options. Nathan has done that. His options are better elsewhere.
I hope that all of you will take a minute to call or email Nathan to thank him for his service to you and wish him well as he steps away from this job.
(615) 741-3456 or Nathan.Lux@tn.gov.
Please endure my personal note here: During my time at the commission, I became incredibly fond of our staff. We were like a small family that endured against all odds….creating a lasting bond. Since leaving the commission, I have been fortunate enough to continue my friendships there. Now, with Nathan’s departure, I feel very much like I did when my youngest child finally left for college. I knew she wasn’t gone, never-to-be-seen again. But the little bird had taken her fledgling flight and the dynamics of the “nest” would never be the same thereafter. Knowing this, I cried all the way home after leaving her securely nestled in her new dormitory home. I feel compelled to do the same now.
|Posted by affttennessee on April 24, 2011 at 12:34 PM||comments (0)|
Please enjoy this article from today’s Tennessean and notice the reference to the “entertainment industry.” The entertainment industry has never (in my recollection) been embraced by a Commissioner of ECD.
This is yet another example of what AFFT has been able to accomplish in a few short years. Let me remind you of some of the things AFFT members have accomplished since 2008:
In addition, these goals have been accomplished:
We’re not finished yet. Incentives must still be addressed and we are working as quickly as we can to bring the right parties together to make that happen.
Last week I met with our bill sponsors to discuss our next steps and asked Senator Norris what message we should give to our industry folks across the state. His reply: “Have faith.”
|Posted by affttennessee on January 30, 2011 at 12:54 PM||comments (1)|
The following article from last week's The Daily News in Memphis makes it pretty darned clear where our new administration stands on spending. There IS nothing to spend.
And again, as in other recent news stories about the Governor's economic plans for the state, he is asked about film and television incentives...an issue critical to Memphis and part of their legislative agenda for the upcoming legislative session.
And while many of us may see the Governor's responses as a negative attitude towards the film and television industry, we must carefully consider the climate in which we are working.
Nonetheless, we must work to convince this administration that Tennessee's entertainment industry must be helped. We must carefully make a case to the Legislature that we are interested in the long-term health of our industry, not a knee-jerk response to the crippling competition of film & television incentives.
It's time to smell the coffee, folks.
Articles by the dozens have appeared from all over the country recently that chronicle the decisions being made by states to re-think their incentive programs. Rebate programs will become extinct. Tax credits will be reduced to levels that are reasonable for states and will no longer reflect the gold-rush mentality of seeing which state can out-incentivize the other in hopes of becoming the next Hollywood.
And while other states are wringing their hands over soundstage bankruptcies and the loss of production projects to the momentary "king of incentives," we should craft a message that is reasonable, thoughtful and conservative...a message with an eye on the future.
We must all STOP believing that the economy for this country has recovered from that icky little illness now and that we can go about the business of reckless spending which feeds our addiction to immediate gratification. By the same token, we must find a way to nurture the one industry for which Tennessee is recognized worldwide. We must create a path of continued employment for the hardworking and creative people of the state.
We must restrain ourselves from the temptation of crying that we should compete head-to-head with Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico or Michigan....because the days of dominance for those states are fast fizzling. On the other hand, we must plan to sustain and grow our industry (and the livelihoods that depend upon it) until the exhausting incentive battle among states is overcome by economic crisis.
AFFT has requested a meeting with Governor Haslam and that request has been received and acknowledged. We have marshaled our forces across the state in readiness to meet with Legislators to make our case for a reasonable incentive package that will stop the exodus of our talent and rebuild our industry over the next five years. The research we have gathered about our industry, the economy, incentives.... the new knowledge we have about the legislature and the administration will culminate in a message that can be HEARD...not dismissed... by our lawmakers.
The late Jimmy Dean once said, “I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
Now we MUST adjust to a new economy, a new administration, a new legislature. We MUST work within these new parameters to reach our destination. We must resist our desires to be angry, combative and whiney. More than ever, we need all the friends we can make. We must hone our abilities to deliver a message that is easily understood and compelling.
How well we ALL do this for ourselves and our state will determine whether the life of Tennessee's entertainment industry becomes a remake of "The Last Man Standing" ......or "Dead Men Walking."
|Posted by affttennessee on October 8, 2010 at 3:38 PM||comments (0)|
Last evening, candidates Haslam and McWherter held their second televised debate in Knoxville. One of AFFT's members, Jeff Delaney, sent in a question to the local television station covering the event asking the candidates how they would deal with the use of incentives to attract film and television projects to the state. His question was chosen as part of the debate, and for the FIRST time both candidates had to speak their mind about our industry.
I have watched this short clip quite a few times since I received it and am left with a mixed review. Both candidates have made an attempt to understand our industry...got to give them credit for that...but their answers still reveal an overall lack of knowledge that causes us problems year after year. You be the judge about who you'd like at the helm of the state.
We can take heart in knowing that both candidates (and the press) have HEARD from AFFT as a group and AFFT as individual members. I can't recall a time when our industry has EVER been discussed in gubernatorial debates.
We must continue to get the message to our candidates and our legislators until they all have a solid grasp on the issues that face Tennessee's entertainment industry and how best to resolve them.
So now I ask you to watch two videos.
First, the one from last night's debate. Then a PowerPoint video on the AFFT website that was just recently completed and will be sent via CD or DVD to all legslators in January. Feel free to post both of these videos wherever you think someone might need to see them.
The Future of Film & Television Video:
|Posted by affttennessee on September 2, 2010 at 5:24 PM||comments (0)|
This letter from Mike Montgomery to Nashville SAG members hits the spot and we wanted to share it with you....please feel free to share it with others who haven't joined us yet!
FromThe Nashville Branch President
I hope you managed to cope with the heat and have a safe and productive summer.Now September is upon us and ushering in cooler temps, football season and hopefully the beginning of a new round of production work for our region. As far as I know "Army Wives" is returning to South Carolina. "Drop Dead Diva", "Vampire Diaries", AMC's "Walking Dead" along with a new Screen Gems studio are on pace for Atlanta. And an FX pilot called "Outlaw Country" is currently in production in Nashville. Let's all hope "Outlaw Country" will be successful, find a place on the FX schedule, put down roots and finally give us the series we crave.
But it seems we go down this road every year. There are rumors of a home grown production or a pilot comes here to shoot and we hear from producers how great our crew and talent base are, only to see the actual series end up in a neighboring state. And we all know why. Tennessee's production incentives simply can't compete. I consider us lucky that we are surrounded by states that can, Georgia, NC, Virginia (new) and Kentucky, home to many of our Branch members. Our current Administration is lukewarm at best in its commitment to bring work to Tennessee. Our current commissioner, Perry Gibson, and her staff work hard but its tough to bring down the big game when your gun has no bullets and your boss doesn't really believe film and television is a valid economic development issue. But now we Tennesseans have a chance to help ourselves. We are electing a new Governor in November and that affords us the opportunity to play the incentives game with a new Administration. And this time we have help. The Association for the Future of Film &Television/Tennessee is the first statewide trade association for those who work in film or television. Their goal is to advocate for laws at the state and local level that will benefit our industry. In my memory, no one has ever organized industry professionals to this degree. AFFT has formed a political action committee (PAC) whose sole purpose is to identify lawmakers and candidates who understand the benefit of the film and television industry as an engine for economic development in Tennessee and help them through donations and with information they can use to help our cause. Look them up at www.affttennessee.org or on Facebook. Please do what you can to help in anyway.
Here's hoping we'll all be sleeping with the windows open soon.
|Posted by affttennessee on August 9, 2010 at 2:54 PM||comments (2)|
The following was written by Dan Conaway for the Daily News in Memphis. With his permission, we are posting it on our blog to share with industry folks across the State!
People who make movies – people like Francis Ford Coppola and Milos Forman and Sydney Pollack, and our own Craig Brewer and Willy Bearden – and people like me who write and produce TV spots and videos all have something in common. We know just how damn good Memphis looks through a lens, we know how deep the local talent pool is for actors and crew, we know how wide the choice is for great locations.
Many of us know that, but the state of Tennessee and many of our own legislators and leaders haven't seen the movie. They don't seem to know what the bright lights of movies can mean for our image, our coffers, and our bragging rights.
They don't know cinema from shinola.
To paraphrase from Mr. Coppola's body of work, it's time we made moviemakers an offer they can't refuse.
Memphasis by Dan Conaway
As published in The Daily News, August 6, 2010,
and in The Memphis News, August 7-8, 2010
WE BELONG IN THE MOVIES
Gene Hackman has a big head.
I’m not talking ego, the man really does have a head the size of a medicine ball. I know because I stood next to him one morning in Court Square chatting about the Hebe Fountain. Okay, he wasn’t actually talking to me, he was talking to the little guy on the other side of him – Tom Cruise. Maybe 5-7, depending on his shoes. They were here shooting The Firm.
They brought some friends you may know – Hal Holbrook, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Holly Hunter, Wilfred Brimley, and Sydney Pollack, to name a few – and they brought a ton of money, recognition and local pride our way. Millions and millions saw Tom run down Tuckahoe in all those blowing leaves, and they saw Memphis looking good for the whole movie.
That was just the first movie that the best-selling breeze of Southaven native, John Grisham, would blow into town. Susan Sarandon and The Client would soon follow (and I would follow her anywhere) and start shooting in Evergreen, The Med, and The Arcade. Tommy Lee Jones would come along, as would Mary-Louise Parker and Ossie Davis. Then The Rainmaker would pour Matt Damon into a house on York, into an office in The Pinch with Danny DeVito, and into an all-start cast directed by Francis Ford Coppola including Jon Voight, Mickey Rourke, Danny Glover, Virginia Madsen, and Roy Scheider.
Moviemaking in Memphis was suddenly as hot as, well, Memphis.
The People vs. Larry Flynt and Woody Harrelson held court on Front with Edward Norton and bad girl Courtney Love.
Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt washed ashore right here with Cast Away, with a non-speaking part for a volleyball named Wilson and a speaking part for FedEx founder Fred Smith.
Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro brought dark despair to Chickasaw Gardens in 21 Grams.
Memphian Craig Brewer wrote, directed and shot both Hustle & Flow with Terrence Howard and Black Snake Moan with Samuel L. Jackson here. Three 6 Mafia won an Academy Award working on Hustle & Flow, following in the large chops of Isaac Hayes who, ironically, acted in the movie.
Lately, we can’t catch a cold.
The Loss Of A Teardrop Diamond, from Tennessee Williams’ unpublished play about Memphis, and Memphis Beat, a new TNT series, were both shot in Louisiana. It doesn’t matter that the former should have stayed unpublished and the latter is in serious need of rewrites, we should have gotten that business. In one they faked The Peabody, and in the other they faked Beale Street and the barbecue contest.
Them’s fighting words.
No one fights harder than Linn Sitler, starring as Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner since 1987, but our state and local inability to see the wide shot for the close-up has given her little to work with. Louisiana and others get it and they’re getting the big cameras. All we’re getting is money-whipped.
I’m a Memphian, and I’m loaded with locations.
If you'd like to see past columns, read one out loud at a party,
send one to your mother ... or look for one you actually like ... go to:
|Posted by affttennessee on June 11, 2010 at 10:58 AM||comments (0)|
Shortly after membership renewal notices went out at the beginning of month, I received this email. The person sending it shall remain nameless, but the sentiment is worth sharing.
"I regret to tell you that I will not be renewing my membership in the
AFFT. Tennessee has lost another one to Georgia. I am moving to
Atlanta at the end of the month. I have to go where the work is. I
admire your attempts and dedication to this PAC and wish you
great success with it. We have such a greater challenge with no
state income tax (I am actually someone who would likely favor it!)
in passing a competitive incentive, not to mention the whole film
friendly governor, consistency in the film commissioner obstacles.
With the infrastructure that is being built in Atlanta and everything, I
am sure this is a smart move. Had I gone just a year ago I would
have been working like gangbusters. I will also be that much closer
to Florida when theirs takes off."
This is not the first time I have been told by valuableTennessee crew members that they were considering moving to another state so they could find work. The competitive incentive strategy among states has unwittingly created unemployment lines in states who have a crew base but non-competitive film and television incentives.
Nearly every state incentivizes the hiring of in-state cast and crew only - effectively ending opportunities for crew to travel outside their own state to work. Some producers will still hire our key crew members for out-of-state projects leaving everyone else with little work WITHIN the state and no work OUTSIDE of the state. Unless they move.
It is this information – that Tennessee crew is being forced to leave the state permanently in order to work or face long-term unemployment within the state –that needs to be the message we share with lawmakers repeatedly until they hear us.
|Posted by affttennessee on May 28, 2010 at 11:06 AM||comments (1)|
Last week, we met with candidate for Governor, Mike McWherter, to explain the difficulties the film, television and music industries are facing in Tennessee. With that conversation, we wrapped our initial meetings with all the candidates who now want to become your Governor in November.
McWherter is the only Democrat in the race and will run unopposed in the August primaries. The Republican candidates are Bill Haslam, Ron Ramsey and Zach Wamp and one of them will win their primary in August.
I’ve been asked repeatedly as we went through this exercise in the political process which candidate I like the best. I can tell you this.They are all very different people. I found something to like about most of them. I found most of them very willing to take the time to listen to us express our concerns. I discovered that most of them had little understanding of the entertainment industry which was not surprising. Their careers have not brought them in close contact with our industry.
Of course, I think I have a favorite at this point, but my opinion is not relevant. It’s YOURS that matters!
AFFT leadership has made the first steps toward introducing the candidates to our industry. We will also contribute to the campaigns from our PAC as we move forward, but now it’s time for the rest of you to work for your industry as well.
Follow the candidates, choose the one you are most comfortable with and WORK for him. Volunteer to stuff envelopes, put out yard signs, knock on doors, be part of the telephone bank, host or attend events for your candidate. Introduce yourself to the candidate. Tell him what you do for a living. YOU need to be the face of our industry at your candidate’s headquarters. Bring other
film/television/music people with you to volunteer. With production at a low ebb across the state, you can use the extra time by making this investment in YOUR future! Even those who are not elected need to see that film/television &music people really do exist in this state! It will help us in the future.
If you have never volunteered in a political campaign, now is the time to sign up. It’s a wonderful experience. You have everything to gain from your involvement and a lot to lose if you choose to sit on the sidelines.
|Posted by affttennessee on May 25, 2010 at 6:48 PM||comments (1)|
If I had a dollar for every time I have asked myself “Why am I DOING this?” over the last 3 years, I’d be financially secure today.
Creating a statewide advocacy organization for film, television & music folks takes some doing.
Convincing people that we can succeed in saving our entertainment industry if we stand together has been a challenge.
Explaining to lawmakers that filmmakers in Tennessee are not all in the same tax bracket as Steven Spielberg and face extinction in this state if lawmakers don’t help has strained every fiber of my patience.
The bumps in the road have been many and I have often felt overwhelmed by the demands of the organization and incapable of moving quickly enough to stop the slow asphyxiation of our industry.
And then there is today.
If you’ve kept up with my blog posts, you know that we were in danger of losing our Headquarters Incentive through an amendment to the Technical Corrections Bill that would have rendered the incentive just short of useless. We immediately met with Rep. Harry Tindell to ask that he put a hold on the amendment until we had had an opportunity to meet with the Department of Revenue (DOR) to explain our opposition to the new language. He agreed to stall the amendment until we had reached a satisfactory agreement with DOR.
Our meeting with Deputy Commissioner Glenn Page and attorney David Gerregano of DOR was both illuminating and positive, and once we were able to explain the negative aspects of the amendment as it stood, we were assured that they would revisit the language of the amendment.
And then there is today.
A call from Glenn Page. An explanation of the new language in the amendment. A success. Clear and certain victory. A new lease on the life of our industry.
Proof that we can succeed in saving our industry if we are strong in numbers; if we provide our lawmakers and government leaders with accurate information in a reasonable way; if we become a part of the political process that supports political candidates from both parties who share our concern for the future of film and television.
Today, I know why I am doing this.
My heartfelt thanks as always to the Board of Directors of AFFT who guide me and the Association with level heads and strong hearts. I am grateful to Brian Kubricky and Jeff Miller of Vineyard Productions who moved their company to Middle TN to take advantage of the Hdqts Incentive and attended our meeting with DOR to explain the negative effects of the amendment on a production company like theirs. I am also thankful to Larsen Jay and Kathy Hamilton of DoubleJay Creative in Knoxville who spent time on the phone with me sharing their thoughts about the language of the amendment. And to Reina Reddish, lobbyist for Memphis/Shelby County, I am forever indebted to you for your help. Had you not notified me of this impending amendment, it would have quietly made it’s way through the Legislature and the loss to the industry would have been substantial.
|Posted by affttennessee on May 5, 2010 at 12:13 PM||comments (0)|
Several issues (including an emergency appendectomy for Sen.Burchett) slowed our bill down in the Senate. Rep. Harry Tindell’s office was waiting for an amendment that the administration had indicated they wanted to attach to the bill….but never filed. ( a handy slow-walk tactic). Meanwhile,our bill passed both the Senate Government Ops Committee and the Commerce Committee…but not without objection. After the vote in the Gov’t Ops Committee, Perry Gibson handed us a draft of an amendment that deleted everything we had proposed and replaced it with the following:
“Upon the vacancy of the executive director, the Governor may consider recommendations from the Tennessee film, entertainment and music community for the appointment of the position of executive director until the position is filled accordingly.”
Ms Gibson and the Governor were offering us a right we already have as American citizens: to petition our elected officials. To voice our opinions. To make suggestions that “may be considered.”
For DECADES, people who work in our industry have been making suggestions or imploring our Governors for changes.
By the time we were able to move forward in House committees, we were late into the Legislative session. Because the bill had a small fiscal note attached, (a fiscal note means additional funding is needed to fulfill the requirements of the bill: our fiscal note was approximately $400 every 4 years), it would be placed behind the budget. That means no decision would be made final until the budget had been debated and any available funds committed to new bills.
A meeting with Rep Tindell who would have to carry our bill through the House was disappointing. He made it quite clear that Ms Gibson’s and the administration’s opposition was mounting. He stressed the difficulty in finding resolution for the bill as the Legislature was beginning budget debate. He strongly suggested we present the bill next year under a different administration. The outlook for our bill’s success was gloomy, indeed.
A discussion with Memphis/Shelby County’s (which includes their film commission) lobbyist made our decision easier. Her advice to withdraw the bill was based on the lateness of the bill, a bill sponsor who was pessimistic about its success and an administration who was working against us. If our bill failed this year, it would not be considered favorably by the Legislature next year.
Wanting our bill to have a fair chance in the Legislature next year convinced us to withdraw.
All of this frustrating procedure and political posturing shines a flood light on the exact issue we were trying to resolve.
A political appointee with no practical experience in the film, television or music industry is a film commissioner who is out of touch with the wants/needs of the constituents he/she represents.
We are not aware of any attempt made by the state film commissioner to contact any industry leaders for input on this bill. Had there been any attempt to ascertain the needs and wants of the people who actually work in this industry, the outcome of this effort may have been different. The film commissioner and the administration might have offered constructive amendments that could even have improved the bill. Instead, they chose to defiantly stand in support of the status quo - a mindset that embraces the notion that the Governor and his political donors know what’s best for Tennessee’s entertainment industry.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is Page Two of another sad chapter for film, television and music in Tennessee.