|Posted by affttennessee on May 3, 2010 at 4:35 PM|
Now that the initial flap over the withdrawal of our bill from the legislative process has passed, numerous folks wanted to hear more about WHY we seemingly made that decision so abruptly.
Well, to explain the end, we must explain the beginning. So this blog post will be a two-act production. (Stay tuned tomorrow for Act 2).
When AFFT was formed in 2007, the new AFFT leadership began traveling across the state holding open meetings and explaining AFFT’s purpose.For those of you who might still be a little foggy about that – our purpose is pretty precise. We are the advocacy organization for people who work in film, television or music production. We are a statewide organization. Our goal is simple: to educate and advocate for laws and policies that benefit our industry. We will advocate on the state level primarily but will work on behalf of our regions as well if necessary.
For years, our industry has believed to some degree that the state film commission is the advocate for the industry. Wrong. The state film commission works for the Governor and their job is to recruit entertainment projects and companies to the state. When a state film commissioner works on behalf of the industry on a position that is at odds with the Governor’s legislative agenda, it puts that person on very thin ice. (that’s the reason AFFT was founded) The state film commissioner can appeal to the Governor’s staff for help on issues that may be important to the industry, but that’s it. If the answer is “NO,” the state film commissioner’s hands are officially tied.
Looking way back, we have all watched governors consistently appoint political friends and donors as state film commissioners. They knew nothing about the business of film, television or music. They were supposed to educate the governor about the industry. What a joke. One cannot explain an industry about which one knows nothing. Therefore, we watched state film commissioners, while working hard, spend a minimum of one year just learning about what we do. Now, throw in the complicated world of production incentives and imagine the learning curve for the next commissioner. I have often wondered outloud over the last few years, “The Governor would not appoint an actor as Commissioner of Revenue. Why would he appoint just anyone as the film commissioner?” It is simply dismissive of both our industry and that position in state government.
As we traveled across the state listening and fielding questions, we discovered quickly the intense desire of people in the industry to 1. Have a state film commissioner with some experience in the industry, and 2. Create some continuity in that position so we wouldn’t have to start over every 4 years.
We also heard the desire for incentives that apply to smaller projects by Tennessee companies and the wish for continued and competitive incentives to attract outside production companies.
We believed that our initial effort in the legislature would best be to amend the law that formed the Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission to require qualifications for the position of the state film commissioner and to create a framework where the sitting commissioner could continue on regardless of politics.
The reasons for the creation of the bill were obvious to us.There will be BIG challenges for the industry by the next election in November.Our incentive fund will be depleted. The state is financially on shifting sand.Our next commissioner will need the head start that comes from experience in the industry. We won’t have time for that person to discover what a “grip” is.
Additionally, we are lucky to have three young people on the staff of the film commission who have a combined total of approximately 24 years of experience at the commission. They know just about all there is to know about the industry, incentives, recruiting, the state bureaucracy …you name it. At present, there is no mechanism in place that will allow any of them to apply for the job of commissioner. Our bill would have allowed for that and given us the BEST kind of continuity available right now. And you can bet we are GOING to need it.
AFFT will begin to work for a new incentive plan the minute the next governor is elected. It would have given us a real boost to know that there would be someone in that office who could work with us from the get-go.
Part 2: Out of Touch….