Yesterday (Dec. 1st), I waited impatiently for the expected public announcement of the newly-formed Arizona Office of Film and Media, a.k.a. Studio 48. I was impatient because, one of my responsibilities on the Arizona Film & Media Coalition (AFMC) is to keep the website up-to-date. Not knowing what the announcement would specifically say — it was to come directly from the Arizona Commerce Authority — I could not pre-write anything in advance. Therefore, I needed to prop myself up at my keyboard and wait, along with everyone else, until the word came.
At about 7:30am, I received a text message from fellow media-watcher Marcelo Dietrich. It was a link to the AZ Central webpage carrying the story I was anticipating. I immediately checked my email and found a note from AFMC President Stephen Brain with the long-awaited press release attached. I immediately updated the AFMC home page to herald this watershed moment, then took to Facebook and Twitter to share the great news.
Okay…so now what?
The (re-)establishment of a film office — nay, an Office of Film and Media — is a really big deal, no argument. It is Arizona’s one-stop shop for major productions that are considering shooting in our State. From this office will branch tendrils to all facets of our industry: production services, talent, transportation, lodging, construction, locations, and on and on. It will allow us to present ourselves as a unified provider of all things for motion picture, television, and web content production — and so much more. But this is just the beginning, folks. A lot rides on how you adapt to this change.
Anyone who carries out productions in Arizona on even a semi-regular basis already knows the ropes, the ins and outs, the benefits and pitfalls to expect at any given location. No two places, here or anywhere else, are exactly the same. (That’s what keeps us producers employed — the need to constantly adapt.) So for many of us, the internal need for a film office (if I may use the abbreviated terminology from this point forward) is more or less “optional”. Some may even question the need for one, as they may see it as adding an additional layer of complexity where none previously existed. It’s not for me to question folks who are satisfied to fly under the radar and just get their work done the way they’ve been doing it all along. I would just ask that we consider the big picture as well. There’s benefit to everyone when we have the opportunity to ply our trade on larger and more plentiful productions. Our young filmmakers benefit. Our seasoned veteran crews benefit. Our actors benefit. Everyone gets better at what they do and, almost as important, they have less reason to uproot and go elsewhere to follow the jobs. So the first thing we can do as a local industry is to raise awareness of the benefits that we can derive by the changes that are expected to take place. (And if you still have a sour taste in your mouth about Transformers: The Last Knight, please read my previous blog.)
While we’re on the subject of employment, what lessons can we learn from the few shows that have landed at our doorstep, even for just a few weeks? What was your experience getting hired on to those shows? I will tell you this: As a seasoned producer of independent films and local TV shows, I would not presume to take on a comparable role in a major film or national TV project. There’s so much I simply do not know! I would same the same thing about any crew members looking for employment. Assess your skills and make a determination if you want to take a chance and prove yourself on a large project in a job that could either propel or sink your career. Choose wisely. The alternative is to initially work at a lower level, even as a P.A., and earn the reputation you deserve by being attentive, energetic, reliable and multi-talented. I always tell my film students: “Be indispensable, but invisible.” You’ll get a better reputation by not being noticed. The right people will notice you. As a producer, I’ve picked out many a superstar simply by observing the way they do their jobs. Remember what they say about character. Character is what you do when no one is watching.
Last point. Tell the world! With the opening of large facilities such as Bob Parson’s Sneaky Big Studios, we’re getting some major players on our side, promoting the State and the new film office, and putting a great deal of effort into building up this industry in a way that our grassroots groups have not been able to. That does not negate the need for us to continue our efforts by spreading the word outside of our industry, outside of our small community, to everybody in the State. And I do mean everybody. Why shouldn’t everyone know that Arizona is on its way back to being a viable player in the film and media industries? Who wouldn’t care that it would be a great thing for small businesses and for tourism and for our image and reputation? This is the business of Entertainment. On the surface, it’s a business of transient images and illusions. But deep down, we all want to be entertained. We all want to escape to the movies, or to our favorite TV show, or to a multi-player role-playing game on the computer. It all has to be made somewhere. Why not in Arizona?
I look forward to sharing more positive news with you about the new Arizona Office of Film and Media. Welcome, Studio 48!
[This board member blog is by Joe Gruberman, representing the interests of independent filmmakers on the Arizona Film & Media Coalition (AFMC). Any viewpoints expressed in this blog are expressed by the blogger as an individual and may or may not be the viewpoints of the AFMC Board as a whole.]