AFCI Locations Show Draws L.A. Film Festival Traffic, Insights

AFCI Locations Show Draws L.A. Film Festival Traffic, Insights

from: Robert Goldrich,

The independent filmmaking community has turned out not only for the ongoing Los Angeles Film Festival but also made its presence felt at the recently wrapped AFCI Locations Show. Timing and proximity facilitated the coming together as the Locations Show on Friday and Saturday (6/15-16) corresponded with the opening weekend of the L.A. Film Festival. And the site of Locations, the L.A. Convention Center, was just across the street from the film fest’s primary venue, L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.

In shuttling back and forth between the two events, SHOOT saw assorted folks doing the same, hitting the Locations exhibit floor which showcased the resources of more than 40 countries from 200-plus exhibitors, including some 170 film commissions. Also attracting indie filmmakers were the financial incentives–estimated to be some $2.5 billion–collectively represented by Locations film commissioner exhibitors.

The traffic from the L.A. Film Festival to Locations wasn’t confined to the latter’s exhibit space. There were also film fest attendees at the Locations panel discussions–including several who were on the panels themselves, most notably director Till Schauder whose documentary The Iran Job made its worldwide premiere at the L.A. Film Festival, and Katherine Fairfax Wright, co-director of Call Me Kuchu, a documentary which enjoyed its U.S. debut across the street.

Wright and Schauder were panelists at the AFCI session, “Doc U: Shooting Overseas–Making Your Doc On Foreign Soil.” Wright teamed with Malika Zahali-Worrell to direct Call Me Kuchu, which introduces audiences to brave members of the LGBT community in Uganda where being openly gay means risking imprisonment and death. Meanwhile Schauder’s The Iran Job tells the story of journeyman American pro basketballer Kevin Sheppard who signed on with the upstart Iranian Super League team A.S. Shiraz as one of two non-Iranian players. The documentary examines his life there, which includes a touching bond with three strongly independent Iranian women who bristle at the restrictions put upon them by their country’s government.

Neither Wright nor Schauder worked with film commissions in the making of their respective films. Wright and her colleagues entered Uganda on tourist visas and obtained media passes to shoot public gatherings and protests. Schauder, who enjoys dual citizenship in the U.S. and Germany, entered Iran on a German tourist passport.

While he never worried about his own wellbeing, Schauder noted that a couple of German journalists who gained entry into Iran in the same manner he did wound up spending six months in jail there. Schauder was more obsessed with the safety of the three aforementioned Iranian women who in the film discuss politics, sex and religion–”fascinating for me, risky for them,” he related. Concerns over the women’s safety “kept me up all night during the four years we made the film,” said the director. All three women turned down the option of having their faces intentionally appear blurred in the documentary to protect their identities. They even green-lighted the trailer designed to raise funds for the film on the Kickstarter platform. One woman who had left the country told Schauder that the film now means she cannot return to Iran but she nonetheless firmly backed the documentary’s release. Schauder described the women as “courageous” and fully committed to the fact that if you want something to change for the good, you have to take some significant personal risks.

Wright had the same deep concern for the welfare of the four gay protagonists in Uganda who consented to be filmed for Call Me Kuchu. Of the four, that concern now exists for the remaining two in Uganda. The other two met different fates–one was murdered during the shooting of the documentary while the other gained asylum in Sweden.

In a separate AFCI Locations panel discussion titled “Get Your Slice of the PIE (Production Incentive Experience), moderator Joe Bessacini, VP, Cast & Crew Entertainment Services, noted that just in the past six months incentives have progressed globally. He cited several examples in the U.S., including:
o Alabama, which increased its annual cap from $10 million for the recently ended fiscal year to $15 million for each of the next two fiscal years and $20 million for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015.
o Alaska which enacted a bill to raise the state’s annual cap for incentives from $100 million to $200 million effective July 1, 2013 and extending through fiscal year 2022-’23.
o Colorado with a production incentive that went up from 10 to 20 percent on qualifying expenditures, with the annual cap raised from $1 million to $3 million for the fiscal year ending in 2013.
o Florida which extended its incentive program another year through June 30, 2016, adding $42 million to the annual cap for a total of $296 million.
o Kentucky which eliminated its annual cap altogether. Previously incentive dollars were capped at $7.5 million annually.
o Michigan which doubled its annual cap from $25 million to $50 million starting with the fiscal year ending Sept. 2013.
o Montana which implemented an additional 15 to 30 percent incentive grant for select projects.
o Ohio which increased its annual incentive cap funding from $20 million to $40 million for the biennium.
o South Carolina where non-resident crew now qualifies for a 20 percent incentive rebate.
o And Tennessee which raised its rebate/grant to 25 percent of qualifying in-state expenditures effective July 1.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Cean Chaffin, director David Fincher’s long-time producer, was a featured speaker at an AFCI Locations session delving into the backstory on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. She noted that the film spent some $22 million in Sweden and that she and Fincher continue to be fans of the RED Epic camera, which they will deploy on a couple of upcoming projects. Chaffin added that she was also favorably impressed with tests they had done on the ARRI Alexa.

Chaffin too had praise for the Stockholm Film Commission–and its film commissioner, fellow panelist Ingrid Rudefors–for offering valuable production and logistical support on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Chaffin hearkened back to her early career producing and exec producing commercials, recalling the venerable Propaganda Films as “a good collaborative place” where she gained exposure to such directors as Fincher, Spike Jonze, Michael Bay and Willi Patterson. “I learned a lot in commercials working with a lot of different directors,” she related, noting that spotmaking also provided her with international experience. Chaffin said that commercials took her to 13 different countries for shoots.

Chaffin recalled meeting Fincher shortly after he had wrapped Alien 3. “He was living that film down,” she said, adding that she was initially a bit cynical about working with him at first. But their collaborative relationship blossomed, and she has experienced “great growth” from their endeavors over the years, which include The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Film commissioners in the audience also took note of Chaffin’s observation that the industry norm is you “don’t look at a script or talk to a studio anymore without discussing it available incentives.” She added that The Social Network, with its filming in Los Angeles, qualified for California’s film tax credit program.

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