Film bureaus successfully lure moviemakers out of Hollywood
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. — Instead of pushing papers around his desk in Tallahassee one day recently, Florida Gov. Robert Graham wound up pushing cameras and lights around the set of Burt Reynolds's new movie, ''Stick,'' now in production here.
No, he wasn't trying to make it in show business, or even earn a little extra. Governor Graham put in his time as a grip and a stand-in to show film producers just how far state officials are willing to go to help them - if they make their films here.
Graham's efforts may have been a little out of the ordinary, perhaps even a bit dramatic. But state and city officials across the country are trying to give filmmakers the same message: If you're planning to film a movie or even a TV commercial on location, please, roll your cameras in our state.
The great majority of filming is still done in California and New York. But there's a growing film market, not just in Florida, but also in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and even Arkansas.
Films bearing the made-in-Florida or made-in-Massachusetts labels are beginning to ring some alarm bells in Tinseltown. A spokesman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a Hollywood trade organization, says that if ''Boston chips away two films,'' it's not a big problem for this multibillion-dollar industry. ''But when 200 cities start chipping away,'' he says, Hollywood faces some problems.
Between 1979 and 1982, Los Angeles lost more than $200 million worth of film-production business to other places, he says. Many states go to great lengths to facilitate production. Is it any wonder, he asks, that producers are considering sites outside California?
William MacCallum, film commissioner of Arizona, says he doesn't think any state bureaus are trying to ''lure business away from California.'' But, he adds , if any producer is just planning to shoot on location outside California, ''we want all his business.''
The AMPTP spokesman goes on to say that high operating costs and overhead make it increasingly expensive to produce a film in a Hollywood studio. Technological advances such as lighter cameras have made it much easier to go out and film on location.
And, he says, now there are pools of qualified technicians and actors in areas other than just New York and Los Angeles. As a result, ''there's a lot more filming being done on location.''
Another reason to film on location is to add authenticity. For instance, ''The Bostonian,'' a movie starring Vanessa Redgrave and Christopher Reeve was recently filmed in, of all places, Boston.
Roger Burke, assistant director of the Massachusetts Film Bureau, says the movie is set around 1875. But because Massachusetts has such a wealth of historical buildings and locations, the entire film was shot without the need to construct a single movie set, he says.
In addition to promoting their states or cities, many film bureaus work to ease some of the logistical problems involved in filming, such as: securing permits; feeding, housing, and transporting the film crew; and making sure the local inhabitants don't get ruffled.
Mr. MacCallum says his office recently rounded up several state police cars to lend to a TV producer. Last week, he secured a permit to allow an airplane to land on a state highway. He and his staff have helped clean up after a rushed film crew. And, he says, he's even been called upon to take a director's wife shopping.
The Arizona film bureau routinely offers such help, he says. Such efforts save the producer time and money. And it shows him that Arizona is a good place to make movies, he adds.
''Virtually every state has some sort of film bureau,'' says MacCallum. About 80 cities have them as well, he adds. Some bureaus have been in business for more than a decade.
Ben Harris, Florida film bureau chief, says that not only do the states benefit from money the film crews pump into the local economy, but ''the films have a large impact on tourism. Anytime you show locations from your state,'' he says, ''it's sure to help your tourism business.''
By their own accounts, many of these film bureaus are succeeding. Mr. Harris says that Florida is now No. 3 in the nation in film production. In Massachusetts, says Roger Burke, film production has nearly doubled every year since the bureau was begun in 1977.