March 22, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Forum Aimed At Helping Communities Become 'Camera Ready'

Gulf Coast News Today- March 19, 2012

DAPHNE, Ala. — Lights! Camera! Inaction? Doing nothing means Baldwin County communities big and small could miss their chance in the spotlight. Being prepared when Hollywood comes calling, however, can produce big economic dividends as cities and towns across the county reach their full potential as film location destinations.

“Making Your Community Camera Ready” is the topic of the next Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce Business Academy’s Business Brief. The forum will be held Tuesday, March 27, at 8 a.m., at the Daphne United Methodist Church Community Life Center, 2401 Main St. in Daphne. 

The keynote speaker will be Tommy Fell, location coordinator with the Alabama Film Office. Fell was born in Mobile, and graduated from Satsuma High School and Faulkner State Community College, so he knows the area well. In 1989 he began working on independent films in the area as a key grip, electrician and location scout.

Since joining AFO in 1994, he has recruited a number of projects to the state, including feature films, documentaries, reality shows, commercials, short subjects, industrial films and music videos.

Fell said during a phone interview on Friday that location scouts and film producers choose shooting sites based on a number of factors, and there are ways to better promote a locale as a film location. He will offer helpful tips to those who attend.

“We want to be sure our community contacts are aware of these issues,” Fell said. He noted the availability of crew, extras, equipment rentals and transportation helps sweeten the pot, but the first frame of film is not exposed until just the right place is found.

“They (location scouts) look and ask if it works with their production,” Fell said. “Will the location owners work with the film production company? Are they amenable to filming there? Does it work for project convenience?”

Public officials and tourism representatives must be proactive, he said, if they hope to attract film industry professionals and the dollars they spend.

Fell said the Alabama Legislature created a financial incentive program three years ago in hopes of making the state more competitive with other states and Canada. Legislators are currently working on new provisions designed to again boost film production here.

The bill to amend the Entertainment Act of 2009 would increase film incentives. The maximum per project amount that is currently allowed is $10 million. If it becomes law, the bill raises that limit to $20 million.

The annual cap for incentives granted under the Act is currently $10 million. The bill would also raise this cap to $15 million for Fiscal Year 2013, $20 million for FY 2014 and $25 million for fiscal years thereafter.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard said this is an opportunity for the state to expand its presence in the film and television industry, and create jobs in the process.

“Growing Alabama’s film production industry can render tremendous economic benefits for our state, and I’ve been impressed at the leading role Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) has played on this issue,” Hubbard said. “We want Octavia Spencer’s next Oscar to be for a movie made right here in Alabama.”

Spencer, a Montgomery native and Auburn University graduate, won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role in “The Help.”

Fell said the Alabama Gulf Coast was under consideration as the location for primary photography of ‘Forrest Gump’ in part because Winston Groom, whose book upon which the film is based, grew up and lives here. South Carolina was chosen instead when scouts discovered that rice plantations there could double as Vietnam.

“‘Forrest Gump’ was location-driven,” he added.

Fell pointed out there is no shortage of venues the film industry might favor when telling a story, including old homes, shopping centers and dirt roads.

“I helped ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ find the first two home locations on the Eastern Shore,” he said. “We looked at other homes and locations. The incentives helped attract ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’”

AFO works with the Mobile Film Office when scouts are giving southwest Alabama a close look. Fell said, “We’re here to assist, and bring them in.”

He offered a bit of advice.

“Prepare for the large feature films and reality series. Be prepared when our office is looking for assistance, or a producer contacts you directly.”

It is not uncommon for producers or directors to return to an area three or four times when they have a good experience, according to Fell. And they often show up with larger budgets each time.

He said, “We’re very proud when filmmakers come back and film. They do it when they’re embraced by the community.”

The fee to attend the March 27 presentation is $10 for members and $15 for potential members. Those who are members of any Chamber of Commerce may attend for the discounted fee. A hot breakfast will be served.

Sponsors for the event are Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore PC, Daphne Utilities, The Lady’s Lawn Service and Converge.

Visit to register online, or call 928-6387.

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