Interview with Pat Kaufman, New York State Film Commissioner and President of the AFCI

Pat Kaufman is the New York State Film Commissionerand President of the Association of Film Commissioners International.

Alexa O'Brien

Why do states, regions, and countries compete for production dollars?

Pat Kaufman

Because production is a very clean and efficient industry that comes in, spends time in your area, spends a lot of money and then either puts down roots and becomes, if you can get enough of it, you can become a production region, and have your own indigenous companies, or at least, it means that companies come and go from your area, spend money, don't pollute, you know, advance your area, bring your area to the attention of the world, and while there at it they spend money.

Alexa O'Brien

Can you tell me how the current business model for production and post production will change in the next five to ten years as you see it?

Pat Kaufman

And if I did have a succinct wonderful answer to that, I would be a rich women. I think that clearly production gets more competitive than ever and where productions will go to the filming, to do their post work, to find their distribution has become entirely fluid, which means that there is opportunity for a region to build an industry if they are willing to do what it takes to build the infrastructure and that sort of thing. I think that the industry faces great shifts, the economy is going global, at the same time that new distribution opportunities are coming up, so that in the future, film and television shows are not only going to be seen on TV. screens and on movie screens and on DVD's, but now we are going to be downloading them onto iPods and telephones and that sort of thing. So it is a time of great fluidity, and great change, which means its a time of opportunity.

Alexa O'Brien

Do you think it would be fair to say that a region that wants to set itself up as a production hub and wants to capture as much production dollar as it can from acquisition to distribution would probably look to build a cluster with more "Creative Class" type people?

Pat Kaufman

It does once you start to get a critical nucleus, yes. You do have to have something of a critical nucleus, so there is no question that any region that is trying to build should pay great attention to the companies that are there and encouraging them and helping them. So the answer is yes.

Alexa O'Brien

Would the critical mass companies for that future, let's say ten to fifteen years, need to focus on digital formats or would they be more traditional below-the-line technicians and businesses like rental houses or studios?

Pat Kaufman

I think you need a bit of each.

Alexa O'Brien

How has the AFCI (Association of Film Commissioners International) grown in the last five years and what larger themes that illustrates for you?

Pat Kaufman

Well I think you can really see the impact of the global economy as you look at this organization has grown, because we are definitely getting increasing numbers of members from around the world, from as new and different regions begin to establish themselves and compete for projects and jobs.

Alexa O'Brien

What should low or medium infrastructure production structures states or regions fundamentally focus on in order to garner more production dollars in the short term and then in the long term?

Pat Kaufman

I think that they should not overlook the importance of building and and supporting the companies that are there, and I mean the production companies that are there. Encourage the commercial producers, encourage the independent film producers that may be making low budget movies but whom will hire crew and help build your crew base, that is important for short term and for long term. And then work to create policies both short term and long term that demonstrate that the region film friendly and will do what it takes to help not only local production companies but then production companies from elsewhere that you try to attract.

Alexa O'Brien

I am particularly interested in skill sets and job training for the future work force. Tell me how important partnership is in the digital economy in terms of film production.

Pat Kaufman

Partnership is always important because it's a collaborative industry. It's extremely important for a region to have strong partnerships with their local film schools, strong partnerships if they do have a union base of crew, to have partnerships with them in order to encourage the film schools to continue to develop potential workers for the industry as well as to encourage the unions, if it's an area that has unions, to absorb and welcome new members.

Alexa O'Brien

The AFCI (Association of Film Commissioners International) is such an interesting organization. On the one hand, globally the marketplace for film production is so fiercely competitive yet at the same time the AFCI is a partnership or those different regions helping each other out...

Pat Kaufman

You know everyone admires that about the Association and it speaks very highly of the, how evolved film commissions really are. They really get it. Film commissions almost to the last one get the fact that, yes we are highly competitive, we are all struggling to capture much of the same production and yet we also recognize that what we can share with each other in terms of knowledge, training, resources, is useful enough that we set aside our competitiveness and work together. It's remarkable. There are very, very few industries, or very few entities that function this way. We've been trying to help some of our indy producers in New York to organize and we have been working, suggesting to a number of the animation houses in New York that they should organize and its so interesting because initially they tend to be resistant. They don't want to share their data and information. They see the other companies in their genre as competitors, but even they are beginning to recognize...I mean organize in the sense of having an association, that kind of organize, is what I mean of course, to have an association to put your information together and you can be more of a force to bring about the changes that you want.

Alexa O'Brien

I am wondering whether or not universities or technical colleges in a low to medium infrastructure region should focus on training their students not only on 35mm but also on digital acquisition tools and whether or not this will have an advantagous effect on building their infrastructure for incoming business. I am not thinking of New York and LA, because they always have that strong infrastructure. I am thinking of places like South Carolina...

Pat Kaufman

There is no doubt that it's a good idea to train the students on the new technology. That goes without saying that the students should come out of their with the skills sets to do both.

Alexa O'Brien Alexa O'Brien researches and writes about national security. Her work has been published in VICE News, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Guardian UK, Salon, The Daily Beast, and featured on the BBC, PBS Frontline, On The Media, Democracy Now!, and Public Radio International. In 2013, she was shortlisted for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in the UK and listed in The Verge 50..