Lights, Camera, Shoot! Fort Worth Film Commission ready for ‘Action!’

Red Productions in Fort Worth

Bringing the lights, cameras and action to Fort Worth may soon become easier for filmmakers hoping to shoot in Cowtown.

Proponents of creating a Fort Worth Film Commission submitted an application Aug. 31 to the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), an organization that formally recognizes film commissions around the world. AFCI is reviewing the application in a process that may take up to 30 days. If approved, Fort Worth would have a certified film commission that can help filmmakers secure locations and connect with local talent.

For Serene and Nathanial Fletcher, who co-own Fort Worth-based F2 Media and Fletcher Productions, a film commission in Fort Worth is long overdue. Filmmakers who are scouting locations in Texas often bypass Fort Worth because of the city’s lack of a film commission, Nathanial Fletcher said.

“It’s surprising we don’t have one, honestly, despite the city that Fort Worth is,” he said. “Austin has one, Houston has one, Dallas has one, and they do so much. It makes production a lot easier.”

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A film commission is a government-affiliated organization that acts as a liaison for filmmakers who want to bring productions to Fort Worth. The Fort Worth Film Commission will be housed under the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

The commission would be responsible for a number of duties, including helping filmmakers obtain permits to film in certain locations, hiring local cast and crew and promoting local production companies and services.

More than 300 film commissions around the globe are registered with the AFCI, which offers both certification and marketing opportunities for film commissions. While a film commission may be able to operate without the AFCI, certification gives a film commission greater credibility, Dallas Film Commissioner Janis Burklund said.

To apply for certification from AFCI, a film commission needs endorsement from its local government. At the beginning of August, the Fort Worth City Council heard a presentation from Red Productions president Red Sanders and Mitch Whitten, vice president of marketing communications at the CVB. Sanders and Whitten called for the creation of a film commission in Fort Worth, and several council members expressed support, including Mayor Betsy Price.

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“It’s an excellent proposal to showcase Fort Worth and to bring in some potential,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said after the presentation. “These folks are going to eat in our restaurants and stay in our hotels, so it generates tax dollars as well as investment in jobs.”

Since the council presentation, Sanders and the CVB have been working with the Chamber of Commerce and private organizations to raise funding. A commission needs $50,000 to start up. So far, the Chamber, CVB and an unnamed private donor have raised $25,000.

The first two years of the film commission will be a “startup phase,” then the commission will look into options for long-term funding, said Jessica Christopherson, CVB director of public relations and film marketing.

After raising the initial funds, the film commission will have an estimated annual budget of $199,000, she said.

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Along with raising funds, Christopherson has been working to get the commission certified by the AFCI. As part of the application, she had to complete the AFCI’s online courses in film commission work. She also has the option of taking additional classes to become certified as the film commissioner of Fort Worth.

She said she will complete the extra courses and assume the role of film commissioner while the organization is in its early years.

Christopherson, who worked for Fox Broadcasting Co. in Los Angeles and has a background in television production, had already been taking requests from filmmakers and producers wanting to shoot in Fort Worth. Most of the requests have come from travel-related TV shows such as DIY Network’s Desperate Landscapes and Travel Channel U.K.’s Road Rivals.

Programs on Food Network and the National Geographic Channel have been shot in Fort Worth as well, she said.

Sanders said a film commission would not only make productions easier but also benefit the economy.

According to the AFCI website, a local economy can earn more than $250,000 a day during the production of a feature film.

The city of Dallas, which already has a film commission, has benefited from hosting multiple productions, Burklund said.

For example, USA Network’s Queen of the South TV series will be filming in Dallas until January. The commission expects Queen of the South to spend about $18 million in the Dallas economy while shooting its first season, she said.

The commission also expects the production to generate more than 2,000 jobs, Burklund said. These jobs include crew members, cast members and extras. Some jobs will only last for a day while others last through the entire production.

A TV show or film shot in Dallas has an impact on tourism as well. Burklund said the Dallas Film Commission is always getting calls from visitors who want to see sights from the Dallas TV show.

“Anywhere you travel internationally, you just say you’re from Dallas and references to the shows are bound to immediately follow,” she said.

Serene Fletcher said she wants Fort Worth to have that same type of name recognition.

“A lot of companies, especially big companies, still think that they need to go to Dallas to get quality production or marketing or branding or whatever,” she said. “Again, a film commission here would just help give companies like ours support and help generate a lot of business.”

Sanders said he hopes the AFCI will officially recognize the Fort Worth Film Commission by October, just in time for the Lone Star Film Festival in November.

“We want to build up Fort Worth’s reputation as a leader in the arts with a new focus on the moving image,” he said. “We have world-class famous museums for the still arts, and what we want to really do, as we usher into and look towards the future, is grow in the moving image.”