Veteran indie film executive and producer Adam Leipzig is ramping up the blog Cultural Weekly examining the intersection of culture, creativity, money, and entertainment. Here, the question is raised whether America needs a national film commission. This has been edited down and reprinted with permission:
With the Toronto Film Festival getting underway this week, it’s worth pointing out the crucial role that national film commissions like Canada’s National Film Board and Telefilm Canada have played in the global film marketplace. These agencies of the Canadian government not only assist filmmakers in the production of their films, but also help global marketing, distribution and promotion of Canadian films in general. The result has been a boon for Canadian filmmakers and an important source of revenue for Canada.
Like Canada, most nations recognize that films are a valuable export and that, in a competitive global marketplace, filmmakers need help in marketing and distributing films outside their own countries. In addition, with the growth of international co-productions, filmmakers need assistance from their national film commissions – who are part of an international network — to provide information to facilitate those partnerships.
Since national film commissions are pretty inexpensive to operate and can reap huge economic benefits for a country, virtually every developed nation, and many in the developing world, operate these commissions. However, there is one nation – the only one in the Western world – that does not have a national film commission. Guess who? The United States.
There are lots of reasons for this glaring omission, but let’s start with the obvious one — we have never needed a national film commission. Since Hollywood has always been (and continues to be) the dominant player in the international film market, it never needed any help. The Hollywood studios had their own international network, and didn’t see any reason to for a national film commission. In fact, it was in their interest to discourage such an effort, since it might to undermine the clout of the studios…
The best vehicle to address the challenges of the global market would be a national film commission – a public/private organization that would include representatives of both the film industry and the federal government. While it would be politically difficult to establish a strictly governmental body, a compromise solution might be a private/public partnership that would enlist the power of the United States government in the global market without limiting the freedom of the film industry.
The American film industry is one of our most important engines of economic growth and, during these tough economic times and in the face of a rapidly changing global marketplace, it does not make sense to rely on a small group of tradition-bound studios to lead the industry into the future. Only a private/public partnership that reflects a broader swath of the film community is capable of maintaining this critical source of jobs and revenue.
Although the Hollywood studios, networks, unions and other organizations might resist the idea of a national film commission, it is arguably in their long-term interest to have a more representative organization in place. Perhaps most importantly, a national film commission could have a positive impact on the creative potential of the American film community by connecting it more directly to other national film commissions and thereby to the global marketplace. Now is the time for America to take this crucial step towards the future.
— by Hoyt Hilsman, screenwriter and critic