In the 2015 legislative session, Kentucky revised HB 340, which amended the KY Film Tax Credit. Since the passing of HB 340, dozens of out-of-state productions have been produced or are currently being produced in Kentucky. The KY film industry is now in a critical stage where the local infrastructure must expand to fully meet the challenges implicit in a growing market. The film industry must mature — and a key player in this growth is the KY Film Commission.
A Vacant Commission
Unfortunately, a lack of public engagement by the KY Film Commission towards the local community has resulted in the perception among filmmakers that the commission is a vacant and perhaps useless body. Accomplishments that the commission might have achieved are impossible to quantify as there are no public representations of these efforts. Indeed, it is difficult to find any evidence of the commission’s existence at all.
Simple questions regarding the purpose of the commission, their authority, and composition of members remains a mystery in the eyes of many local filmmakers. To be fair, some of this information you can find online — but not easily. The information is not listed on the Kentucky Film Office’s website, nor the KY Tourism website, Facebook page, etc. Instead, you have to go to the Governor’s website and search KY Board and Commissions to find any evidence of their existence.
While it is true that many state appointed boards and commissions operate in non-public manner, I believe the KY Film Commission would be wise to adopt a different strategy. The KY Film Commission, who is working on behalf of the people, should be accountable to the people. They should be transparent in their stated goals, how they choose to allocate resources, and be eager to engage with the community they serve.
The film industry of Kentucky is new and poised for significant growth. If that growth is to be achieved, it must be developed in active participation between public leaders and the grassroots efforts of local filmmakers.
A New Direction for the KY Film Commission
My hope is that the commission will choose to emerge from the shadow of anonymity and truly engage with the film community of Kentucky. The following steps would create a dramatic shift in public perception of the KY Film Commission and allow for an open dialog between the entity and the film community of Kentucky.
Create a Public Presence. The KY Film Commission should work with the Kentucky Film Office to establish an online presence on the KY Film Office website (http://filmoffice.ky.gov/). This web page should list the members of the commission, contact information of each member, and the stated purpose of the commission.
Hold Public Meetings. The KY Film Commission should hold public meetings (once a quarter or bi-quarterly) which outline the stated goals and progress towards those goals. The commission should facilitate an open dialog with members of the community to elicit questions, concerns, and innovative ideas on how to improve the industry. The commission should record minutes of each public meeting and publish those minutes on the website or through an email newsletter.
Establish New Commission Seats. The KY Film Commission should establish new seats on the commission that must be filled by members of the film community and which are limited to one (1) year terms; the commission should allow public nominations and voting for these seats.
Establish Email Newsletter. The KY Film Commission should work with the KY Film Office to resurrect the email newsletter and establish a consistent release schedule. If staffing or budgetary constraints are barriers to the development of the newsletter, the commission should call on volunteers from the film community or local colleges to help produce the newsletter.
Produce Public Data. The KY Film Commission should create and publish data metrics with which to measure film activity in the state (at some point this data will be crucial in encouraging investment in the film industry and for future incentive advocation).
If the Kentucky film industry is to grow and succeed, we need active and entrepreneurial based filmmakers, a robust tax incentive package, and a vocal and engaged KY Film Commission working together for the development of the industry. The growth of the Kentucky film industry is not wholly dependent upon the success of the KY Film Commission, but the commission has the potential to be a robust facilitator of that growth.
For those wondering what actions an engaged KY Film Commission would actually pursue, I believe the potential options are varied and numerous. My personal suggestion to a newly organized commission would be to hold a public meeting where they address local filmmakers and ask a very simple question:
“How can we help you?”
The film industry must be built by the local industry: filmmakers, producers, actors, and specialized artists with immediate “boots on the ground” experience. It is this group of industry experts who will be able to comment on the immediate needs of the industry. It is the obligation of the KY Film Commission to not only serve this group of people, but to establish engagement with this group as the essential prerequisite for any action moving forward.