Film and Your Venue Part 1: 5 Steps to Utilizing Your Venue as a Film Location

What does a famous race horse, exploding freeways and Tom Hanks have in common?

Fairplex.

Film and Fairplex share a fun history together. A number of commercials and feature films have been shot on campus, including Tom Hanks’ “That Thing You Do!” “Seabiscuit,” “Live Hard, Die Hard,” and “The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a restaurant, conference center, theme park, hotel or a uniquely constructed home. If a film crew wants to use your location, there is opportunity to be grasped and connections to be made.

This two-part series will help transform your every-day venue into a film friendly location.

5 Steps to Utilizing Your Venue as a Film Location

1. Identify what makes your location film-worthy.

As a backlot location, Fairplex specializes in versatility. Directors generally need a blank canvas on which they can create their set.  Exploding freeways, a racing track from the 1920s and teens chasing boy bands are just some of the scenarios this campus has seen. Ask yourself what your venue is best used as. Is it a restaurant atmosphere? An action zone? Location managers are good at pinpointing what will make your venue stand out.

2. Do your research.

Melissa DeMonaco, Director of Sales at Fairplex played a key role in marketing Fairplex as a filming location and reaching out to the industry. “You have to be film friendly,” she says. “You have to support the industry and stay connected to what is going on. Watch films, understand the business of it.”

Working with a third party and having them represent your venue and/or home is advisable for those just beginning their career.

3. Meet with a film commission company.

Film commissions are responsible for getting the word out about your venue. They tell film location managers about areas in their region that are good for filming. Film location managers work with the director and film crew to find the right places for the movie. The film commission is the link between the location managers and your venue. Melissa reached out to Sheri Davis, the award-winning Inland Empire film commission director for assistance and hit the ground running.

Thanks to Sheri, Fairplex held a “fam” tour—inviting film location managers out for a familiarity tour of the campus, providing lunch and establishing relationships. From there it’s a matter of networking and awaiting the next opportunity.

4. Jump into the scene.

Be involved. One of the first things Melissa did was sign Fairplex up for a membership with the Location Manager’s Guild of America (LMGA.) When it comes to choosing locations, location managers are key components to garnering business for your venue. They are the ones who scope out potential film locations. They are the ones the directors listen to when considering options.

By being a member of the LMGA and other associations, Melissa puts herself on the front lines. She attends as many fundraisers, mixers and exhibitions as possible. “Support everyone and attend everything,” she says. “Say yes to whatever they need help with, even if you are just volunteering at an awards event.”

5. Network, network, network.

Once Melissa establishes a connection with a location manager she follows up and “friends” them on Facebook. LinkedIn is a good option for this too.

“I met Mike Fantasia [location manager for Seabiscuit] at a film event,” Melissa said. “I friended him on Facebook afterwards. I saw that he was celebrating his mom’s 90th birthday. At our next event, among a sea of other [sales directors] trying to get his attention, I simply asked him how his mother’s birthday went. He stopped and talked to me because I took the time to remember something about his life. The conversation wasn’t about what he could do for me. It’s about building a strong business relationship”

The second part of this series will focus on what to do once the film crew arrives on set and how to ensure an enjoyable experience for them.

If you have any additional tips, feel free to share in the comments section below!

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