How to be a Film Friendly Destination

Film set equipment courtesy Dimhou on Pixabay

Have you wondered how your destination can become film friendly? It doesn’t happen overnight, but there are steps you can take to let the right people know what your destination can offer to those who are looking to find the “perfect location” for a movie, TV show, commercial, or even national print ad.

If you’re in the U.S., do you know how much film business your state has? You can find out right here in this terrific map from the Motion Picture Association. The economic impact of filming in any given area is staggering.

Leslie has had lots of experience in Lake Arrowhead, California working with several feature films over the years (Space Jam, The Parent Trap remake, An American President, Next) as well as many TV shows, commercials, and print ads.

In this post we’ll share 5 tips to help you get your destination ready for filming should the opportunity arise.

It’s All About Connections!

The first thing you need to do is connect with your local, regional, and state or province film services/commissions.

It used to be that California was the hot spot for filming, but now there are many states and provinces that host wonderful productions throughout the year. You might be surprised which film locations are not what they appear; your destination may be a perfect stand-in.

For the most part, film location managers – those are the people who go out and find locations for their projects – work through local film organizations that provide them with initial information regarding an area. Generally, there are state offices such as Montana Film or Mississippi’s state film office.

You might find that you have a regional group that is even more focused on your part of the state or province. For instance, Leslie always worked through her regional group Inland Empire Film Services.

A film friendly destination book cover of Those Magnificent Mountain Movies films shot in Lake Arrowhead CA

Cover of a book of movies that were filmed in the Lake Arrowhead, California area.

You should designate one individual from your organization to be the contact person for any film location inquiries; have that person be the go-to expert for information about fees, permits, locations, etc.

Your film organizations will explain to your contact which permits are needed to film, what would be required of your destination in order to be prepared for filming, and anything else that might be needed in order for you to work with the industry.

First Step

If anything has been filmed or you’ve had a big photo shoot in your area (movie, TV show, commercial, or even a print ad) start a list and get photos or clips to highlight what has been done in the past.

For many areas, you won’t have this portfolio yet, so you’ll move to the next step.

Remember that as soon as you DO get an opportunity, gather as much content about it as you can – photos, your own video of the film set or filming, testimonials about working with you, etc.

Every film friendly destination started with one single item in their portfolio – keep building.

Show Off

Make a list and include photos/videos of interesting film locations in your area; either ones that have already been used or ones that offer great possibilities.

Some spots to show off are unique downtowns, vacant buildings, exquisite homes, farms, open spaces, scenic drives/roads, etc.

Tip – put out in your newsletters or eblasts that you are looking for interesting film locations. Ask community members to suggest places, and for people to contact you if they have locations available for filming. You may be surprised at all the responses you receive!

It’s wise to keep a notebook with locations and photos in your office just in case someone might wander in looking for locations (yes, that certainly can happen.)

Be Film Friendly Online

Now that you’ve organized your film assets, add a Filming page to your website. A good state example of this is Texas and their Film Friendly Communities webpage.

Even tiny Smithville, Texas has a good website page about why they’re film friendly.

While your page should be “photo heavy” – a website gallery of possible locations is a great asset – be sure to add the contact person for filming, your filming partners such as your regional and state filming contacts, and anything special the film location manager might need to know such as use of a private lake, ski area, park or something that would require an extra permit or fee to use.

Don’t forget social media platforms that film location managers and scouts use for ideas and inspiration.

If you are using Pinterest for tourism marketing, set up a Board with Pins of your local film locations. Be sure to post your filming-related videos on your YouTube channel, with a link to your Filming website page in the video description blocks. Post occasionally about filming opportunities on your LinkedIn Page – over 19,000 people are following the #FilmIndustry hashtag on LinkedIn. On Instagram and Twitter, the #FilmLocation and #LocationScouting hashtags seem to have good traction.

Host Film Friendly Fam (Familiarization) Trips

Film location managers are a lot of fun. They like to attend fam trips as a group as well as work on their own.

The easiest way to reach a lot of key players is to work with your film partners and bring location managers to your destination for a day or two so they can see what you’ve got. Plan on them taking a ton of photos (and you might even ask a couple of them if they will share their photos with you ~ giving them photo credit, as film location managers are excellent photographers.)

Be sure to show off lodging and dining options too, as they will be responsible for giving recommendations to cast and crew.

2 Bonus Tips!

When you think about filming, most people think about the major studios, but don’t forget about Netflix and Amazon Prime. They are big players now and are creating lots of excellent original content.

Just in the last three years, Leslie worked with both companies as they filmed segments of shows in her area.

Film set equipment courtesy Dimhou on Pixabay

Set chairs for The Laundromat 2019 Netflix movie in Lake Arrowhead CA (courtesy Leslie McLellan)

Once you have some filming under your belt, promote it around town.

Below is a window display that Leslie and her downtown designed to show off some of the movies made in the area…

Film-friendly destination display info board about movies filmed in Lake Arrowhead CA courtesy Leslie McLellan Tourism Currents

Film friendly destination display info board about movies filmed in Lake Arrowhead CA (courtesy Leslie McLellan)

It’s fun for both locals and visitors to see what parts of your area have made it to the “Big Screen.”

Something to Remember

Big budget productions are few and far between. However, TV show episodes, commercials, and even print ads are also planned through local and state/province film offices. So, as you put your list of film assets together, think about all the different types of filming your destination would be perfect for.


PS. Our whole focus is teaching you and/or your partners how to use digital destination marketing to bring more visitors to your town (when the time is right for that.)

Let us know if you need workshop or conference speakers – including virtual/webinars – or would like some personalized coaching and consulting.

If you want to bounce some ideas around about working with us, ping us through our Contact page.

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