With no discussion, Rock Island aldermen on Monday unanimously approved renewal of a contract to create a new regional film office.
The Rock Island City Council originally approved a consultant services agreement with Davenport-based Two Rivers & Associates, Inc. in May 2022, with support of a $65,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Doug Miller of Two Rivers & Associates was contracted for $1,665 per month (starting July 1, 2022) to establish the film office to better market the Quad Cities to attract film, TV and other media production in the area.
The plans have been underway for several years, and funding was made available by the state through a non-competitive grant after advocacy from locals in the Illinois QC who saw an opportunity to incorporate the film industry into regional economic development efforts, said Miles Brainard, Rock Island director of community and economic development, on Tuesday morning.
Unfortunately, the non-competitive grant became available just as the global pandemic hit and so the city was delayed in moving forward with the effort for a couple of years.
Miller was contracted with the city since he “has decades of experience in the film industry and a wide network of professional contacts that the city was eager to tap into,” Brainard said. “In the year since Mr. Miller was brought onboard, he has assisted in many different ways to further the development of a film office.
“In collaboration with Holly Sparkman, another local advocate for the film office, he has helped get a website up and running, as well as get the word out about the Quad Cities area being a great location for film work,” he said.
Under the city contract, Miller’s responsibilities were to:
- Advise city staff in the creation of an ordinance for Rock Island to streamline the application and permitting process.
- Recommend any needed city permits.
- Work with city staff to develop a Memorandum of Agreement to be signed off by participating communities/stakeholders of the Film Office.
- Develop a website to showcase the Quad Cities region as a filming destination and provide information about the region.
- Make a recommendation for membership to the Association of Film Commissioners International.
- Identify and create a report for available workforce, workforce needed, required training including cost and a plan to conduct the training, and recommendations on how to grow workforce.
- Prepare documentation for facilities that can house productions.
- Advise staff in efforts to support existing and emerging local filmmakers.
- Guide assessment of feasibility of the concept of a film festival either as a stand-alone event or as a complement to an existing event.
- Provide updates on industry news.
- Provide referrals to the Film Office and respond to referrals from the Film Office.
The new website – qcregionalfilm.com – has very little information on it, other than a home page with three paragraphs about locations and economic incentives and no links to any other sites.
The establishment of a film office has been slow moving due to constraints on city staff time, however, Brainard said Tuesday, In light of that, the city plans to issue an RFP in coming weeks seeking a second consultant to complete the work of establishing the film office.
This second consultant will supplement the work being done by Two Rivers & Associates. In order to facilitate continuity in this ongoing effort, the City Council Monday approved renewing the same contract with Two Rivers & Associates through Dec. 31, 2023.
The second consultant would work with Miller to take on more of the operational work of the film office, Brainard said. City staff will handle the background work of grant administration, Miller will provide professional consulting services, and the second consultant will do the remaining heavy lifting, the director noted.
“That may include organizing special events, film festivals, recruiting productions to the area, and things of that sort,” Brainard said, noting the state appears poised to increase funding for this effort and “the city is excited to ramp up the development of the film office with the help of additional partners,” he said.
“City staff are pulled in many different directions and grant administration alone, the monthly reporting and such, takes up a lot of time,” Brainard said. “Mr. Miller was hired only to advise on the film industry, not to run the operations of a film office.
“He has fulfilled his contract obligations, but city staff have not been able to allocate time to do the rest of the work,” he said. “That is why the second consultant is necessary. The concern, in other words, is that the effort will not be able to reach its full potential unless additional help is recruited. At present, there is no set time frame for hiring that second consultant nor are there any cost estimates for the hire.
“Very loosely, staff hope to have that second consultant under contract by this fall and develop a clearer plan on how to proceed with the film office effort by the end of the year,” Brainard added.