On the Case: Cosmo Inserra
You may know Cosmo Inserra â?? San Antonian, producer at Well Rounded Films, actor (notably in the recent indie film Buster), musician, writer, and most recently, citizen investigator of the San Antonio Film Commission (SAFC).
You may be saying to yourself, “The hell? There's a San Antonio Film Commission?” Yep. The SAFC is a subset of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau (SACVB), which hired Drew Mayer-Oakes in 2004 to lure film productions to SA, as explained in this story.
But just what are they up to over there, nigh on five years hence? I'm not sure I even would've wondered, except that Cosmo bcc'ed me on a pretty feisty e-mail he wrote to Film Commissioner Mayer Oakes, Janet Vasquez (location coordinator for SAFC), Mayor Phil Hardberger, and Dawn Larios (Director of Constituent Services in the Mayor's Office).
Here's the e-mail:
Film San Antonio Please!
today in the news i read a great story in the chicago tribune here is the link
My question to you and to Janet and to Mayor Hardberger and to Dawn Larios and to the other fifteen people I BCC'd Is..to put it bluntly... What exactly do you do for this city? You have been the "Film Commissioner" for quite a number of years and there has yet to be a major or even a slightly minor motion picture shot in San Antonio for almost a decade. Now don't get the tone of this email confused, this is purely an inquisition into your public service record. It is not a personal attack, nor is it to be construed as anything more than concerns from a constituent of Mayor Hardberger and a taxpaying hardworking citizen of San Antonio. Therefore I am formally requesting a full audit of your office for the last ten years. Performance is paramount to public service and all I'm really asking for is a performance report. I think I and my fellow denizens of this great city are well deserving of such a modest request, considering our tax dollars go into your bank account. Obviously I will follow the proper channels to obtain such a report or audit. I just thought I would drop you a line to let you know I will be investigating further into this matter. I hope such an investigation does not offend you.
Wow. So I e-mailed Cosmo, and he told me that “investigating further” = Cosmo got in touch with Diane Cibrian's office , where an assistant told Cosmo he'd have to have to “get the record from the city attorney.”
I did a little research about that. Not so, for the record. FYI, any of y'all who wanna conduct a little ad hoc look-see into public records, go here . Fill out the form. Be specific about what you want, but also, inclusive (e.g., “all correspondence pertaining to City of San Antonio permits for on-location filming, including e-mails). They've gotta get back to you within 10 days.
In any case, the Film Commissioner wrote Cosmo back, which is pretty cool. Check it out:
Thanks for sending the Chicago story over. State financial incentives are a huge factor in attracting feature film and television production to a state. Texas has a program, but needs to be improved to become competitive. Our office serves a vital role in the moving image industry, and I would prefer our time be spent meeting with you to bring you up to speed on what all we do.
Last fiscal year, for instance, our office assisted over $10M worth of film and video production. Those projects accounted for more than 400 shoot days, and included films and television programs seen around the world. Janet Vasquez, our location coordinator, personally processed over 160 park film permit requests, resulting in many of the City's most beautiful parks being seen by millions of viewers.
And recently, you should review the Express-News' 210SA (February 18-24), which did a cover story on San Antonio independent filmmakers. All eight of the filmmakers featured have solid working relationships with our office, and utilize our location services, our production liaison services, our film permitting services, and benefit from our marketing efforts.
Cosmo, we are all in a fight right now to get film production business. I've been working diligently over the last few years to provide high quality services to film production in the city, and we are highly regarded by those we serve. I have also been working very hard on getting a new, competitive film incentive passed at the state level, and we are close to achieving that goal.
The moving image industry is an important component of the creative industry in our City, and includes much more than Hollywood motion pictures.
Please let me know how I can better communicate with you about what we do, and whom we serve. I'm available to meet with you regarding this matter.
Film Marketing Manager, City of San Antonio
Director, Film San Antonio / San Antonio Film Commission
San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau
203 S St Mary's, 2nd Floor
San Antonio, Texas 78205
tel 210.207.6730 | 800.447.3372 | cell 210.394.6117
fax 210.207.6843 | tty 210.207.6706
Film San Antonio is a Member of AFCI - Association of Film Commissions International
Did you know Texas has a new film incentive program? The TEXAS PRODUCTION INCENTIVE PROGRAM has specific benefits for shooting in San Antonio!
Drew's BLOG: filmsa. blogspot .com
P Please consider the environment before printing this email / Learn more about Film San Antonio's Low-Impact policies at filmsanantonio.com
To which Dawn Larios replied (to Drew, not Cosmo, though Cosmo was cc-ed):
Thank you for your response to Mr. Inserra, and all that you do for the City of San Antonio!
Dawn Ann Larios
Director of Constituent Services
Mayor's Commission on the Status of Women
Office of Mayor Phil Hardberger
PO Box 839966
San Antonio, Texas 78283-3966
Soâ?¦okay. I appreciate Mayer-Oakes's rattlin' off some numbers, there. And I love the idea of 400 shooting days, and that they “assisted with $10M worth” of movies â?¦though, wherefore this $10M? Who's spending it, and who's getting paidâ??are we talking full budgets of all the productions that filmed, or partially filmed, here? What did the city get from that, and does any of it go back to promoting local productions? What does that mean, exactly? And the “160 park film permit requests, resulting in many of the City's most beautiful parks being seen by millions of viewers”â?¦neat. Why have I never seen them? Is it all butt porn? Because I'm not so into that, and I can totally see my having missed frame after frame of Brackenridge Park if it served as the backdrop to, like, Culos Conjuntos #14. (Don't h8! Apparently some underground booty film was discovered being shot on the grounds of the Alamo!)
Sorry, that was a little glib, but my point is this: what should the SAFC be doing for the local scene? All Cosmo wants to know is, what is it actually doing?
I called up Raina James, director of the forthcoming Just Murdered, who I interviewed for a story about her San Antonio shoot some months ago. She's dealt with the SAFC, she said, and asserts that Drew Mayer-Oaks is a “perfectly groovy guy,” and that he helped her scout locations. She further put into context that his abilities are limited by the fact that Texas is in a rough position since “two states that border us, Louisiana and New Mexico, have some of the most insane film incentives in the whole country.”
A-ha! Maybe this is why Oliver Stone's “W” was filmed largely inâ?¦Shreveport.
Apparently, Mayer-Oaks and others have spearheaded fundraising in order to hire a lobbyist for film interests, who would, at the state level, agitate for better film incentives in Texas. However, James says, “what `film incentives` will really involve is Governor Rick Perry getting off his fat assâ?¦or, rather, his skinny, bony ass. You can quote me on that.”
James went on to say that several factors affect San Antonio's relative dearth of film projects. Although it's “an incredible cityâ?¦.I mean, I can't think of another city with locations like we have, where you can go to one location `to represent` 200 years ago, and not far away, there's a location `which represents` 200 years from now”. However, she draws a distinction between the city trying to lure major film projects, and the need to nurture local ones. She laments the lack of business/technical infrastructure compared to Austin, where “every third person you meet is either a musician or a filmmakerâ?¦so there are tons of businesses who rent equipment, from a dolly for fifty dollars a day to a bad-ass crane for 50K, to post-production facilitiesâ?¦we just don't have that here yet.”
Raina James also emailed me some fantastic links which help to paint the entire picture:
She e-mailed me, also, with some terrific links about Texas, film, and the hurdles therein:
Here are some articles and websites that pertain to our conversation earlier today:
All that being said - these film programs and incentives as well as the office of the Film Commission are really geared towards bringing large projects from LA, New York, and internationals. The theory/incentive for locals to support these efforts is to get hired occasionally on a contract basis (moving lights, brewing coffee, ironing costumes, etc.) and to put money into the pockets of regional vendors who have the connections and gear to get hired on as rental providers.
As an indie filmmaker you can only hope for a film commission that returns your calls and helps you out and Drew is very friendly and down-to-earth in that regard.
So it may be that Raina James, Cosmo Inserra, and Drew Mayer-Oaks are all on the same team, all pulling for better filmic opportunity for San Antonians.
Cosmo Inserra would just like to know some of the particulars. Like, you know, any.
We'll keep you posted.