Mylan Dockery has keen insight on opening up the area’s burgeoning film industry. The producer’s ideas center around the talent pool, infrastructure and a particularly inscrutable force known as the Alabama State Legislature.
“They see how well greater incentives are doing around us. It’s working for other states, so why don’t we do more?” Dockery asked.
Dockery should know, considering his quick film industry ascent. Just a decade ago, the native Mobilian graduated from Baker High School and pushed off for Full Sail University, the for-profit school in Orlando, Florida, specializing in entertainment and media fields. It quickly paid off.
“I got a job as a production assistant when they filmed ‘BBQ Pitmasters’ out at the fairgrounds for TLC, I think it was,” Dockery said.
The one-month cooking show opened a door to a New Jersey buddy’s apartment and a production assistant job on “The Million Second Quiz” game show. Dockery commuted 90 minutes, five to six days a week, to his Big Apple gig where he waded into a relentless current.
“It was beyond hectic. There’s a lot of moving pieces, a lot of moving people, from load-in to live production to load-out. It is non-stop, 14-hour days,” Dockery said.
Diligence and self-applied pressure optimized the learning experience. As always, connections were prime.
One of those led to production assistant work on the 2014 feature film “This Is Where I Leave You” starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Jane Fonda. He was glad to extend his New York stay.
“The game show was on NBC but this was my first major film, so I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m really in there. I just have to keep pressing,’” Dockery said.
Previous Mobile contacts heard about his uptick. He landed on one of the “Hayride” pictures shot in Baldwin County and impressed the production coordinator. She offered him work in her office for the Nicolas Cage 2014 film “Rage” that filmed in Mobile.
After a short break for personal reasons, Dockery re-entered the film world set on higher goals. He became a production coordinator, then a unit production manager, then a line producer and is now a full producer.
Dockery has been busy the past year with a film being shot in Tuscaloosa and another in Birmingham. Film industry opportunity has picked up so much it bumped into the limitations of locally based talent.
While experienced crew exists for one or two films at a time, it is quickly stretched thin. But when he turns to seasoned outside talent, local hopefuls grouse.
“Producers and directors aren’t going to take the chance to put you in an outsized role. If you drop the ball several times, it’s going to cost them more money and time to replace you,” Dockery said.
Initially, production prefers to hire locals. It is far more efficient to avoid paying transportation, housing or per diems and meets quotas for state tax incentives. Dockery’s advice: Pay dues and work up to it.
He still touts hometown loyalties. Dockery mentioned a current development project of huge proportions – a budget that could buy a trip to the International Space Station and a director with two armfuls of Academy Awards – but with a logistics issue.
“It would be a great opportunity for the state and the crew here. It could shoot here, but we don’t have the infrastructure,” Dockery said.
Required are the enormous Brookley hangars Steven Spielberg used to film 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Since those are now occupied by active industry, the film will likely land at Pinewood Atlanta Studios with its wealth of sound stages ranging up to 40,000 square feet.
“It’s going to be a lot of set builds, interior and exterior sets, which is why I need the sound stages or warehouse space,” Dockery said.
The producer has tried to drum up investors for bigger local facilities, maybe a smaller-scale Pinewood, or even a good camera house so he isn’t constantly renting pricey film equipment from Los Angeles, Atlanta or New Orleans.
The $20 million cap on state tax incentives is a monumental block, though. One big picture like the aforementioned warehouse-eater would exceed the cap quickly.
“The legislature needs to increase that cap or make it unlimited. They see how well it’s done at $20 million and it has amazing numbers,” Dockery said.
By his account, Georgia is crowded now. Alabama just needs a little refinement to capitalize.
“There are films that want to come here all the time. Our incentives move faster and there’s more of the perks, but these other things we need,” Dockery said.
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