Nevada Film Office director works to feature Nevada onscreen

Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.

Eric Preiss never planned on a career in movies and television.

The Las Vegas native, a graduate of Chaparral High and UNLV, spent two decades working as a CPA and in the casino industry before becoming director of the Nevada Film Office in November 2013.

“It’s an interesting kind of career path,” Preiss, 46, admits. But he says it isn’t that different from any of his other jobs: “When we look at film and television, it is a business like any other. The skills that it takes are the skills to create relationships, to build relationships, to provide a valuable service, to connect companies with the resources they need to get things done.”

About 1,000 film permits are issued each year in Clark County. Countless more productions film on private property, which doesn’t require a permit. All of them, though, have one thing in common: local jobs and money going to local businesses.

Review-Journal: You work with major Hollywood productions, but I’m assuming it isn’t always very glamorous.

Preiss: What is so interesting about what we do at the film office is, we work with the smallest projects. We work with student films and help them find what they need so that they can be successful all the way up to the biggest projects, and “Jason Bourne” is a perfect example of that. We met with them at least 10 months prior to them actually hitting the ground and filming just because of the extreme amount of coordination that something like that takes.

What exactly does the Nevada Film Office do?

Whether it’s “Jason Bourne,” whether it’s the last season of “Vegas Cakes,” whether it’s the next season of “Pawn Stars,” everything we do is centered around three things. How can we connect (local crew members) with more employment opportunities? Because we want them to be working, and we want them to be busy, and we want them to be successful. How can we get these productions to use Nevada vendors, Nevada businesses, whether it’s lighting and grip, catering or hotels? … And three, how do we get them to use more Nevada locations reflecting the diversity of everything that Nevada has to offer, both on the Strip and outside of the Strip?

How much of your job involves promoting the city and state as a production location versus working with producers who already want to film here and making sure that happens?

Because we are Las Vegas and Nevada, and we are one of the most well-known cities in the world, there exists just an inherent interest in what happens in Vegas. A lot of productions want to come here to film. So how we assist those productions is helping them find everything they need to get that done. But then there are those productions that aren’t sure where they want to film and we have to market to them to get them here. … We’re out at conventions annually. We’re at trade shows. We’re going to industry events to continually promote the state of Nevada as a film destination. It’s fairly competitive around the world. I would say right now it’s probably the most competitive it’s ever been.

How hard is it to compete with states that offer generous tax incentives?

The tax incentive gets a lot of attention, but it’s really one aspect of what makes a place a good place to film. The incentives available definitely influence that decision. Is it the only thing? I don’t think so. There’s the natural locations that we have that drive production.

Most movies that film in Las Vegas are like one-night stands: They come in, get the bare minimum they need and hit the road. Is part of your job trying to convince them to stay longer?

Whether it’s a big film and they plan on coming here one day and that’s their plan — OK, that’s your plan, but how can we get you to hire as many locals as possible? And then once we start that conversation with them, we educate them about what we have to offer locally. How can we look at their initial plan, and how can we expand that plan to say, ‘You know, you can also get these other shots here in Las Vegas. You should stay longer than you planned’? We’re taking that one-day shoot, and we’re trying to make it a three-day shoot. We’re taking that two-week shoot and trying to make it a month shoot. Every additional job that we can create, every additional expense that they can incur in Nevada through a local vendor, it’s all part of the puzzle, from the biggest to the smallest production.

How involved was your office in something like “Show Dogs,” which just opened last weekend?

That’s a good example of a movie that’s going to highlight local Las Vegas locations on and off the Strip. It’s a family-friendly film that will attract a wide audience, so in that particular case we worked pretty closely with them. Every production is different. The smarter productions will take advantage of what we have to offer.

Is there anything big coming up that you can talk about?

The stuff that is starting to shoot here, typically the production company does not want us to talk about, because it could create a disruption in production if it gets too much attention. … We’re happy to, and we want to, promote those things to the extent that they want us to. We act as a PR partner to help them get the word out.

What’s it like for you to see the finished product for the first time?

One of my favorite things is to sit through the credits, all the way through the credits. Being in the film office, seeing names that you recognize, people you’ve talked with on the phone, people you’ve met with, people in the community who worked on that film, and then you see their name come across the screen and you know you had a part in helping them get that opportunity? That to me is very gratifying, that we connected those opportunities so those people could do what they love and work in the industry they love. Also seeing it on the screen, it’s my hometown. I grew up here. I spent my whole life here. Seeing it on the screen makes me feel like we really are promoting this city and this state to an international audience, which is going to benefit our economy and everyone involved.

Getting to know: Eric Preiss

Favorite movie: “ ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ I love it. I love it. It’s a story about redemption. It has every quote you could imagine.”

Favorite made-in-Vegas movie: “It’s cliche, maybe, but I could watch ‘The Hangover’ a million times.”

The last show or concert you attended? “I went to Eric B. & Rakim at the House of Blues.”

Favorite thing about Las Vegas? “You can do anything and everything on the Strip and then 20 minutes later be out at Red Rock, hiking a trail, and it’s like the city is a whole world away.”

Last book you read? “My favorite book of all time, and a book I reread on a regular basis, is Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ I’ve read it a million times, and every time I feel like I’m not doing what I need to be doing, I pick it up and I read it again.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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