Can Beloit be the next best thing for filmmakers? If you ask Nancy Clark-Mather, it’s a resounding yes – and she believes she’s just the woman to make it happen.
Beloit is ready for its close-up, and it’s all because of Nancy Clark-Mather. The serial entrepreneur and hometown advocate is on a mission to put the region’s rich industrial history, scenic riverside location and diverse cultural heritage on the film industry’s map.
“Los Angeles is where the big action has historically resided, but we’re trying to bring it here to the Driftless Area,” she says. “The coasts are saturated and it’s expensive there. We have a beautiful renaissance city here and it’s important we make that known.”
But first, it takes a tireless communicator who can provide that link between film producers and cities like Beloit. That’s where Clark-Mather and her Beloit FilmWorks enter the picture. The one-woman business is a location scouting and management service that facilitates the work of independent filmmakers and commercial productions when they come to town.
Clark-Mather’s work goes beyond simply providing a list of available locations. She prefers to take a more hands-on approach.
“I like to bring a filmmaker to Beloit and personally show them around to see our many locations, for example the Beloit College campus, our hotel venues, The Castle at 501 Prospect and even the old water tower,” says Clark-Mather. “This familiarization tour – called a fam tour – allows a potential client to consider what they’ve written, then envision their work in a specific location, and very importantly, this gives them the reassurance that we have a place for their project and they won’t have to navigate a big city.”
In addition to providing fam tours, Clark-Mather also ensures filmmakers have everything they need, from equipment, lodging and catering to props, casting and extras. She even operates as a liaison, on standby in case anything comes up when film crews are working.
“I have to be on site if a film comes here,” says Clark-Mather. “Last weekend I was on location for 15 hours a day.”
Coordinating the work of a film crew is no small feat. It requires communication with venues and coordination with municipalities, particularly when permits are needed or special permissions are required, such as a scene involving public transportation. Clark-Mather has the inside scoop here, too.
“When you think about films, how many have you seen where there’s a film shoot on a bus?” asks Clark-Mather. “When you have a small town with someone who knows the transit people and the city manager, they’re going to make those things happen. I haven’t had the opportunity to provide a crane yet, but if I need to, I know where to get one.”
A cinephile at heart, Clark-Mather began studying and writing screenplays in 2018 after retiring from SwedishAmerican Health System. In 2019, she joined the board of the Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF), an annual 10-day event that showcases independent films from across the globe.
Clark-Mather’s work with BIFF introduced her to a community of filmmakers, directors and producers alike, and many provided inspiration and encouragement to continue her journey. It was there that she met Nicholas Simon, who was raised in Beloit and now runs Indochina Productions, a Bangkok, Thailand-based firm that supports creative productions in southeast Asia.
“We took him all around Beloit and he loved it,” says Clark-Mather. “He advised me to open a location company here. He said we needed an advocate. He arranged a meeting with Location Managers Guild International in Los Angeles, they connected me with two scouts in northern California who talked me through the process, and I signed on immediately. I work with them frequently now.”
The potential for success seems so obvious to Clark-Mather. Over the past three decades, Beloit has undergone a major transformation. Former industrial properties have taken on a new life and the downtown has undergone a total renaissance.
With so much change occurring, Clark-Mather carefully considers how Beloit will be represented when she’s approached by filmmakers. She wants to see the city’s best side onscreen.
“Many members of this community have lived here their entire lives and can and should be sensitive to how Beloit is presented to the rest of the world,” she adds. “I need them to understand exactly what we are trying to accomplish here, in any given production. Things in this business can move very quickly and I need to be sure the producers and the community are on the same page, comfortable with what’s happening. I want the city to know that I am reliable, that I care.”
Clark-Mather moved to Beloit four years ago and built relationships and positioned herself as a trusted connection. In the process, she’s become a tireless volunteer, joining up with the likes of BIFF, Greater Beloit Economic Development Corp., Beloit Art Center, Downtown Beloit, business incubator Rock County JumpStart, Rotary, Meals on Wheels and Impact Beloit, a community outreach program aimed at connecting students at Beloit College with the community and local businesses.
All those local connections have come in handy with the 48-hour film projects Clark-Mather has assisted. In a 48-hour project, filmmakers from across the globe have two days to shoot a short film that plays to an assigned genre, character, prop and line of dialogue. The filmmakers present their work in certain regional screenings, and the winners advance to Filmapalooza, an international film festival of 48-hour projects.
One of those projects Clark-Mather worked on, “The Disappearance of Savanna Grinnell,” won the Madison, Wis., competition and went on to Filmapalooza in Los Angeles. More recently, she helped scout and manage for another 48-hour project titled “The Weight,” a film that touches on alcoholism.
“We shot that on April 29 here at The Castle, and it’s very high quality, already winning first place in several award categories,” says Clark-Mather. “I’m not boasting here, but it is important to take pride in knowing that what’s being filmed in Beloit is beating out the rest of the state.”
While short films have already found a welcoming home in Beloit, the prospect of a feature-length film shooting here would represent an extraordinary milestone, she says. To get to that place, Clark-Mather believes it’s important to continue building connections, landing clients and selling Beloit to producers outside Wisconsin.
Along the way, she expects she’ll need to grow her team and expand into more location scouting, which requires someone to traverse the local landscape and bring back images or video to entice faraway producers.
“I need to hire someone to go around and look for film locations,” says Clark-Mather. “I can’t do all that work alone. There is not enough time in one day for me to network, sell and liaison.”
Always seeking new connections, she encourages filmmakers and local venues to connect online at beloitfilmworks.com.
As the only film location production company in town, Clark-Mather feels an obligation to sell Beloit as a go-to destination for filmmakers across the globe.
She carries forth the inspiration that she’s not the only one who sees the potential.
“This charming city has given me the opportunity to grow professionally while aging in place,” says Clark-Mather. “It’s a friendly community, rich with education and culture. A filmmaker friend of mine described the people here as ‘aggressively friendly.’ I wouldn’t trade my place here for anything else out there. I’m on a mission, an obligation if you will, to add even more to our thriving community by creating opportunities for anyone interested in employment in the film industry.”