Linn Sitler

Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner

 

Linn Sitler is the longest serving film commissioner in the world. She was hired by then-Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission Chairman Blanchard E. Tual, Chairman Emeritus David Porter, and Board Member Dr. Richard Ranta in 1987. 2017 marked her 30th year as Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner. She is the only film commissioner in the state of Tennessee who has received professional certification from The Association of Film Commissioners International. There are currently less than 50 film commissioners in the entire world who have earned this certification.

Linn has been the Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner since 1987.  During this time, MovieMaker Magazine has selected Memphis eight times to its list of “Top Ten Movie Cities.” The city has won this international award the last four years – 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. The selection has been based on written presentations Sitler has made extolling the positive attributes of Memphis as a “film-friendly” city.

In 2016, Linn was one of only three women selected as a “Legend” by The Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. Her fellow honorees were philanthropist Honey Scheidt and Beverly Robertson, founding executive director of The National Civil Rights Museum. Linn was selected by the Foundation for the Legend’s “Innovation Award” due to her establishing Memphis as a film center back in the late 1980s through the 90s to the present time.

At the annual convention of the Tennessee Communications Association this fall, Linn was presented with the “Communicator of the Year Award.” Past recipients selected by the statewide membership of communications professionals and scholars include Governor Haslam and UT’s legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt.

She has been selected many times to Memphis Magazine's "Who’s Who" annual list and in the last several years as a “Power Player” by Inside Memphis Business. To mark her 20th anniversary as Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner, a historic marker was erected on South Main Street in front of The Arcade Restaurant in downtown Memphis. The marker honors Sitler and other pioneers important to the birth and development of moviemaking in modern Memphis. For her work to secure the passage of Tennessee’s first significant state film incentive legislation, The Visual Content Act, The Commercial Appeal selected Sitler that year as one of “12 Persons Who Made A Difference.” Among various awards she has received are: “The President’s Award” from Carnival Memphis; The On Location: Memphis International Film & Music Fest "Vision Award"; the "Mary Jane Coleman Award" –named after the founder of The Nashville Film Festival; “The Mid-South Newsmaker of the Year/Headliner Award” from The Memphis Gridiron Show; and “The Outstanding Community Sales Award” from The Sales & Marketing Executives of Memphis, Inc. She has also received various local and international marketing awards, which she shares with Deputy Film Commissioner Sharon Fox O’Guin.

It has been estimated that close to $100 million has been left in Memphis & Shelby County due to the work of The Commission during her tenure. Literally thousands of jobs have been created. From feature films to commercials to still shoots, Commission clients have been hiring locals and offering them advancement in their careers since Sitler began. In 2004, she put together with the then Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton a “soft” incentive package of City services, real estate, and personnel for 20th Century Fox’s “Walk the Line.” The package helped convince 20th Century Fox to shoot here, rather than in incentive-rich Louisiana. Together with the Tennessee Entertainment Commission, she and Deputy Film Commissioner Sharon Fox O’Guin recruited the CMT TV series, “Sun Records” (initially known as “Million Dollar Quartet”) to Memphis. According to official state records, its estimated direct Tennessee “spend” was predicted to be over $17 million.

She returned to Memphis to earn an M.A. Degree in Communications with a concentration in Film/TV from the then-Memphis State University. Her Master's Degree Practicum, a half-hour documentary on Tennessee Williams, was the first Master’s Degree Practicum ever financed by WKNO-TV. The documentary was selected to kick off the 1979 WKNO programming season.

She is perhaps best remembered for the “PM Magazine” television program in which she was forced to escape on-camera a charging bull by throwing herself in an Olympic-like leap over Houston Gordon’s electrified farm fence outside of Covington. In 1984, she relocated to California and became a TV travel reporter/producer/writer syndicated to 40 U.S. markets and "Good Morning Australia." After later re-locating back to Tennessee, a freelance stint with Nashville's PBS affiliate won her an Emmy nomination for a feature story she did on "The Imperial Tombs of China." From the late 1980s until 2015, she worked freelance as an on-air film critic in Memphis for first FM-100 and later Fox 13. She has also written for national and regional publications – including locally The Commercial Appeal and The Memphis Business Journal.