Ward Emling was born in New Orleans and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Millsaps College in Jackson, and spent two years at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England.
As an actor, he has appeared in productions at Millsaps College, The Little Theatre of Jackson, New Stage Theatre, The Back Alley Theatre in Los Angeles, and in London.
He was the Director of the Mississippi Film Office from 1981-83, before moving to Los Angeles where he worked as a location manager on television and feature projects, and as an actor in television, features, and national and regional commercials.
Ward returned to the Mississippi Film Office in 1990 and, before his retirement in 2017, guided the in-state productions of more than 300 television, feature and documentary productions, his favorites being My Dog Skip and Robert Altman’s Cookie’s Fortune. He created the Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive Program in 2004, and guided it through several enhancements and incarnations. Ward retired as the longest ever serving state or international film commissioner.
A member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) from 1994-2008, Ward was the President of the Association from 1998-2002, and was the recipient of the 2008 Arthur Lowe Crystal Vision Award for Outstanding Service to the AFCI. He is a member of the Millsaps College Board of Visitors. He was on the Board of Directors of New Stage Theatre in the early 90’s and served as the Artistic Director for the 1992 Season.