nash_lede.jpgVisually speaking, San Francisco has endless scenery to be captured on camera — our famous skylines, sprawling parks and nature reserves, the hustle and bustle of downtown, and the eclectic mix of old and new architecture. Despite that, many TV shows and movies set in San Francisco don’t actually shoot here, settling for locales they say are friendlier to their productions. The San Francisco Film Commission is intent on changing that, asserting that they plan on beating SF’s film and TV production stats from last year.

In 2009, 309 permits were issued for feature films, TV series, documentaries and commercials, for 645 days of filming. Despite this decrease from 2008 and the two years previous, thanks to the recession, the Commission believes they can recover from their losses by providing incentives to encourage regular filming in the city. And maybe they’re right — we’ve already seen an upswing in productions the first few months of 2010.

In July 2009, legislation approved by the Board of Supervisors gave some eligible productions a refund of city fees and local payroll taxes of up to $400,000 per production, as long as 65 percent of principal photography took place in SF for budgets of $3 million or more, or 55 percent of principal photography for budgets less than $3 million.

The Film Commission recognizes that realistically, no amount of rebate programs will allow our television and film market to bypass our biggest California competitor – Hollywood. However, San Francisco has one thing glitzy Los Angeles doesn’t – a versatile look with which producers can transport stories that take place elsewhere, and film them in SF. San Francisco-based director Philip Kaufman fought to film “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” here, an HBO production with Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen, despite the story taking place in China, Cuba, Spain and Key West. That production, is expected to bring in 800 local jobs.

“What’s ironic is we’re shooting for everything but San Francisco – and that’s what’s really fun, you can really shoot the world here,” said Trish Hofmann, one of the producers. Although the film begins production in February on Pier 80, $500,000 has already been spent on pre-production costs.

Hofman’s not the only one who thinks SF can be anywhere — in her column Monday, Leah Garchik noted that Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant recently stood in for a Dallas location in an AT&T Yellow Pages commercial.

According to the Film Commission, it’s in the city’s best interest to be wherever film producers want us to be; with every $1 a production spends, the city gets back $2.95, according to Susannah Greason Robbins, the Commission’s new executive director.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • Greg Dewar

    Um….What???

    Seriously, did anyone check out some facts about LA and why Hollywood is even based there before writing this?

    Los Angeles can look like (and does) like most places and the climate is relatively stable, hence why Hollywood is Hollywood and not Elsewhere. yes SF has lovely buildings and what not, but the weather here can be unpredictable, and many costs are incurred that do not exist in LA (i.e. paying production assistants, for one).

    Vancouver offers similar advantages, and has the big advantage of having National Health Care and not nearly as NIMBY infected as SF.

    SF will never be competitive until it has permanent sound-stages to make filming of TV shows and movies economically viable. It’s not the baubles offered by local government to multinationals that will make us competitive, it’s being able to consolidate production like it used to be during the filming of Streets of SF in the 70s and so on.