"Bay Area Film Commissions: Partners in Production"

by Scott Trimble, Bay Area Casting News, April 2000

Last month's article outlined some locally-filmed television shows and concluded with our hopes for new ones to soon arrive. Who do we have, though, that will attract these and other productions to town? This important task belong to the film commissions.

The greater Bay Area has twelve, covering most regions: San Francisco, Sonoma County, Vallejo, Napa, Contra Costa County, Berkeley, Oakland, Tri-Valley, San José, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Mateo County. Each has staff members who work hard at bringing jobs to Bay Area actors and crew. Some of the offices are part of the Convention & Visitors Bureau or Mayor's Office, but several are in the Community & Economic Development Agency for this very reason.

The film offices begin by finding out the latest Hollywood scoop through Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Production Weekly, Northern California Movie News, Ain't it Cool News, trade shows, and film festivals. They will then send to the productions the packets of regional information which present photos of cool places to shoot, information on tax incentives, convenient lists of local services, etc.

Hopefully, a scout will then browse the film office's photo library or go out and take new photographs for the director. The film commissions go out of their way to help in this process. Ami Zins, of the Oakland Film Commission, is very receptive to visiting scouts and has come up with some unique ideas to help them — including rides in Oakland Police Department helicopters to get aerial views of the city.

P.J. Johnston represents San Francisco, the most popular destination for film productions — every day of the week there is shooting going on somewhere in The City. Consequently, the residents might get understandably frustrated at lost parking spaces, bright lights, and noise. The film commissions thus have a second important task of acting as liaisons between the community and the production. Yes, they do entice movies to come here, but they won't allow them to take advantage of the residents.

Besides acting as a one-stop place for scouting, crew lists, casting, vendors, etc., the film offices also cut red tape. For example, Catherine DePrima, of the Sonoma County Film Commission, made it easier to obtain film permits by creating a single application that covers their five largest cities.

Joe O'Kane, of San José, and Jim Reikowsky of Vallejo, streamlined the process for their regions by getting rid of film permit fees altogether. As Joe puts it, "Why charge the measly $100-300 when the production will bring thousands of dollars to town anyway?" Ultimately, this money is important because it makes worthwhile some of the hassle for the community since it goes back to helping them and their neighborhood, not to mention all our actors and crew who are no longer out of work.

The cities of Oakland and San Francisco have hotlines for cast and crew information: 510-238-FILM and 415-554-4004 respectively. For links to all of the Bay Area film commission websites, go to http://sfbay.stst.net/Links/NorthernCalifornia/

©2000 Bay Area Casting News