San Francisco city leaders are extending a film rebate program that over the last 13 years is credited with helping to revive the city’s ailing movie-making industry.
The city is adding another nine years to the program which began in 2006 in response to a drought of film making in a city known as the backdrop for classic films such as Vertigo and Bullitt.
“I just think that it does so much for our tourism industry,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed addressing the importance of local productions. “It does so much for attracting visitors who want to see such amazing landmarks that exist in our city.”
Since the rebate program began, twenty-seven film productions have taken advantage of the incentives including films like Milk, Blue Jasmine and NBC’s Trauma. The San Francisco Film Commission said the city has rebated more than $5.5 million to productions for costs like police security, street permits and the rental of buildings on city property. The tradeoff from the city’s perspective is that productions have hired more than fifteen thousand local actors and union workers during that time, and infused roughly $15 per dollar rebated into the local economy.
“It also means economic prosperity for our small businesses,” Breed said, “especially our restaurants, the film crew, some of the actors come from San Francisco.”
The program requires filmmakers to shoot at least half of each film within the city in order to potentially recoup up to $600 thousand in fees paid to the city. Film rebate programs have become highly competitive with states like Louisiana and Georgia offering steep discounts in order to attract productions.
“Across the country and in other parts of the world there are lots of different rebates,” said film producer Suzanne Todd. “So obviously you have to go with the most competitive one.”
In the case of the film Lexi, which is currently shooting around San Francisco, Todd said the city’s incentives tipped the scales toward the production choosing to film in the city. The six-week production has shot in numerous neighborhoods from the Castro to North Beach to The Tenderloin.
“If there was no rebate we would not be able to do it at all,” Todd said. “For many years California really struggled with finding the money in the state budget to be able to have a rebate.”
On a day last week in the Castro, the production crew of Lexi moved swifly from location to location, a whirling dervish of activity as crews set-up shots around the film’s star Adam DeVine. Mayor Breed briefly popped by the set, posing for a photo with DeVine and touting the marketing value of San Francisco appearance on the big screen.
“It’s going to be exciting for us,” Breed said, “because people are going to want to come to San Francisco because of this film.”
Bay Area-based production crews said the last three years especially have been a boon for local workers with films like Venom and Netflix’ Sense8 working around the city and the area.
“It’s so great for us those of us who live and work here locally to have a film that’s here for 30 days,” said location scout Sharlene Duale.
On a normally quiet residential corner of Liberty and Noe Streets, dozens of crew members unloaded gear — set up massive lights — staged cameras and rehearsed their shot with a stand-in, the city’s storied hills serving as background. Finally DeVine was ready for his scene, a brief walking shot past the camera and into a car that chewed-up all of fifteen seconds. The director called “cut” and the frenzy began again — off to another location — all in the pursuit of movie magic.