Long dry spell may be coming to an end for SF film biz


In the film "Going the Distance," the male lead is in New York while the female lead, played by Drew Barrymore, is in San Francisco. Yet Barrymore's scenes were shot in New York.

"There's actually a tax incentive to shoot in New York, so for budgetary reasons we had to shoot most of the film in New York," says director Nanette Burstein.

"It's expensive to film here," says Lorrae Rominger, president of the San Francisco Film Commission. "That's just the bottom line, and with the economy the way it is today, that it's about money."

Rominger says San Francisco has to be competitive.

"New York is a city that really gets it," she says. "They understand how much money that the film industry brings into your economy."

Turnabout is fair play. The musical "Rent," set in New York, was shot in San Francisco. Seven years ago, 'The Matrix' shot in Oakland and Alameda; it meant $10 million in income according to Oakland film coordinator Amy Zins.

But that is the past.

"We had a dry spell for about six or seven years. We invested," says San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "We are the only city in California that has tax incentives -- film tax incentives -- San Francisco. But it's still not been enough."

Those incentives give back a percentage of the money spent on city services and payroll taxes. Newsom says part of the problem was that California was dragging its heels. But the state has presented $100 million in film incentives this year.

State film commissioner Amy Lemisch says loss of movie projects has cost the state billions in lost wages and thousands of jobs. However, there is hope. After all, the Bay Area has a film legacy of great classics, and we can make claims for being Hollywood North with Pixar in Emeryville and "Toy Story 3," and ILM in the Presidio and LucasFilm in Marin, home of the "Star Wars" empire.

And things are changing. Part of Clint Eastwood's brilliant "Hereafter" was filmed in San Francisco.

"I think we just have to try to make our odds a little better," says Rominger.

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