Supe proposes extending SF's film rebate program


San Francisco's film rebate program began in 2006 and is set to expire next year. Supervisor Mark Farrell wants to extend that by one year and expand its coverage so the city can compete with places like New Mexico, New York, and Vancouver.

San Francisco used to be able to rely on its beauty to lure movie makers, but no longer. Now, you need a little sweetener. "The bottom line was it's always important in a production," Kat Landsberg said. She is the producer for a new HBO series called "Looking," about the lives of three gay men.

They were shooting Tuesday in Tiburon, but most of the action is in San Francisco and the city's financial incentives were a draw. The program rebates up to $600,000 in fees paid to the city for things like permits and stage rentals. "Being able to access that rebate, we were able to put more on the screen than we would have if we hadn't," Landsberg said.

Now, Farrell wants to extend the program to web series like "House of Cards." "We want to make sure that here in the city of San Francisco, our legislation evolves to match how the industry's evolving, to make sure we capture all the different forms of film, media," he said.

Farrell is also proposing to increase the total rebate pot from $2 million to $3 million, which Supervisor John Avalos considers premature. "I'm not sure we need to increase the amount because I know there is still money in the rebate program that hasn't been used. So, I think it makes sense to actually increase the amount when we know we're going to need the money," he said.

The Film Commission says the perks are working. From 2006 to October of this year, the city paid out about $1.7 million in incentives and film productions generated about $42 million in spending. The city controller is expected to issue an in-depth analysis in December.

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