Filmmaking in San Diego – Supervisor Roberts and a County-Wide Film Commission

Supervisor Dave Roberts at Filmmakers meeting Tuesday

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending the San Diego Filmmakers meeting during their topic of discussion, “State of Film in San Diego.”  The key speaker was San Diego County’s 3rd District Supervisor Dave Roberts.  We as filmmakers have heard the battle cry for opening a new film commission since 2012, the day the old film commission closed, but have seen little to no activity within the government to bring this million-dollar industry back to America’s Finest City.

That all changed recently in a letter back on April 22nd, 2014, to the mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer. In this letter Supervisor Roberts started to lay our his plans to entice production companies to San Diego.  Supervisor Roberts was working with a group of individuals who headed up the San Diego Film Festival.  Chairman Dale Strack, President Kevin Leap and Vice President Tanya Mantooth were on board with Roberts’ six-part plan to bring productions back to San Diego.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Supervisor Roberts told the Filmmakers Meeting of his recently revised six-part plan to reopen the film commission, notes that he will be taking into his meeting with San Diego’s Mayor, Kevin Faulconer on August 28th.  Following each note from Supervisor Roberts is my opinion on his reasoning and my support on these key points.

1) Revise the permitting process.

Currently there are multiple names, phone numbers and regions in relation to where you would like to be permitted and who has the authority to grant access.  This process needs to be streamlined if we are to ever attract large budget films that will grow San Diego’s economy.

2) Organize the function of the film commission.

Back in 2012, while the commission was on its way out and during filming of my movie, the office was little more than a phone directory of people to contact.  The online location directory was dated and contact numbers were disconnected or in some cases the location didn’t exist due to gentrification or construction.

3) Increase incentives for film making in San Diego.

The film commission has explained in the past that there is a hotel tax credit for productions filmed in San Diego County.  This small compensation of approximately 10% on hotel bills will not be the deciding factor in bringing a 10 million dollar budget to town. “The incentive to film in San Diego should be more then just heads in beds” said Brent Altomare, Groovy Like A Movie owner and speaker at the Filmmaker’s meeting.

Side note: Unfortunately, no one — the San Diego Film Commission, The California State Film Commission, the hotel itself, nor my staff — found administration to assist with this process back in 2012 when producing my film, Eternity: The Movie.  The hotel refused to accept the form provided by the commission and our production left over $2000.00 on the table due to the confusion. (Nearly 1% of our entire small-independent budget.)

4) Be proactive in contacting studios, producers and film companies.

Today, San Diego sends no representatives to conventions to showcase our great city for location filming.  We have the desert, the mountains, accessible beaches, coastal communities, lakes, rivers, downtown skylines, niche neighborhoods, the military, and hundreds of alternative locations.  Conventions like CinemaCon in Las Vegas are great markets for cities to advertise to production companies to produce film in San Diego.  Sadly, San Diego hasn’t sent representatives or rented booths to advertise this area for filming for many years.

5) The film commission should be seen as an economic engine in the community.

The numbers are staggering when it comes to how much economic growth large budget films create.  Money spent in the San Diego area on film productions includes jobs for local filmmakers, catering, equipment rentals, printing, security, wardrobe, makeup, off-hour meals, hotels, and many more costs that rival a small country’s GDP.

Will Smith in After Earth filmed only 2 weeks in Humboldt County

Will Smith in After Earth filmed only 2 weeks in Humboldt County

A recent report created by Film LA Inc. posted in the “Hollywood Reporter” found that while the film After Earth primarily filmed in Pennsylvania, Utah and Costa Rica the production company spent 2 million dollars while filming for only 2 weeks in Humboldt County.  That is almost 150,000 dollars in revenue a day to a small Northern California County.

6) Ease the cost of permits to student filmmakers.

San Diego State University, University of California San Diego, and University of San Diego all have film departments that have to deal with the headaches of the San Diego’s filming administration.  If their experiences while studying to become the next Coppola are negative, they are less likely to start their careers in San Diego, and they may even spread the word of the city’s inability to work with film producers and studios.

As a member of Supervisor Robert’s 3rd District in Encinitas, California, I am proud to hear that a local government official understands the economic impact of bringing productions to San Diego and what the industry could potentially do for our local economy.  As a local production company owner (Sidecar Productions, located in North County), I hope to see you at the next Filmmakers meeting September 9th at Groovy Like A Movie in Clairemont Mesa.  We will continue to support Supervisor Roberts top luxury suv line and hope to have information from his meeting with the Mayor early next month.


The Hollywood Reporter – LA Film, Inc 2013 study

Kickstarter’s $50k to NYC’s AMC: Just a Dream in 2006

Eternity: The Movie showing at the AMC Empire 25 10.17.14


Here’s how it happened…roughly:

October 2006 – Sidecar Productions finished post production work on a second feature as editors and effects artists.  In a meeting the owners decided to seek out a writer to create a fun, energetic comedy for their next feature production.

March 2007 – Writer Joey Abi-Loutfi was hired to produce 5 treatments. One of these was a comedic look at the music industry in 1985.  The idea of a loner in the Los Angeles Valley creating heartfelt music about women who don’t like him struck a ‘cord’ with Sidecar and Joey began work on Eternity.

The first drafts were completed in 2008 by Joey.  Sidecar knew for this production to work the estimated budget needed to be reflected in the script. The development process had no funding so the team would meet on weekends to table read and compare notes.

April 1st 2012 - Sidecar Productions kicked off their Kickstarter campaign on April Fools day to raise over $50,000 to start pre-production of Eternity: The Movie. (then called Todd Lucas: Singer/Songwriter) With the help of producer Kevin Tostado and Kickstarter, the first of Eternity’s finances were in place. *

July 2nd 2012 – With additional funding made possible by private investors production began July 2nd starring Barrett CrakeMyko OlivierEric RobertsMartin Kove, and Jon Gries.

December 31st 2012 – The world got it’s first look at Todd Lucas in Eternity: The Movie.  The teaser released on YouTube pictured the loser Todd moving into Reseda from the mid-west and meeting the lovely Gina Marie.  He meets BJ and chaos ensues with the added cast members Tamzin Brown and Donna Ruko.

An old school look at Director Thorpe’s old school look at 1985.

March of 2013 – Eternity’s featured six songs were completed by Nick Faiella and Sean Walsh at Pulse Recordings under the supervision of TLMP in late March of 2013 allowing editors Eric Staley and Ian Thorpe to put the finishing touches on the first theatrical edit.

June 2013 – Focus groups set up by Craig Bentley of Imageworks and  American Dream Cinema had great results according to producer Eric Staley.  ”We learned what we could do and what didn’t work with the audience and the characters of Eternity.  It’s a shame, we lost a good amount of over the top drama we’d like to see, dead bodies, abs flexing from crying…you try and find that balance in a music-comedy” said Eric.

July 2013 - After the second rough assembly Sidecar recorded additional footage to complete the circle in Eternity: The Movie.  Some of the cast and crew were brought back to the Reseda Complex, filmed in University Heights, where the Director’s daughter got to make a cameo. The Ruby Room (now The Merrow) was again called upon for the production.

August of 2013 – Eternity: The Movie started as a block of marble.  All the footage, all the music, all the story line had to be condensed to hit the audience with the cocaine driven spirit of the mid-80s.  Director Ian Thorpe, producer Eric Staley and writer Joey Abi-Loutfi had the opportunity to do the final sculpting of their film 7 years in the making.

September 2013 – Enter Kevin Brough to take on the creating the sounds of 1985 as the film’s musical composer. Get Kevin’s songs on iTunes here, on Eternity: The Soundtrack. The film’s sound effect tracks were created by Sean Walsh and Will Hagan of Privet.

October 2013 – Colorist professionals Fancy Film Post Services got out their neon shades and gave the film it’s final polished-retro look.

December 2013 – The film’s first festival entries were sent out.  Cinequest in San Jose was the first to accept the film. “Bill and Ted’s Journey of Hall and Oates” remarked Robert Emmett of KJFC in an on-air interview with writer Joey and producer Eric during the festival.

March 2014 – September 2014: “It truly is flattering to be selected to these festivals after so many years of hard work.” said writer Joey Abi-loutfi when asked about their upcoming screenings at Outfest Los Angeles and AGLIFF in Austin on September 11th.

July 2014 – Director Ian Thorpe and  Barrett Crake gave audiences what they wanted (over 13,000 views) with Make Love, not Just Sex the music video.

Download “Make Love Not Just Sex” the mp3 for FREE here.

October 17th 2014Sidecar Productions and Vagrant Films Releasing and Publicity will premiere the film in New York City. “Releasing the movie theatrically has always been the goal, but to do it in New York at a great theater is truly special.  I am very thankful to everyone who has helped get us this far through their hard work and dedication.  Hopefully New York (followed by the rest of North America) is ready for this candy-colored ode to cheesy 80s R&B music.” commented Ian Thorpe Director of Eternity.

AMC Empire 25 will host the grand event with 80′s rockers, the film’s stars and special guests.  Join the mailing list here for updated information. More dates to follow.

Eternity: The Movie

facebook page - imdb page - Twitter page - YouTube page

Eternity: The Soundtrack on iTunes

Ryan Levey of VFRPR handles all North American bookings and releasing.  

Please contact Eric Staley for all international inquiries.

* Kickstarter rewards are scheduled for delivery late 2014.