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

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