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San Francisco launches California first film
and television rebate program

District 2 Supervisor Michella Alioto-Pier, a tad past due for arrival of third child,
still on duty to lead San Francisco film industry renewal.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Aldrich M. Tan

April 5, 2006

San Francisco becomes the first city in California to establish a film and television incentive program that aims to encourage more production companies to shoot in San Francisco and create jobs for local industry workers.

"This incentive sends a message to Hollywood that San Francisco is ready for its close-up," said Dan Kemp, location manager for Teamster Local 85, which represents local actors and production crew members.

The incentive package provides a rebate for city fees and expenses for productions that shoot 65 percent or more of their principal photography in San Francisco, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier explained.

Low budget and independent films of less than $3 million must shoot 55 percent of their principal photography in San Francisco to qualify for the rebate, added Alioto-Pier. The productions would apply for the rebate after completing principal photography.

The ordinance passed on first reading at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting by a 9 to 2 vote after the supervisors dropped the program's overall funds from $3 mil. to $1.8 million over a three year period, Alioto-Pier said.

Productions would apply for the rebate after the completing their principal photography, so that the benefits flow to productions that create jobs for local film industry workers, Alioto-Pier said.

"This program will bring back the jobs that have moved away to Los Angeles," said Rob Black, a director of special projects for contract and union organizing for the Screen Actors Guild;

Eighty-five individuals representing members of Teamster Local 85, Teamster Local 16 and the Screen Actors Guild attended today's meeting to voice their support for the ordinance, Kemp said.

"The people who work in this industry have made a sacrifice to live in San Francisco," Supervisor Bevan Duffy said. "They live here because they appreciate the diversity of this city and want to raise their families here."

The ordinance promises employment for Reggie Jackson, 42. Jackson is a local production driver. He drives passenger vans and transports actors and extras to their sets. Other such drivers transport film props, electrical equipment, set decorations and people.

"Drivers really need to know how to navigate around the city in order to accomplish their tasks," he said.

Jackson said he makes between $25 to 28 per hour as a driver but the salary is not consistent. He supplements his salary by working as a forklifter for the Moscone Center.

"We may not see a film production come here for another six to seven months," he said. "San Francisco is an expensive place to live in and I need a steady paid job to help me take care of my wife and kids."

The amount of motion pictures filmed in San Francisco dropped off in the last five years as more major productions sought cheaper locations in Canada, New Mexico and New York, location manager Kemp said.

"I believe that the only reason why filmmakers come to Vancouver because of the tax incentives," Jackson said. "San Francisco is such a beautiful city and filmmakers would film here if they could afford it."

The local industry rebounded last year with the local productions of major motion pictures "Rent" and upcoming "The Pursuit of Happyness" starring Will Smith.

"The reason why that film was produced in San Francisco was because Smith personally said he wanted to film it here," Kemp said.

The union's next step is to work with producers and directors in Hollywood to bring more major productions to San Francisco. Teamster Local 85 hires 100 to 150 locals when motion pictures come to film in the city, Kemp said.

The approval of city ordinance may be a good sign for AB 777, a statewide film incentive that was introduced last February by State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, Black said.




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