Film production means
big bucks for San Diego:
on-location filming pays
off with jobs for locals.
Publication: San Diego
Author: Anderson, S.
What does film production bring to San Diego?
This is probably the most frequently asked question of the San Diego Film
Commission. The answer is a lot -- everything from jobs to tourism.
Whether watching "The Scorpion King" at the theater, a MasterCard commercial
on television, the final episode of "The X-Files" or looking at a Jaguar
sedan in a print advertisement the viewer has an opportunity to see San
Diego in an entirely different light. What they don't see is the
behind-the-scenes labor and the endless network of people, cutting
bureaucratic red tape, scouting locations, all of which plays a role in
attracting production to the San Diego region.
With film production -- the ends do justify the means. Even with San Diego
offering many incentives to the production community the benefits to the
local economy are staggering -- last year alone $72 million was spent in San
Diego by filmmakers.
A great example of film production giving a slow economy a shot in the arm
happened last month when "The X-Files" was in Borrego Springs filming the
last episode of the series. The company came to a town that is usually
bustling with tourists in the spring. However, this year brought little rain
to Borrego and no beautiful flowers were to be found for sightseers. Many
hotels and vendors catering to tourists were in need of visitors and
"X-Files" was able to deliver -- hotels were booked up for a few weeks, the
local grocery and hardware store worked overtime to provide supplies for the
crew, catering and art departments, and most importantly jobs were created
for many locals.
Within a few weeks, the filming left more than $1 million in Borrego
* Seeing Is
Tourism also benefits from location filming in the community. The Travel
Industry Association of America estimates that more than 5 million people
specifically travel to destinations they have seen in the movies and on
It's true many people do flock to locations they see on screen. Take a look
at Kansas City Barbeque -- since the release of Tom Cruise's vehicle "Top
Gun" in 1986 -- the bar and restaurant continues to attract thousands of
tourists each year. The high-profile exposure gained from this feature
helped establish new impressions of the city and county and increased global
awareness of the entire region.
Famous locations featured in movies such as The Hotel del Coronado, the
setting for the 1959 classic film. "Some Like It Hot," still draw fans in
2002. The hotel is so popular with movie lovers that American Movie Classics
filmed a segment at the hotel describing where Marilyn Monroe stayed and
what locations were used in the film.
The marketing value attached to being in a film is one of the most difficult
benefits to put a price tag on. However, working with a production, as a
location, may lead to many opportunities and exposure to a national
audience. One only needs to consider how many times "Some Like It Hot" airs
on television and has been purchased on video and DVD to understand the
value is immense and far-reaching.
* More Jobs
For San Diego
One of the most important things the production community brings to San
Diego is jobs.
Many locals work as production crew members, as actors and as extras and
many businesses profit from providing services to the production community.
When a producer makes the decision to film his television movie in San
Diego, he or she will leave nearly $2 million in the region with a 20-day
shoot paying for locations, crew, hotels, wardrobe, props, police, talent,
extras, security, food and gasoline.
All this translates into more jobs for San Diego.
Whether it's the 200 extras hired for the weekend for "The Antwone Fisher
Story," the 60-75 crew members working on "Silk Stalkings" for more than
eight years, or the countless other series, features, print shoots and
commercials that come to San Diego every year, all employ hundreds to
thousands of people in a variety of capacities.
For those in the community not employed in the production industry, the
opportunity to watch a filming can be a memorable experience and beneficial
as well. When "Bring It On" filmed in some local schools, many San Diego
cheerleaders were featured as extras and two of the high schools received
additional perks including the refinishing of a gym floor and the sodding of
a football field. It's fun for San Diegans to participate in a filming; in
fact, the Film Commission is always receiving inquiries from people
interested in listing their property in the commission's location library as
a possible filming site.
* Onsite Filming
Is Big Business
Location filming is big business for many cities, states and countries.
Staying competitive by providing production incentives is difficult with the
For example, New York police officers services are offered at no cost and
Hawaii subsidized a soundstage solely to attract more film work. However,
San Diego was one of the first cities to recognize the value of creating
incentives to attract film production because the local government
understood the tremendous economic impact of on-location filming.
The city, county and San Diego Unified Port District continue to offer
public properties for locations at no cost. They do practice cost recovery.
The San Diego Film Commission offers its services at no cost, charges no
film permit fees, provides 24-hour customer service, conducts initial
scouting to bring productions to San Diego and works to address issues
arising from on-location filming.
The Film Commission is an economic development program funded by the
transient occupancy tax to attract, facilitate and permit film, video and
For some San Diegans, film production means an acting job or a crew member
position. For others, it could be using their property as a location, and
for some it's vital to their business. And last. but certainly not least,
there are those who simply love to watch the making of films, the
opportunity to see a movie star on the street, or who enjoy knowing the
exact place Downtown where the car was blown up in the film "Traffic."
Anderson is a San Diego film commissioner.