A mere seven days of shooting the pilot to HBO’s “Looking” in the Mission brought in nearly $500,000 in revenue to the city of San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Film Commission. The HBO dramedy series, set to release January 19, 2014, also paid 113 local employees (i.e., grips, extras, etc.) $165,258 in wages.
In return, the city cut a check to HBO for $65,270.90.
Not as a thank you, but as a rebate.
Any money that production companies get back, that’s where they will go, explained Lauren Machado, production and marketing manager at San Francisco Film Commission.
“They highly consider money elements before anything else,” said Machado, adding that “Looking” would have been shot in a different city as Los Angeles if not for the rebate program.
This is not to say as iconic as San Francisco is, it’s not enough. After all, “Vertigo” was filmed at Fairmont Hotel and Mission San Francisco de Asis. “The Graduate” was filmed at the San Francisco Zoo. And “Dirty Harry” was filmed in the Embarcadero and Chinatown, to name a few.
All the same, Machado said, to get filmmaking here, the city needed this program.
San Francisco’s Scene Rebate program, which started in 2006, reimburses film or TV productions for shooting in city-owned properties. Examples include City Hall, Bill Grahams Civic Center and warehouses (e.g., “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” filmed at City Hall). The goal behind the program is to provide filmmakers an incentive to shoot in the Bay Area.
Since its launch, 14 productions have taken part in the program, according to records provided by the San Francisco Film Commission. Collectively, those productions received $1,767,040.03 in rebates.
However, more money is coming into the city than leaving.
Records show that during the same period, production spending brought $42,519,922.30 into the city. Wages by the productions’ 4,320 local employees also netted $12,860,584.77. And money earned locally is often money spent locally, according to Machado.
Production is on the rise in San Francisco and it’s providing ample economic benefits to the city, thanks to the Scene rebate program.
Shooting on location in the city is up by 40 percent compared to two years ago, according to the Film Commission.
Since 2006, more than 40 films and TV productions have been shot in San Francisco, including the Mission. Shooting periods can range: A series will take months, features will take two to three weeks and commercials will wrap in a weekend. Commercial shoots make up 75 percent of productions in the city, according to the Film Commission.
Currently, there are eight car commercials, including BMW, Jeep, GMC and Fiat, that have shot/are shooting in the city.
The number of car commercials tells us that San Francisco provides ample car shoot opportunities. These include great reflections off cars in the Financial District locations, beautiful hills and vistas like Twin Peaks and Russian Hill, which cars can drive down, explained Machado.
With such a boost in production, it was no wonder that in July 2012, the board of supervisors voted unanimously to extend the rebate program an additional two years, with an additional allocation of up to $2 million.
Supervisor Mark Farrell in particular has been a champion of the rebate program, notes Machado.
For more information about the Scene rebate program, including how to submit your business or home as a potential filming location, visit San Francisco Film Commission.