You ought to be in pictures!
Montclarion (November 9, 1999)
are times when Ami Zins' mind whirl like a washing machine.
who could blame her?
the lone paid staff member of the Oakland Film Commission, the affable
39-year-old woman is used to performing her daily tasks with a natural
sense of urgency.
October 1998, when she was hired to become the commission's lone
full time-temporary employee, Zins has worked virtually alone. She
became permanent two months ago.
I first came into this job, it was like plunging into a very deep
pool," says Zins, while sitting in her arty office on the third
floor of the Dalziel Building at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
on memorable afternoon, Zins found herself immersed in a handful
of time-sensitive assignments: arranging the logistics of filming
a bank commercial in West Oakland, trying to accommodate a production
team's demands for improved lighting in a residential neighborhood,
and negotiating with police and transit officials for a "Nash
Bridges" shoot at 14th Street and Broadway.
we were in negotiation with PG&E to take down some power lines
for one day," she says. "Film companies will pay to do
In recent years, film company executives have started eyeing this
diverse city of 380,000 souls, discovering reasons that may someday
make Oakland a coveted and popular city in which to shoot.
advantages here are distinquished ones: a temperate climate, reasonable
filming expenses, an esteemed nearby studio, and airport with scores
of flights to and from Los Angeles, a rich assortment of imagery,
and a population among the most diverse in the nation.
I think Hollywood is finally getting more adventurous in going to
other cities," says Zins, who has taught an acting and directing
course at Laney College for the past seven years.
1990, more than 30 feature films have shot some of their scenes
in Oakland, including Robin Williams' vehicle, "What Dreams
May Come," and Clint Eastwood's "True Crime."
Oakland Film Commission, which is run through the city's Community
& Economic Development Agency, was created a decade ago to help
promote localized film. Which makes Zins' job a challenging one:
wooing producers and filmmakers into the city, and encouraging them
to spend money here.
crew from 'True Crime' worked incredibly efficient - they'd finished
early every day. But we would have liked them to go overtime,"
she says, laughing.
film permit in Oakland, which must be purchased to film on city
property, is $150 a day. That permit is $50 a day for still photography
assignments, and $100 a day for video production.
Location fees - on site rentals fees - are additional expenses.
And these costs vary, depending on location and duration.
instance, to record inside Oakland City Hall, it will cost producers
$1,000 a day, compared with $10,000 a day in San Francisco City
Hall, Zins says.
it's not much of a surprise that the producers of "Nash Bridges,"
which is supposed to take place in San Francisco, have filmed some
episodes in Oakland.
funny to see the two detectives driving around, turning corners
and passing through similar intersections," Zins says. "Basically,
they're driving around in a circle in downtown Oakland. But most
people wouldn't ever recognize that.
Three weeks into her job, Zins suggested to her supervisor that
somebody (wink, wink) should represent Oakland during an upcoming
industry trade show in Los Angeles.
her pleasant surprise, Zins got the green light to attend the gathering
herself, at the city's expense.
flew into Los Angeles and set up a booth at the convention, where
she met with executives from Malpaso, Eastwood's production company.
discussion ultimately led the production team into Oakland, where
"True Crime," in which Eastwood plays a beleaguered newspaper
reporter trying to prove the innocence of an inmate on Death Row,
spent 15 days filming.
says the production team had little prior knowledge of the city.
"One of the producers didn't know that Oakland had a zoo,"
she says, "and they needed a zoo scene."
years it was only Oakland's notoriously troubled neighborhoods that
widened the eyes of filmmakers.
location scouts are being led to the city's treasures: Jack London
Square, the Paramount Theatre, the Dunsmuir House, Lake Merrit,
the Tribune Tower, the Federal buildings, Joaquin Miller Park, the
Clairmont Resort & Spa and other spots.
Sean Penn suggested during the filming of "Hurley Burley,"
in which he starred with Kevin Spacey, that some of its scenes be
shot in Oakland.
it happened. A scene that was suppose to take place in the Hollywood
hills, was instead filmed in the Oakland Hills, Zins says.
is the one example of a recent trend in which films are being shot
in the Bay Area - but are being set someplace else. And because
one or more of the key players of a film may live in the area, it
makes it easier," Zins says, adding that Sean Penn lives in
hook for producers and stars considering a shoot in Oakland is the
nearby presence of a state-of -the-art studio, just minutes from
downtown and the Oakland Airport.
Studios, located on the former Alameda Naval Air Station base in
Alameda Point, is a sprawling 250,000 square-foot effects center.
it was used to create a startling specialeffects seen in the surprise
hit "The Matrix," and was used to construct a prison set
for "True Crime."
at one point this commission had been spurned for its sporadic leadership,
Zins says. And it took an image overhaul to convince filmmakers
that working in Oakland would not be as laborious as it had been.
has been doing a great job, and she could certainly use some support,"
says Karen Engel, manager of business development with the Community
& Economic Development Agency.
tax revenue from this film program, which is in the millions of
dollars, is considerable. The program supports itself. And with
Mayor Brown committed to promoting the arts here - and Oakland is
an art city - we're looking to increase this activity."
to In the News