Film Production industry comes into focus
By John W. Ellis IV
East Bay Business Times, (December 17, 2004)
production is growing steadily and attracting business. Experts
expect more than $125 million in production revenue in the next
12 months. Up until a decade ago, San Francisco let the Bay
Area in production business, but the tech boom created rents
that priced out longtime film industry tenants. Film Studios,
TV commercial producers, music video stars and video game producers
now regularly chose to do business in the East Bay. Oakland
is becoming a production nexus.
as a whole in the Bay Area has decreased over the last five
years, particularly in San Francisco. The whole industry has
been in a drought during that time, but in the East Bay Area,
the industry is booming now,” says Sean House, owner of Outhouse
Oakland Film Office opened an incubator space on the former
U.S. Army base near the Bay Bridge for film production-related
businesses. The center has attracted businesses from around
the Bay Area, including Outhouse Productions, which had been
based in Petaluma.
office was dormant for a while before I was hired, so there
wasn’t a lot of business before 1998,” says Ami Zins, director
of the Oakland Film Office. “We became so customer service oriented,
we got really busy. We worked hard on answering every request
that came to our office. We take the view that we want to try
to accommodate every shoot – whether it is a film for a major
studio or a student production.”
says her office and the city of Oakland have made it easier
for entertainment producers to work in the city. The film office
uses a sliding scale for permit fees, issues permits to shoot
in public parks and works closely with schools, businesses and
other city offices.
Film Office tracks business by the number of days filming takes
place in public. The figure does not include days spent for
preparation or cleanup, but it gives an indication of increasing
office issued permits for 89 days in 1998, 96 in 1999, 156 in
200, 173 in 2001, 158 in 2002, 180 in 2003 and an estimated
190 in 2004. Zins attributes the 2002 decrease to the impact
of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
productions include commercials for Macy’, Cheverolet, Mercedes-Benz
and Microsoft Corporation, music videos for E-40, Santana and
Metallica, photography for Nissan, Sports Illustrated and “Six
Feet Under” and filming for “The Candidate”, “True Crime” and
“Matrix II, III”.
are key to getting and keeping businesses in the East Bay. When
shopping for a city to produce the upcoming 20th Century Fox/Fox
Searchlight movie “Bee Season”, the International Brotherhood
of Teamsters Local 70 and the International Association of Theatrical
and State Employees worked with Zins to stay within the film’s
Season” executive producer Peggy Rajski was so pleased with
the Teamsters, she wrote to thank them for their customer service,
knowledge and hard work.
letter noted that the production’s direct expenditures in the
Bay Area, not including fees for stars, directors and producers,
totaled more than $6 million and that she looked forward to
working here again. Fox Searchlight also agreed to have the
movie premier at Oakland’s Paramount Theater and to donate proceeds
to an Oakland youth organization.
community – the city government, businesses, even residents
– have been supportive, even enthusiastic, about working with
productions,” Zins says. “People are just finding out about
the diversity of neighborhoods, terrains, parks and buildings.
The city is affordable, centrally located but not congested
not directly related to entertainment production benefit.
Chabot Space and Science Center makes extra money by renting
to entertainment and corporate productions, according to director
of sales and marketing Mary Miller and has several clients that
use the facility to shoot corporate videos. Sutter Health and
Dell Inc. shot television ads there, and PBS documentary miniseries
“Origins” used the observatory for several interview sequences.
we are a nonprofit, we need to find new ways to generate revenue”,
Miller says. “Facilities rental for production shooting was
10 percent of our business for the first 11 months of 2004.”
Hampen, property manager for PM Realty Group, works with the
Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority to manage several
hangars at Alameda Point, a formal U.S. Naval air station.
points to the cyclical and unpredictable nature of production
business for a company that doesn’t directly serve the industry.
Three of the eight hangars were used as sound stages in the
past, but business has dipped enough that only one is reserved
for that purpose. The others are rented to business tenants.
our heyday, we used to average two feature films a year and
commercials in between,” Hampen says. The hangars were used
as sound stages for two “Matrix” movies, “What Dreams May Come,”
“The Assassination if Richard Nixon”, “Bee Season”” others.
The independent film “The Darwin Awards” is currently using
we get a small film and few commercials,” he says. “Productions
used to be up to 10 percent of our business, but it’s now around
1 percent of annual revenue. But this is not our primary business.
We see it as gravy.”
industry dollars are important to the economy because they can
benefit virtually any type of business and the money circulates
well, says House, who is a leader of the Oakland Film Center
movie company is a floating factory. They set up shop and dump
money into an economy,” House says. “When an actor or director
spends money at a restaurant, the waiter spends it on something
and that dollar keeps going.”
the more than 1800 production-related businesses in Northern
California, more than 90 percent are in the Bay Area, House
says. He expects the production industry to earn $125 million
between September 2004 and September 2005, based on schedule
projects. The economic multiplier for the industry is at least
4.2 and as high as 11, according to House.
just worked on a Jaguar commercial last week that dropped a
million dollars in one week’” says House, who has worked on
the two “Matrix” film , Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Bee Season”.
Cantor, president and CEO Chamber of Commerce, says hotels,
retail stores and restaurants benefit from Pixar Animation Studios.
700 people who work at Pixar every day are a huge contributor
to the local economy,” he says.
Ranahan, owner of Ranahan Production Services Inc., who provides
trucks that double as camera darkrooms, art departments and
production facilities, also handles communications rentals for
production crews. He subcontracts to car rental and communication
East Bay is experiencing a big boost in business,” Ranahan says.
“What we lack, though, is a TV show. When there is a TV show
shooting in the Bay Area, it is a huge shot in the arm for everyone.”
eight film offices in the Bay Area work together to attract
productions, says Jim Reikowsky, liaison with the Vallejo-Solano
County Film Office.
have lunch meetings and sometimes will do a joint advertising
project to get a film,” Reikowsky says. “Each year we rent a
joint booth space at the annual (Association of Film Commissions
International) Locations Trade Show in April. We know that whatever
business comes to one city in the Bay Area spills over to the
experts say that even stars are requiring East Bay locations
as a condition for working on a film. Marin County native Sean
Penn made an East Bay shoot a condition for his participation
in “The Assassination of Richard Nixon.”
seeing a lot of support from the community at large, so we can
now compete with Los Angeles and even other countries,” House
says. “The East Bay is the future of Bay Area production."
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