New film industry springs up in East Bay
Oakland Tribune, Oct 2, 2005 by Cecily Burt, STAFF WRITER
-- Given enough time, Sean House can build, replicate or fix
just about any mechanical thing, which is good, because box
office stars such as Will Smith are using his realistic props
in big- budget movies shot on location in the Bay Area.
founder of Outhouse Productions, has yearned to work in the
film industry since he was a kid. And he's living his dream,
not in Hollywood, but in Oakland, as his is one of 29 companies
at the Oakland Film Center, a business incubator inside a 100,000-square-
foot warehouse on the former Oakland Army Base.
the companies provide services of some kind for motion pictures,
videos, television series and commercials shot in the Bay Area.
it to snow on a beautiful sunny day? Need a slew of directors'
chairs? Cameras? Or 10-ton gaffers, lighting and grip combos?
The center has become a one-stop shop designed to make a production
crew's life much easier, House said.
Zins, director of the Oakland Film Office, was trying to woo
more filmmakers to Oakland a few years ago when she realized
that many of the companies that support the film industry had
located to outlying areas such as Suisun City or Brisbane or
Petaluma to find affordable rent.
knew about the warehouse and thought it would help the businesses
reduce overhead if they were all under one roof in Oakland.
It also didn't hurt that she could point to a ready supply of
businesses to support a production crew's every need.
companies started moving in last spring and the space filled
up by November. Now there is a growing waiting list. Eventually,
when the base turnover is complete, the film center will have
to relocate. Zins is already looking for bigger space, either
on the former base or somewhere else in West Oakland. She's
also launching a new ad campaign to educate out-of-town crews
about the resources available in Oakland.
center is filled with generators, props, machinery, scaffolding,
cameras, chairs, trailers and just about any piece of equipment
needed to make a movie. And if a production crew wanders in
to shop for props or special effects, it's likely they'll need
a generator or two, or maybe some cameras or lights.
helpful to be in this environment, to get support from other
businesses," said Dave Ketchpel, gaffer (lighting director)
for Arthur Freyer Lighting. "The film business here in
the Bay Area is still small enough so we rely on other vendors
all the time. If I run short (of equipment) I can rent from
neighbors and I can also refer business to my neighbors."
a former Navy aerospace engineer, has fabricated 52 models of
a bone-scan machine for the movie "Pursuit of Happiness."
The ones Will Smith uses are fully functional.
was asked to create a special "stunt" arm for one
scanner that helps light up the set to aid in filming the scene.
The small light he used was so bright and hot he had to figure
out how to install a tiny computer fan inside to keep the Fiberglas
constant research and development, and problem solving,"
he said. "And I love it."
worked in various capacities on "The Bee Season" and
"Rent," both of which should be in theaters soon.
He helped sculpt the massive Zion set for "Matrix 2,"
and he created phony dynamite sticks and dead fish for "The
Darwin Awards," a motion picture send- up of the Internet
Darwin Awards, where stupid people die in spectacularly stupid
also formed the nonprofit Bay Area Film Alliance to bring together
professionals and unions involved in filmmaking to explore ways
to attract more work to the Bay Area after the dot-com boom
and bust all but decimated the industry here the past three
thinks the planned Wayans Brothers production studios across
the street from the film center will enhance Oakland's image
as a production destination and bring even more business their
have been plenty busy lately, Ketchpel said, what with major
motion pictures and a steady stream of Independent films.
crazy busy right now," Ketchpel said. "I'm short-handed.
I need more people in my shop right now. Unfortunately, the
film business is completely unpredictable. ... Who knows what
causes it to happen? All I know for sure is there is nothing
the two weeks after Christmas and New Year's."
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