San Fran’s big plan

The City by the Bay is set to transform the media experience with the launch of its San Francisco initiatives entitled SF360.

Program is a citywide effort put forth by the San Francisco Film Society to create new digital platforms to enhance media viewership and reach new audiences without neglecting traditional media.

Graham Leggat, the San Francisco Film Society’s new exec director, who made the announcement at Sundance on Sunday, described the initiatives as site-specific to the city and designed to showcase the Bay Area film and media scene.

Leggat, together with Brian Clark, co-founder and managing member of indieWire, the online publication dedicated to American and international independent film, announced a strategic partnership that launches a new co-published site,

Set to go live in March, site will provide daily year-round news, features, event photography, listings columns and editorials on Bay Area film and media activity, in addition to social networking tools enabling users to plan and administer events and set up virtual production offices, among other functions.

“San Francisco’s thriving film and media community is an important catalyst for the American film scene, bolstered by a great film festival that surveys the best in world cinema,” said indieWire editor Eugene Hernandez.

Three additional initiatives will offer the following:

  • SF360 Festival of Festivals, an annual three-day event that incorporates programming by 15-20 of the most prominent film festivals in the Bay Area.

  • SF360 San Francisco Movie Night, a partnership with the Ironweed Film Club to promote a citywide screening night in April for groups to view and discuss a selected film, “taking the theater and DVD release one better,” Leggat boasted.

  • SF360 InSchool Cinemas, a public/private partnership to launch in the fall that will install digital projectors in city high schools to which the San Francisco Film Society will provide films, curriculum support and discussion with filmmakers.

Leggat also announced two new international film festivals presented by the SFFS: The San Francisco Animation Festival and Conference, to launch in the fall in partnership with the City of San Francisco Mayor’s Office and the SF Digital Media Advisory Council, and the San Francisco Youth Media Festival, launching early in 2007.

Leggat credits the support of an “enlightened civic leadership” behind these endeavors and that “bodes well for the arts, filmmakers and audiences.”

* * *

Filmmakers may leave their hearts in San Francisco, but they may get a refund on their production taxes and fees. The San Francisco Film Commission and Michela Alioto-Pier, who sits on the city’s board of supervisors, are proposing a refund on any fees or taxes paid to the city or its departments for feature pics and TV films, pilots or series.

Productions with budgets of $3 million or less must lense at 55% of total principal photography in the city, while projects with higher budgets must commit 65% locally. The proposed legislation was introduced last week and is pending approval.

Mayor Gavin Newsom heads the new administration with a commitment to restore a film-friendly attitude. To that end, a new production-savvy film commission headed by Jim Morris, who is also a Pixar VP, along with exec director Stefanie Coyote, a former locations manager, and a newly created Digital Media Advisory Council are exploring new ways to support its current crop of new technology filmmakers, in addition to creating opportunities for new business.

“The development of new technologies is changing the face of moviemaking — here in San Francisco, we have the opportunity to help chart its future by making the city a magnet for new creative talent and innovation,” said Mayor Newsom. “It’s also important to see DMAC in a broader context — it’s part of our ongoing strategy to make the city’s movie industry an economic force once again.”

Last year’s production revenues totaled $180 million, with feature pics shot including the Chris Columbus-helmed “Rent” and Gabriele Muccino’s “The Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will Smith.

“There was a point where vitality went out of the business here,” noted Coyote. “Now that whole bohemian-style era of filmmaking is being resurrected in a new digitalized format thanks to the collaborative effort of putting forth these initiatives.”

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