Bay Area event brings out big names

The magnetic center of the film industry shifted a few degrees north Sunday night, as the preem of “Fog City Mavericks” brought out the Bay Area contingent of Hollywood at the Castro Theater.

George Lucas, Robin Williams, John Lasseter, Saul Zaentz, Walter Murch, Brad Bird, Christopher Columbus, Peter Coyote (who narrates the pic) were among those assembled for a pre-screening photo op.

But the packed house gave an even bigger ovation to Nancy Pelosi, whose presence fest director Graham Leggat announced by saying, “These men have changed the face of American cinema. We’re hoping, Madame Speaker, you can change the face of American history.”

Doc, produced for the Starz cable net, is an ode to those mainstream filmmakers who’ve chosen to live and when possible do their work in the Greater Bay Area — a geographic focus liberally stretched to encompass Carmel’s Clint Eastwood.

Helmer Gary Leva said it was simply a “happy accident of timing” that the project was completed just in time to premiere at SFIFF’s 50th-anni edition.

After the screening, he and Leggat were joined on the Castro stage by Lucas, Lasseter, Columbus and Zaentz for a Q&A.

Lucas appreciated the pic simply for telling L.A. “Hey, we make movies up here,” half-joking, “Every time we do something bad, they say ‘It’s a San Francisco film.’ Every time we do something good, they say ‘It’s a Hollywood film.’ ”

He further paid tribute to “the diversity of personality that exists” among Bay Area-based filmmakers, giving them a more individual stamp. “You don’t see the same movies over and over again. If it were Hollywood, it would be exactly the same thing (as prior movies).”

It’s sentiments like that which prompted Leva to laugh of his doc, “I don’t think it’ll play as well in Hollywood.”

Columbus expressed disarming humility about his being included alongside such technically and/or artistically adventuresome “Fog City” interviewees as Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Philip Kaufman.

“George and Francis sort of wrote the Bible for me. … (Their work) just shows me how much further I have to go,” he said, quipping “I still think I’m pretty lousy.” Columbus won points with the local aud by pushing for pols to encourage more filming in the Bay Area. He cited a sharp dropoff in location work here since the mid-’90s due to lack of tax and other incentives.

With Emeryville-based Pixar colored as an oasis of creative decision-making driven by artists rather than execs or focus groups, Lasseter proudly flagged the doc’s notion of an anti-Hollywood mindset flourishing just a short plane ride away in S.F.

“I’m working on changing Hollywood … at the studio that fired me twice,” Lasseter said of his current gig as head of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

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