Graced by dramatic visuals, aggressive local governments and proximity to L.A.’s production and post-production community, the Bay Area’s stepped-up efforts to attract more film, TV and commercial production seem to be bearing fruit.
San Francisco, Oakland and neighboring San Jose and Sonoma County recently have hosted crews of numerous films, including MGM’s “Getting Even With Dad” and Paramount’s “Beverly Hills Cop III.” The areas are photogenic and open to filming, but aggressive pursuit of projects has contributed mightily to a production surge.
Though Disney’s remake of “Angels in the Outfield” is set in Anaheim Stadium and surroundings, it was shot entirely in Oakland.
“We can’t shoot in Anaheim because they’re playing football there. This is a nice stadium that has a number of characteristics that match,” producer Irby Smith said about the Oakland Coliseum before production wrapped there recently. “And the Oakland city and (Alameda) county people are really supportive.”
The film’s star, Danny Glover, is one of an increasing number of major actors , directors and writers living in the Bay Area.
However, the frequency of filming has made demands on the talent pool. “There are a lot of productions going on right now in Northern California, and in terms of talent and crew, it made less availability,” said Smith, who added that about 50% of the crew is local. “But all things being equal, it might have been slightly cheaper to film in Los Angeles.”
The L.A. cast and crew of “Angels” are being housed in the East Bay, either in the new Waterfront Plaza in Jack London Square or the historic Clairmont Hotel in the Berkeley Hills.
A former Pacific Bell building next to the ballpark has been taken over for offices, wardrobe and editing. Interior sets were built in a nearby warehouse.
MGM’s “Getting Even With Dad,” which shot 91 separate San Francisco locations –“a record-breaking location movie,” director Howard Deutch noted — is the more traditional Bay Area postcard.
“This story is a love letter to the city that it takes place in, becauseit’s about a father and a son (Ted Danson and Macaulay Culkin) who go out on the town and discover their relationship through the activities and the experiences that they share,”Deutch said. “The location becomes a character in that sense.”
The script was written to take place in Chicago. However,Deutch said, “There were so many movies shooting in Chicago that we felt we wanted to go where there was sense of freshness. There was not much incentive for us to shoot the movie in Chicago, as opposed to San Francisco, where they bent over backward to convince us it would be a great experience. And they were right.”
Deutch was particularly impressed with the cooperation of the mayor’s office and the police.
“We’ve had the same police crews working on productions for over 12 years,” said Lorrae Rominger, exec director of city’s Film & Video Arts Commission. “So they understand what has to be done.”
San Jose weighs in
San Jose has been particularly aggressive, producing a slick video to pitch the varied locations — high-tech laboratories, farm and ranch lands, Victorian and Spanish mansions, seedy back streets, campuses, sprawling suburbias — all within a short commute from the modern downtown.
“Getting Even With Dad” and Paramount’s “Beverly Hills Cop III” shot in the Great America amusement park, and San Jose’s Film & Video Commission recruited the 10,000 extras needed for “Cop’s” three weeks of shooting with local radio ads and a telephone hot line.
“That’s an example of our service,” said commissioner Joe O’Kane. “When Clint Eastwood’s 1990 film ‘The Rookie’ wanted to shut down 3 1/2 miles of freeway, everyone was saying it was impossible. (We) went out, did the research, and found out it was possible to close an eight-lane freeway and have the frontage roads form more lanes than there were on the freeway. We did that for 11 nights. That kept them from going to Houston.”
It’s also kept productions from staying in L.A. “The mere size of this airport can easily deceive an audience into thinking it is LAX,” explained “Rookie” producer David Valdez. “But we have a lot more freedom here. The last flight in here or out each night is 11 p.m. It stays that way until 6 in the morning. There’s a seven-hour block of time that we can have our heavies and our heroes running across the runways, shooting each other with Uzi machine guns.”
San Jose also hosted filming of the supposedly L.A.-set “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” O’Kane said, “When the location manager Pete Dawson couldn’t find a building to act as the Cyberdyne Building — where they blow up a portion of it and have the motorcycle do the spectacular jump from the second or third floor into the helicopter — anywhere in Southern California, he called us up here. We found six buildings that were willing.”
San Jose’s most popular location service is their Bay Area crew lists. The resume book lists four credits, the crew member’s supervisor on each shoot, and the supervisor’s phone number. “So it’s not just a bullshit resume,” O’Kane insisted.
Hollywood and vines
The rural areas around San Francisco Bay have been doubling for the rest of the country since the first silent films.
After making “The Great Train Robbery” back East, Bronco Billy Anderson came West to Niles in the East Bay, set up a studio and shot many of the first Westerns.
More recently, the homestead of 20th Century Fox’s “Beverly Hillbillies” is a cabin in west Sonoma County, not far from the location of Columbia’s “Nowhere to Run,” the Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner.
Commercials also are big business in rustic Sonoma. “We have a lot of old ranches and little roadside diners, things like that, that they use for commercials,” notes Sonoma film/video director Sheree Green-Christian.
Sonoma has rolling hills, redwood forests, vineyards and a spectacular coast — and through it all, windy roads. This is car commercial country.
“We really haven’t had to solicit that business,” Green-Christian said.