It’s 7:45 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. Woody Allen, Cate Blanchett, and Alec Baldwin walk out of Shreve and Co. jewelers on the corner of Post Street and Grant Avenue in San Francisco. They discuss a scene between the two characters that needs to be completed by noon so that they can move to a location shoot in Pacific Heights that afternoon. The film “Blue Jasmine” was shot last summer on location in San Francisco over 18 days and is scheduled to be released at the end of this year.
This is not the first time Woody Allen has shot on location in San Francisco. In 1969, he filmed “Take The Money and Run” and later “Play It Again Sam” in San Francisco. Allen is one of a handful of directors who continues to use location shooting as a major character in his films. His willingness to shoot in cities like New York and San Francisco against the odds of rising costs and logistical challenges makes the job of those cities’ film commissions easier.
The San Francisco Film Commission, under the leadership of Susannah Robbins, has been working tirelessly to make film production in San Francisco easier and more affordable for small- and large-budget productions. The film commission has created significant incentive programs along with a substantial rebate program to promote film production in San Francisco.
Lauren Machado, the filming coordinator for the film commission, works directly with production crews on the logistics of filming in the city. Lauren works with everyone from local community groups, neighborhood associations, the police and the water department to help filmmakers and residents see San Francisco as a character on film. Lauren worked closely with Allen’s production crew last summer which hired “a mostly local crew” of about 140 people, along with more than 350 local background extras and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for the city of San Francisco.
I caught up with Lauren in Palo Alto to talk about filming in San Francisco and other California locations.
Kirby Scudder: What is the role of the San Francisco Film Commission?
Lauren Machado: We promote the city as a filming destination. That would include anything from a photo shoot to a big feature film. We also have clients that have specifically written screenplays or scripts with San Francisco in mind and want to get permits and permissions to film in certain locations. Every week is different, from commercials to music videos, but the end goal for us is to have filming in the city of San Francisco.
KS: Your job is to make sure things run smoothly. What do you experience while filming in San Francisco?
LM: Traffic for instance. We are not Hollywood where there is an expectation that filming is a way of life. Here when people are driving home they don’t care about movie-making. They just want to get home. They just think that we are Hollywood coming to San Francisco. But on the other hand, when you look at the film we did with Woody Allen this past summer, it created several hundred jobs, brought a lot of money to the neighborhoods where we filmed. And he usually works with a smaller crew, so the impact is less than a large Hollywood production and yet local restaurants and businesses definitely benefited from the experience. It was wonderful for our city. A lot of times I have to talk with individual neighbors and sometimes they are not happy with some of the inconveniences, but almost always they come around and see the benefit to their community.
KS: What are the differences between film production in larger markets like San Francisco as opposed to a smaller market like Santa Cruz?
LM: Even though the size of the markets are different the challenges are the same. When a large film crew comes into a beach community like Santa Cruz, it has an impact on traffic and neighborhoods just like in San Francisco. The job is the same, to make sure that everyone understands the benefits of the short term inconvenience. If you are filming on the beaches as happened over the summer with “Chasing Mavericks,” local access to those beaches are restricted and it’s the job of the local film commission to work with the community to make sure things go smoothly. The state of California is working hard to put in place incentives, such as the rebate system to make it easier to film in large and small communities throughout California. It’s interesting, California is largely known around the world because of its many appearances in film and television. So, it is important to make the process work.
For more information about Lauren Machado go to www.filmsf.org.
Kirby Scudder is the director of the Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Art. Details: www.scica.org