In the late 1960s, Francis Ford Coppola dreamed of building a kind of “Hollywood North” in San Francisco.
Now, in the summer of 2015, it seems as if that dream has come true, to some extent. Many of this year’s high-profile summer popcorn movies were filmed, or set, in San Francisco.
Titles include the recently released “San Andreas,” as well as the upcoming “Ant Man,” “Terminator Genisys,” and the 1970s-set drama “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.” Pixar’s “Inside Out” is set partly in an animated San Francisco.
(Local director Chris Columbus did not film his new “Pixels” in The City, but a poster shows Pac-Man eating the Golden Gate Bridge.)
“Terminator Genisys” director Alan Taylor calls his experience in San Francisco wonderful, and adds that he found it “sometimes hard to concentrate on the work.”
“Like every other recent movie, we could not resist the Golden Gate,” he says. “We had a big sequence there. And yes, the location has been shot to death, but we still loved the imagery and had a great time.”
“Ant Man,” a superhero movie starring Paul Rudd, made use of the Tenderloin. Co-producer Brad Winderbaum highlights one dynamic scene in which the hero, he says, “first experiences the power of Ant-Man through multiple micro environments in a Tenderloin apartment building.”
“The city informed the entire look and feel of our film,” he continues. “Marvel found our experience shooting in San Francisco absolutely incredible.”
Susannah Robbins, executive director of the San Francisco Film Commission, says all of the productions were required to coordinate with police and public transit authorities.
In the case of a chase scene in “Terminator Genisys,” filmed from above via helicopter, CalTrans and the Golden Gate Bridge offices were also involved.
But despite some initial hiccups — one “Ant Man” location had to be moved from a heavy-traffic area — everything went smoothly. After shooting, “Ant Man” production offices even donated some costumes to a local shelter.
The “San Andreas” shoot worried locals. One shot required hundreds of extras to run down Hyde between Greenwich and Lombard streets without disrupting cable car service.
“We got emails after the production left Russian Hill from residents saying how much they enjoyed seeing the filming,” says Robbins.
Regarding the computer-animated “Inside Out,” director Pete Docter says, “We didn’t work off architecturally accurate blueprints. Instead, we stretched buildings to exaggerate their vertical thinness; we made the streets even more steep and curvy to bring in diagonals.”
“Our production designer Ralph Eggleston said it well,” he continues: “We wanted to capture the San Francisco that would stick in your head if you visited here on vacation.”