City wants to offer discounts to film industry 

Taking a cue from New York City, San Francisco is looking to partner with businesses to offer discounts to filmmakers who bring their productions to town.

And that’s just one idea being worked on by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s new executive director of the Film Commission, Susannah Robbins, who started two weeks ago.

Robbins said she’s meeting with the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau on Friday to discuss launching such a program.

"[New York City has] all these great discounts you can get for hotels, restaurants, prop houses, masseuses, everybody, listed on their website so it’s very easy for production companies when they come in to see all the other ways they can save money," Robbins said. "I really want to do that for San Francisco because I think it’s really going to be another way to draw business here."

San Francisco’s once-vibrant film industry took a nose dive and left city officials working toward reviving it. Between 2001 and 2006, 1,099 film industry jobs were lost, along with more than $123 million in spending and more than $8.4 million in tax revenue, according to a Film Commission report.

The decline is blamed on other cities and states throwing generous incentives at film productions. In 2006, San Francisco created its own rebate program, which offers a refund on fees and payroll taxes paid to The City during production of up to $600,000.

Better marketing of the rebate program alone could yield results, according to Robbins.

"I might be naïve, but I feel very optimistic because I don’t feel that our rebate program has been publicized enough," she said.

The latest good news for the film industry is the decision by Philip Kaufman to shoot an Ernest Hemingway documentary in San Francisco. Filming will begin in February and last about four months. Production work will be done at Pier 80.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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