Explanation demanded in Film Commission firing

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s abrupt dismissal of The City’s film office head was blasted Monday by the commission in charge of overseeing the moviemaking industry in San Francisco.

Newsom’s decision to oust Stefanie Coyote as executive director of the Film Commission was part of a number of staff changes he’s made since abandoning his gubernatorial bid in October.

But the decision to dismiss Coyote drew criticism from the 11-member commission and prompted a call for Newsom to reconsider the move.

In 2004, the mayor attempted to revitalize The City’s fizzling film industry by overhauling the film office, sinking more money into the Film Commission and appointing Coyote as its executive director.

Commissioners said Monday they were surprised by the decision to oust Coyote, which they found out about in November through the media. They said they have yet to be told any reason for it or who will take over, despite reaching out to the mayor.

On Monday, the commission voted unanimously to officially send a letter to Newsom requesting a meeting.

Commissioner William Adams urged Newsom to change his mind. “I would hope that the mayor would really reconsider,” he said.

Adams also said the dismissal “just sounds pretty political to me,” a reference to suggestions that the move was payback. Coyote’s husband, well-known actor and activist Peter Coyote, threw his support behind likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown.

Newsom would not discuss the subject. “We’re not going to comment. It’s a personnel issue,” Newsom spokesman Joe Arellano said.

Commissioners praised Stefanie Coyote for her accomplishments in trying to revive San Francisco’s film industry, which had taken a nose dive. They credited her with recent activity that includes the TV series “Trauma” and hit movie “Milk.”

“Considering where we started and how far we have come over the last few years — as much as I am respectful of the mayor’s decision — I am certainly disappointed and confused by the mayor’s request for Stefanie’s resignation,” said Lorrae Rominger, president of the
Film Commission.

Coyote’s last day was supposed to be Thursday, but with the show of support from commissioners she’ll stay on until Jan. 31, Commissioner Robert Morales said.

“This came as an incredibly large surprise to me — very unexpected — and I do feel that the timing was extremely unfortunate,” Stefanie Coyote said.

 

More film projects coming to SF

San Francisco will have a front-row seat to filmmaking magic as early as next month.

“Trauma,” an NBC television series, will shoot three more episodes — for a total of 16 in a nine-month period — between Jan. 4 and Feb. 14. It’s unclear if the series will continue after that, but NBC wants to continue filming in San Francisco either with “Trauma” or another production, Film Commission Executive Director Stefanie Coyote said. That could mean another NBC pilot for The City in February.

NBC also is filming a pilot in The City Jan. 6 to 8, with the first day of shooting at City Hall. Called “Facing Kate,” the show is along the lines of “The Closer,” featuring a “quirky” woman who gives up her law practice to become a mediator.

A Clint Eastwood movie is slated to film locally during a couple of weeks in January, with shooting set for an apartment in Nob Hill for five days, at the Hobart Building on Market Street, and at Crissy Field and a nearby sports bar.

And, a portion of Philip Kaufman’s film for HBO about Ernest Hemingway is expected to be shot in San Francisco sometime next year.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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