S.F. must do more to welcome film projects

If San Francisco officials are serious about attracting more business to The City, they need to approve an amendment to the film rebate program that will help provide productions with the needed space to work here.

San Francisco makes a cameo in many TV shows and movies, with shots of its iconic bridges and skyline used in quick succession to set the scene of where the characters are supposed to be. Though the opening scenes portray The City, actors' scenes are sometimes shot elsewhere, such as Hollywood or Vancouver, British Columbia.

The reasons productions head elsewhere for shoots are myriad, but they often revolve around rebates that locales offer to offset costs. The City has worked hard to combat films fleeing elsewhere for rebates, but now it needs more space for productions.

The reasons productions head elsewhere for shoots are myriad, but they often revolve around rebates that locales offer to offset costs. After San Francisco worked hard to tackle and combat the former, The City has fallen behind on the latter.

Between 2001 and 2006, film and TV production here dropped off precipitously. More than 1,000 jobs, $123 million in spending and more than $8.4 million in tax revenue were lost, according to a Film Commission report.

After that decline, The City stepped up and increased its rebate program. In the first six years of the rebate program, The City gave out $1.5 million in rebates. In return, the film industry spent $40 million here, including $12.5 million in local wages.

The booming business now needs more space, which becomes a pressing issue as productions pass over The City for other locations. Already, a feature film has decided to shoot elsewhere, a loss of $4 million in spending. Two TV shows are on the fence as well.

The item before the Board of Supervisors today would add to the film rebate program a way for productions to be reimbursed up to $600,000 for renting commercial space for production work. In the case of the feature film, it seems reasonable that an investment from The City of $600,000 to land $4 million in business is a sound venture.

San Francisco does not need to roll out the red carpet for film companies and hand out more tax breaks than necessary, but it also shouldn't slam the door on a multimillion-dollar industry over mere thousands of dollars.

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