Fact Check: Hollywood Spending in San Diego

Fact Check: Hollywood Spending in San Diego

Photo by Ernie Anderson

A crew films the TV show "Terriers" in Ocean Beach.

Image: Mostly TrueStatement: “(The San Diego Film Commission) had attracted up to $100 million in direct production company spending each year to the San Diego region,” former commission CEO Cathy Anderson wrote in an Aug. 8 op-ed.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: The San Diego Film Commission dissolved last month after more than 35 years of coordinating with film crews and working to entice more of them to the region.

Former CEO Cathy Anderson was among those disappointed to learn that a significant drop in tourism marketing funding led to the group’s demise.

In an Aug. 8 Voice of San Diego op-ed, Anderson argued that reviving the organization would bring significant economic benefits. After all, she claimed, the Film Commission brought up to $100 million in production-company spending to the region each year.

That’s a significant dollar figure, particularly given the group’s struggles in recent years.

Anderson, who led the Film Commission from 1996 to 2011, said the organization carefully tracked production-company spending under her watch.

Film crews filled out surveys about the hotels crew members stayed in, how long they spent in San Diego, their total spending in the area and more.

Anderson said Film Commission staff used the information shared in the surveys to estimate their economic impact.

In a 23-year period from 1988 to 2010, the group twice tracked about $100 million in estimated economic returns, according to Anderson’s records.

Here’s a chart she provided.

 

Graphic provided by Cathy Anderson

Graphic provided by Cathy Anderson

Anderson left the organization in 2011. Rob Dunson, who led the Film Commission until it shut down last month, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Amy Lemisch, director of the state Film Commission, said the local group’s past assessments aren’t unrealistic.

“If you have multiple TV series and multiple film productions going on, it’s very easy to get up there (toward $100 million),” said Lemisch.

For example, crews working on a television series or major feature films could easily spend $250,000 to $300,000 per day, and those productions can go on for weeks, she said.

In 2005, the year the Film Commission reported about $100 million in direct spending, Anderson said. Crews working on the cult favorite TV show “Veronica Mars” shot 22 episodes in San Diego then. That year, the Film Commission also assisted with a supernatural series called “Point Pleasant” that aired on Fox and a reality show about San Diego lifeguards, among numerous other projects.

Former Film Commission board member Cap Stubbs recalled strong years too.

He also stood by Anderson’s numbers.

“I saw all of the data we had every year as a member of the board and am certain as to its accuracy and the numbers that were generated,” Stubbs said.

But he added a caveat.

“(The $100 million) wasn’t each year,” Stubbs said. “That was our best year.”

Indeed, during Anderson’s time leading the commission, the group brought in an average of $63.7 million per year in estimated production company spending to the region.

The organization did draw an estimated $100 million in 2005 and $96.2 million in 2007, according to Anderson’s records.

We dub a claim “mostly true” when it’s accurate but there’s an important nuance to consider. Anderson’s statement earns this rating because it’s technically accurate. The Film Commission did assist in bringing in as much as $100 million in direct production spending in 2005 but the average is far less.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

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9 comments
Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw

Enough of this blather, I wanna know when "Anchorman 2" will be available on Netflix!

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Enough of this blather, I wanna know when "Anchorman 2" will be available on Netflix!

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Once again "fact check" shows it is anything but. The important part is how much of that 100 mill best year that the The San Diego Film Commission attracted, as opposed to what would have been spent here in its absence. It's best year was $100 million if you take this at face value. If any of that spending would have taken place here had the The San Diego Film Commission not existed then the statement is false. I'm willing to bet that while the The San Diego Film Commission probably did cause some of the filming that might not have occurred otherwise, their actual impact is a fraction of the total. San Diego has a film history that stretches back to the beginning of film. We have had studios here and hundreds of movies filmed here before there was a The San Diego Film Commission. Part of Citizen Kane was filmed here, Some Like it Hot was filmed here. Any agency is quick to take credit, to carefully document "success" whether it is real or not, but you can't assign 100% of the film spending here to the The San Diego Film Commission based on their say so, to do so is dishonest.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Once again "fact check" shows it is anything but. The important part is how much of that 100 mill best year that the The San Diego Film Commission attracted, as opposed to what would have been spent here in its absence. It's best year was $100 million if you take this at face value. If any of that spending would have taken place here had the The San Diego Film Commission not existed then the statement is false. I'm willing to bet that while the The San Diego Film Commission probably did cause some of the filming that might not have occurred otherwise, their actual impact is a fraction of the total. San Diego has a film history that stretches back to the beginning of film. We have had studios here and hundreds of movies filmed here before there was a The San Diego Film Commission. Part of Citizen Kane was filmed here, Some Like it Hot was filmed here. Any agency is quick to take credit, to carefully document "success" whether it is real or not, but you can't assign 100% of the film spending here to the The San Diego Film Commission based on their say so, to do so is dishonest.

Patrick Flynn
Patrick Flynn

I often disagree with Mr. Jones, but this comment is spot-on.

Derek Hofmann
Derek Hofmann

In order to know whether our tax money is well spent, we also need to know how much of that $100 million ($63.7 million average) is returned to the city in tax revenue. If it was less than what we paid the film commission, then it wasn't worth the cost.

Patrick Flynn
Patrick Flynn subscriber

I often disagree with Mr. Jones, but this comment is spot-on.

Derek Hofmann
Derek Hofmann subscribermember

In order to know whether our tax money is well spent, we also need to know how much of that $100 million ($63.7 million average) is returned to the city in tax revenue. If it was less than what we paid the film commission, then it wasn't worth the cost.

Kevin B
Kevin B

Excellent point. It's much like the NFL claiming how much revenue a SB brings in. Even if the SB numbers are accurate, and I've read stories that say they are not, how much of that money does the city itself collect.