Over 30 years ago, Hollywood came to San Diego by way of David Janssen and the television show “Harry-O.” Since that time, San Diego has been home to “Jag,” “Simon & Simon,” “The X-Files,” “Silk Stalkings,” my personal favorite starring Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes, “Renegade,” “Veronica Mars” and “Nip/Tuck.” These television programs have helped us become Hollywood South and an attraction to producers, directors and location managers searching for a friendly partner that values the benefits film production provides a community.
As the chair of the San Diego Film Commission Board, I have been privy to the incredible work conducted by the commission staff to assist and promote filming throughout San Diego. In this role, I have had the opportunity to speak with many producers, directors and actors who have commented on the friendly attitude they find when working with the San Diego Film Commission.
One such person is Stu Segall, who was lured by San Diego’s Film Commissioner Cathy Anderson 16 years ago to Kearny Mesa and established the region’s largest studio. Stu as well as many other industry leaders have expressed the importance of maintaining the film commission’s services and resources, as well as the streamlined permitting process, which are not only necessary but also critical to successful film production operations in America’s Finest City.
The film commission was founded, as a public-private partnership with the city, county and port of San Diego, in 1976 after unresolved challenges forced the television series “Harry-O” to return to Los Angeles to film. At that time, former Mayor Pete Wilson created the Film Commission to be a “one-stop shop” to meet the demands of film production 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The film commission revolutionized the film permitting process by creating an organization that provided filmmakers and production companies with the professional expertise, troubleshooting assistance and a multitude of resources to navigate the many layers of governmental jurisdictions and private entities to allow for a streamlined approval process. Equally as important, the film commission also became a resource for the communities impacted by location filming.
Movies such as “Jurassic Park,” “Almost Famous,” “Top Dog,” “Traffic,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Top Gun,” “Titanic,” “K-9” and “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” to name a few, have been filmed right here in San Diego because of the work of the film commission. And, those movies along with numerous television shows, commercials and print advertising shoots have added hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.
Most recently, film production in San Diego generated over $100 million in economic impact for the region, nearly 20,000 hotel room nights and showcased San Diego to over 83 million television viewers in 10 different countries.
This public-private partnership is an innovative and cost-effective approach to providing quality film permitting services, specifically, for the city of San Diego. By outsourcing these services and liaison activities to the film commission — which spent over 13,000 hours processing, facilitating production projects and responding to constituent needs — the city does not have to support its own Film Permitting Department and incur excessive costs for overtime and the resources necessary to successfully conduct these important activities.
As a community we must continue to support the work of the film commission as it generates important revenues to improve our neighborhoods, creates job opportunities at a time when cutbacks and downsizing have become common practice and helps promote San Diego as a tourist destination to millions of people.
So, next time you’re at the movies or watching a new television show, keep an eye out for your favorite San Diego landmark.