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HBO is a return customer for the San Diego Film Commission. “Entourage” filmed here last season and created a good relationship with the State Fair Grounds that served as their location.

On March 23, 2006, Executive Producer Greg Finberg, from the HBO series “Deadwood,” contacted the San Diego Film Commission with a challenge. He was looking for a beach community that hadn’t changed since the 60s or 70s. He explained that it was a confidential project in the beginning stages of production. We were reluctant to at first recommend Imperial Beach because the city had just wrapped a large project called “Lords of Dogtown” and had already experienced the impact of a feature film.

On April 28, 2006, Brian Haynes, Location Manager for “Deadwood,” called to introduce himself to us and to talk about the project he was working on. It was a pilot for a television series for HBO. The San Diego Film Commission sent location photos of Ocean Beach which proved interesting enough for Brian to come to San Diego for a scout and meetings with the Film Commission. There are many issues that are discussed, such as local crew experience, hotel cost and availability, law enforcement cost for film detail, local services, and the responsiveness of the Film Commission for 24/7 problem-solving issues.

Although the Film Commission recommended Imperial Beach, there needed to be some discussion about additional impact to this small community before the producers started making plans. At the point when Brian Haynes wanted Imperial Beach for his pilot, now known as “John from Cincinnati,” the Film Commission hosted a meeting on May 1, 2006 with Port Commissioner Mike Bixler and the city manager of Imperial Beach, Gary Brown as well as Frank Sotelo who is the fire and public safety representative with Imperial Beach. It was important to address concerns regarding filming prior to the arrival of the location manager. There are three things that drive the decision to film in a community. First is the budget. The production wants to see their money on the screen, not in fees and other arbitrary costs. The second concern is location which must match the story and script and the third is infrastructure. Knowing that there are enough hotel rooms, and other services, is crucial. The Film Commission was responsible for issuing permits to film on the pier, which is a Port District property. We helped Imperial Beach form strategies to alert its residents and businesses about what was going to be happening.

Since the Film Commission represents city, county and port jurisdictions regarding filming, we always want to be of assistance to anyone in need of filming expertise.

Then on Aug. 30, 2006 the pilot was filmed with pick up shots the following December and Imperial Beach became another star in our location diversity. They have quite a track record now and the community has been cooperative even with all the impact. Check out Imperial Beach starring in “John from Cincinnati” June 10, 2007 on HBO at 10 p.m. Stay tuned as the San Diego Film Commission courts more HBO projects for our region.

CATHY ANDERSON

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