Mayor Jerry Sanders has embraced public private partnerships in an effort to improve government and government service to taxpayers. The San Diego Film Commission is one of the original public private partnerships created by the city over 30 years ago. The government created the Film Commission because they realized they needed a specialized agency with the expertise of film production to deal with this unique industry when it films locally.
Government was not prepared to work 24/7 to give oversight to film production working within the San Diego region Saturday through Sunday including nights. It wasn’t prepared for the short lead time or the changes that always happen to the script. Government officials recognized the enormous returns in economic impact, but didn’t have the expertise to manage the day-to-day demands.
To avoid conflicts of interest, the Film Commission is government funded to give oversight to film, video and print production for government. It is charged with attracting work, gathering insurance, checking references, gathering data about the production, facilitating, problem solving and permitting film, video and print production for the city, county and port. Additionally they refer local crew and talent, hotels and related services to every project to promote local hires.
With a staff of six — four being specific to production — the Film Commission is operating on a budget smaller than it had 10 years ago, and yet production is booming in San Diego. It had its best year in history in 2005 documenting more than $100 million spent in the local economy. Two more production staff people are needed for oversight and another staff person is needed for community relations. The small staff has stayed in Julian for the duration of a TV movie filming to supervise California Highway Patrol, fire, pyrotechnics and community concerns for schedules of 14-16 hour days. One staff person stayed in Borrego to oversee a Sean Penn feature that needed assistance with scouting, CHP, fire and community issues.
For the past 30 years, the Film Commission has protected the governments they represent from risk and liability, with not one law suit and no major problems. It seems like a near perfect formula working to perfection. Thanks to Pete Wilson, Lee Grissom, Nanci Washburn, John Freeman, Larry Thomas, Phil Franklin and some others who had a vision that they implemented over 30 years ago, we still have this unique example of public private partnership. Government got a good deal, because when they entertained doing this function themselves 10 years ago, they discovered that Pete Wilson knew what he was doing.