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Arts & Entertainment

San Francisco eyes more movie, television productions to boost local recovery

With movie productions stirring back to life, San Francisco wants a piece of the action. 

A handful of movies and television shows are set to film in the city over the next few months, and the San Francisco Film Commission is hoping to lure more productions with a combination of incentives and, potentially, a dedicated space for film crews to construct large sets. 

Over the past month, there were 33 shoots and a total of 51 shoot days spanning documentaries and television, according to Susannah Robbins, executive director of the San Francisco Film Commission. The city generated $14,700 in permit fees and saw an uptick both in shoots and revenue compared to last month. 

“We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Robbins at a meeting on Monday. “We’re still down a little bit in shoots and shoot days [compared to 2019], but we were up 28% in permit fees…we’re gaining momentum.” 

San Francisco charges fees per day, and those fees can vary depending on the type of shoot: Low-budget productions pay $50 per day in fees, while larger-budget productions will pay $300 a day to film in the city. But the Film Commission, and some local officials, see a much greater economic opportunity as the city recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It not only provides local jobs and local spending, but it reaches people worldwide and…can be a great way to inject money into the local economy and boost tourism again,” Robbins added.

Hollywood productions largely ground to a halt during the pandemic, with countless shoots delayed throughout 2020 and into this year. San Francisco was no exception: The city paused filming permits entirely through June 2020 and collected just $1900 in permit fees during that month across nine shoots. 

Big productions slated to shoot in San Francisco this year include “Super Pumped,” a Showtime series based on the early years of Uber, which was founded and has its headquarters in San Francisco. 

That series stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Travis Kalanick, the hard-charging Uber founder who was ousted as CEO by the company’s board in 2017. Parts of “Super Pumped” will film in the city in December. 

Other productions in the works include the Marvel film “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which filmed two days at a North Beach police station last week. The crew is expected to return for additional shoots in January 2022. “Josephine,” a feature film by screenwriter Beth de Araújo, is also expected to film in San Francisco in January. 

Paul Rudd stars in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which filmed in North Beach earlier this June. | Getty Images

“Goodbye Mr. Chips,” an opera composed by Gordon Getty, is expected to stage at Hangar 3 on Treasure Island—a 79,000 square foot facility revitalized as a production space in 2019—and will film entirely in San Francisco. 

An opera called “Goodbye Mr. Chips” is looking to film at a 79,000 square foot facility on Treasure Island. | Getty Images | Source: Jane Tyska/East Bay Times/Getty Images

That makes it eligible for a rebate program called Scene in San Francisco, which refunds payroll taxes and fees of up to $600,000 for movies, television shows and pilots filmed in San Francisco. The majority of a production must take place in San Francisco in order to qualify. 

According to Robbins, in order to attract more big-budget productions that might otherwise be filmed largely in Vancouver or Los Angeles, San Francisco should build a new “stage space”—a very large, spacious studio facility designed to accommodate film sets. The Film Commission plans to coordinate with Supervisor Ahsha Safai, San Francisco Director of Real Estate Andrico Penick and Kate Sofis, head of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, to identify potential sites and avenues for film development. 

To better support underrepresented artists in the entertainment industry, the commission is also weighing a few initiatives to boost diversity. 

Those ideas include potential partnerships with grant-making organizations, such as the San Francisco Arts Commission, to help kickstart projects and facilitate film festivals that highlight diverse communities. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development also plans to participate. 

Annie Gaus can be reached at