San Francisco’s very own car break-in movie—Splash City—was being shot Monday in Potrero Hill. The new film chronicles the story of two brothers caught on opposite sides of the city’s well-documented “bipping” epidemic.
The Standard witnessed a car break-in scene go slightly awry to comic effect at around noon as an actor struggled to smash a car window while the cameras rolled.
San Francisco rapper Berner is co-producing the upcoming “urban crime film,” which already has a snazzy-looking trailer complete with the tagline: “Every 30 seconds in the Bay Area a car is bipped.”
“Sometimes the aftermath of these robberies are much deeper than people think,” the trailer adds before showing a harrowing car break-in scene that involves a baby in the back seat of a car driven by a woman whom two young men follow in a sedan.
The act of breaking into cars, known across the Bay Area as “bipping,” has become something of a cultural phenomenon, spawning music videos and merchandise.
The criminal enterprise has infuriated residents and sent tourists home with broken windows and empty suitcases—all captured in national headlines that paint the city as lawless and often blame progressive policies.
The film's current title references a slang term for car break-ins. Berner, the entrepreneur behind the marijuana lifestyle brand Cookies, whose real name is Gilbert Anthony Milam Jr., said he wants to turn up the pressure on local officials to enact change.
“It's become a big problem in the city. It's not cool. It's not safe,” Berner said. “I think this film can be very impactful. The City of San Francisco is going to feel the pressure.”
Berner and the lead writer on the film, David Mansanalez of Yuba City, said they hope to create a film that draws the “bipping” narrative away from sensationalism and into a deeper conversation about the issue.
James Brooks plays the lead role in the movie and is the son of San Francisco rapper San Quinn Brooks, who reportedly opened for 2Pac at the age of 12 in 1989. The film is directed by Los Angeles native Alex Ferrufino, who has previously directed two short films, according to his IMDB page. The cast is made up of mostly unknown talent, but almost everyone is a Bay Area resident, Berner said.
Berner, a Sunset District native who’s made over 20 solo albums, said he was inspired to create the film about six years ago after he was approached by a young man trying to sell stolen products at the rapper’s Haight Street business.
“He looked very innocent. He didn’t look like the kind of kid that’d be involved in something like that,” Berner said. “I was like, man, I want to make a movie about this kid.”
With that, Berner sent a few paragraphs of a pitch to Mansanalez, who turned the idea into a roughly two-hour-long film script.
“It’s a film that covers all things,” Berner said, “love, pain, life lessons, family and community.”
Local officials have attempted to get ahead of the bipping epidemic in recent months, deploying bait cars. In 2021, cops offered $100,000 to residents who provided information that led to the arrests of car break-in suspects.
Data from the San Francisco Police Department shows car break-ins dropped by 12% from 2022 to 2023—averaging around 59 car break-ins every day.
The feature-length film won't be the first time San Francisco’s bipping crisis has been depicted on camera, but it’s likely the most expansive and well-funded look at the topic.
Berner said he has raised roughly $750,000 for the project and hopes to reach $1 million in total funding. Mansanalez said the crew is aiming to finish the project by May.
Berner remained tight-lipped about the movie’s main plot points, saying he wants the film to speak for itself.
“I'm not giving reasonings behind why people do it. … But it's showing that for some people, this is their environment,” Mansanalez said of the plot. “And then you have someone else who’s really trying to get out of that environment.”
Berner said the film has already received criticism from people who believe he may be glorifying criminal behavior, which is why he’s keeping most of the storyline a secret.
“They don’t really understand what the film is about, so I want to keep some of it as a surprise,” he said. “Our city is beautiful. It deserves to be in film. It deserves to have our stories told.”
San Francisco’s first bipping movie doesn’t currently have a release date—but producers said they would be filming on Treasure Island on Monday afternoon after wrapping a shoot at the Potrero Hill Recreation Center.