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Film and TV Production Companies Bypass San Francisco in Location

Updated on April 28, 2011

The costs to make a TV show or film in San Francisco have studios finding other locations that are more price friendly.  In the past, SF has long been the favorite for many studios and many famous movies were on location there: Bullitt, Mrs. Doubtfire, Vertigo, Dirty Harry, Milk.

From 2008 through 2010, only eight movies or TV shows went on location in SF. From 2005 to 2008, 15 were made there. That is significant drop in revenue and prestige for SF. Other locations like Vancouver, BC, offer better subsidies and tax breaks for LA studios. To fight this, SF is now offering rebates of up to $600,000 to studios who  make SF their location for film or TV productions. NBC's, now cancelled, Trauma TV production, shot there. The only movie being filmed now in SF is an HBO movie called, Hemingway and  Gellhorn. It is about him and his wife and stars Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman. Ironically, none of the film actually takes place in SF, but Chinatown will be used for Shanghai, the Civic Center will be New York and Golden Gate Park will pass for France and Germany! LOL.

Had it not been for tax breaks and rebates, the production company would have filmed in Eastern Europe or Louisiana due to cheaper costs. Flying to Europe would be cheaper? In a movie that will cost $14 million to make, getting a $600,000 rebate is sufficient to lure them away. With Trauma, each episode cost $3 million and the show received $50,000 in rebates for filming around SF. 

Michigan competes with SF by offering a 40% tax rebate incentive, Louisiana and New Mexico offer 25-30% rebate and Vancouver,BC, 33% rebate. California offers only a 20% rebate. The other issue is that many of the film crew's personnel have relocated.

Two new shows,USA's Fairly Legal and Fox's, Alcatraz, appear to be filmed in SF, but they are actually filmed in Vancouver,BC (which is very much like SF). The only real SF images are "postcard" shots to convey the illusion the location is San Francisco.


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