OCTOBER 18 – 22, 2023

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Dale’s Corner: We Need to Bring Film Production Back to San Diego and How You Can Help.

When you think of the Movies and TV Shows that were shot here in San Diego what comes to mind? I bet the top three that you think of are:  Some Like It Hot (1959) , Top Gun (1986), and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). Those are just the popular ones, but San Diego has a rich history in film production that dates back to 1898. Film Production in San Diego has been on the decline due to competing markets that are cheaper to film in and offer incentives to filmmakers. If we want to make San Diego a viable option for filmmakers, changes need to be made now.

Since 1898, there have been over 700 films shot in San Diego County. In fact one of the largest movie production companies in California at that time, Flying A Studios, which later became American Film company in 1915 started in La Mesa in 1911 and later moved to Santa Barbara.  It rivaled any production company in Hollywood.

So, what happened to our film and TV industry? Was it the closing of our film commission? Probably not because films and TV shows shot in San Diego continued to decline long before the commission closed in 2013. The main problem is tied to a larger issue that California as a whole is facing which is known as “film flight”. Film Flight is the loss of film and television production to lower cost markets such as Georgia and New York. This is a serious situation that is having an economic impact on the state.

What did New York have that the Hollywood didn’t?  Incentives and tax credits.  While California was sleeping at the switch New York was growing at the rate of 25% a year. New York offered $400 million dollars in tax credits to shoot your film in New York while California until last year offered only $100 million.  Last year California raised it to $300 million and TV shows like VEEP is relocating from Maryland to Hollywood as a result.  The problem is that California and New York are competing with not only about 40 states (Louisiana, Florida, Georgia for example) who offer incentives but also many, many countries around the world.

The decision for producers is simply that whatever offer results in the best bottom line to make a movie is where it’s going to get produced. It’s just that simple. So does that mean that San Diego will get more production because California now has more competitive incentives? Not necessarily. Besides there being so many other countries and states with incentives, San Diego has lost a large supply of resources – cast, crew, equipment, studios, etc. to Hollywood, giving LA a bigger advantage.

So is it curtains down for San Diego then?  Not necessarily but it is going to take a whole lot more than putting a film commission in place.  Mayor Faulconer has proposed setting aside money in his budget to do two things: Hire a survey to determine whether San Diego can benefit from rebuilding a film industry and someone to oversee the process. He has come under fire from some sources who believe this is too little and instead advocate setting aside a budget large enough to reinstate the film commission and hire several people to run it.

I think the Mayor has the right approach and wants to make sure that rebuilding a film industry here is possible and know exactly what must be done and how much it will cost to make that happen before he starts spending taxpayer dollars. If all we did was re-instate a film commission, all we would be doing is repeating the past and I doubt it could lure production without the right incentives and resources necessary.

The San Diego Film Foundation is committed to helping San Diego rebuild its film industry and we have studied this matter carefully for the last three years.  Since we produce the San Diego Film Festival we are in Hollywood regularly and continually talking to producers and filmmakers, and understand that if San Diego can improve the incentives offered to film makers it would make San Diego a more viable location to shoot in.

We know that San Diego could create an incentive plan that would bring filmmaking here.  We continue to survey filmmaker needs, invite them to San Diego as part of the San Diego film Festival and  introduce them to the resources we do have.

If you are as passionate about this issue as we are, and want to see our film community in San Diego grow we urge to become a member of the San Diego Foundation. Being an active member of the foundation means you get to be on the ground floor of redefining San Diego’s future and add your voice to how that gets done. You’ll also have insider access to learn more about films and the people who make them on a year round basis and enjoy film festival activities as a VIP with VIP credentials, free valet parking, invitations to all the VIP events and much much more.
To become a member, purchase a VIP Pass to the upcoming film festival. You will be a founding member who can make a difference in San Diego’s future.

To learn more about recent efforts to bring Film Production back to San Diego visit:

San Diego’s Film Community Optimistic After City Council Budget Meeting

San Diego Mayor’s Office Outlines Plans to Attract Film, Television Production