June 14--San Mateo County will never be mistaken for Tinseltown, but that doesn't mean it doesn't sparkle with a little film glamour.
Last year, television shows such as "Myth Busters," commercials for BMW and the James Franco film "Yosemite" were all shot on the Peninsula.
Those projects and more have generated millions of dollars over the years for the area and were coordinated through the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau and its film commissioner, Brena Bailey.
"We're a free service, we do location scouting, we have a massive digital library, we have every film permit for every city, roadway and park; we are the go-to place for support for filmmakers," Bailey said.
"We have a vast area of different looks," she added. "We have 52 miles of beautiful beach land and two working lighthouses. We have the bayside, we have all these suburban towns that can be seen as 'Anytown, U.S.A.' We have film-friendly mansions that are shot all the time."
And then there's the redwood forests, wineries, farms and roadway switchbacks favored by car commercial directors.
"We just had a fashion shoot on the Devil's Slide trail," Bailey said.
In 2012, four major feature film productions were shot in San Mateo County, including, "Chasing Mavericks," "The Master," "The Internship," and "Jobs," as well as a long list of independent films, commercials, photo sessions and video productions, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
For movie buffs, the list of Peninsula film locations featured on the big screen is a long one. Keanu Reeves' character's childhood home in the 2001 "Sweet November"? Try 166 Santa Cruz Ave., in Daly City.
A cocktail lounge scene in "The Right Stuff," released in 1983? That would be the Best Western El Rancho Inn at 1100 El Camino Real in Millbrae.
Robin Williams' 1993 comedy classic "Mrs. Doubtfire" had its courtroom scenes filmed at the historic San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City.
The Filoli Estate's 654 acres of gardens in Woodside have been the setting for numerous blockbusters, including "The Joy Luck Club" in 1993, "The Wedding Planner" in 2001 and "Rent" in 2005.
"'Memoirs of a Geisha' (was) shot at the (James) Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, and it was the Sea of Japan," Bailey said.
The projects bring more than prestige. Between the food bought to feed film crews and hotel rooms booked to house them, the California Film Commission has estimated that a feature film crew spends more than $50,000 a day on location outside the Los Angeles area, Bailey said.
"When the film industry comes to our area, they rent our cars, they eat in our restaurants, they go to our grocery stores," Bailey said. "They spend their money locally, which creates an economic impact."
"Chasing Mavericks," a biopic centered on the Peninsula's world-famous surf spot starring Gerard Butler and Elisabeth Shue, was shot in 21 locations throughout San Mateo County over 2 1/2 months. For one scene, the film production crew went to a local lumberyard and hardware store to buy the materials needed to build a set within a theater space in Half Moon Bay.
"Little things like that add up," Bailey said.
Photography shoots can run from $15,000 to $35,000 a day and commercials from $25,000 to $150,000, depending on production budgets and size of crews, according to 2007 estimates from the Association of Film Commissioners International.
But all that money and prestige brews stiff competition. That's why states such as Louisiana and New Mexico and countries including Canada offer more generous tax credits and other incentives than California, she said.
"It's very disheartening," Bailey said. "A story can take place in Los Angeles or Berkeley, but they shoot it in Atlanta."
The California Film Commission has a program that provides up to 20 percent tax credit for film and TV series shot in the state, but it's currently oversubscribed with "a very long waiting list," according to the state agency's website.
Today at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Bailey said she'll be participating with other Northern California film-industry representatives in a rally supporting a legislative bill that would expand the tax incentive program.
Bailey's part-time job as film commissioner is financed through the Convention and Visitors Bureau with a tourism fee paid by hotels in Palo Alto and San Mateo County, according to the organization's president and chief executive officer, Anne LeClair.
"While San Mateo County will never be Hollywood of the North, any sort of film production, television filming and commercial shoots generate economic activity and are worth pursuing," Board of Supervisors President Dave Pine said.
Email Bonnie Eslinger at email@example.com; follow her at twitter.com/bonnieeslinger.
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