California Forum

Another View: Sacramento needs an independent, full-time film commissioner

Filmmaker and actress Greta Gerwig wants her coming-of-age film, set in Sacramento, to be filmed here. But there are local issues that complicate the matter.
Filmmaker and actress Greta Gerwig wants her coming-of-age film, set in Sacramento, to be filmed here. But there are local issues that complicate the matter. Sacramento Bee file

Can Greta Gerwig get her valentine to Sacramento made in Sacramento? Can anyone? The way things currently stand, it doesn’t look likely. (“Help Greta Gerwig make her valentine”; Forum, Shawn Hubler, April 3).

As part of the mayor’s For Art’s Sake initiative a few years ago, I was a member of the group tasked with exploring film and television production. We looked at all aspects of the process, from talent pools – in front of and behind the camera – to facilities to economic factors.

Of the issues we reviewed at the time, only one has shown any sign of improvement – the film tax credit – and that change occurred because of action at the state level. The local issues have remained the same.

There are many things we need to do and many of these were identified years ago. We need an independent, full-time film commissioner able to freely represent and promote this city. We need an inventory of facilities and locations that can be readily accessed and permitted for use. We need more and better training of the talent in town so any production company – union or not – can know that anything they need is already here. The fixes won’t be easy, and they won’t happen overnight.

The primary concern – then and now – is a lack of promotion and visibility. We do have a local film commissioner’s office, but it’s a part-time office and not truly independent. It’s controlled by the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, which has its own separate, sometimes conflicting, mission.

Other cities promote their history in the industry: the Charlotte, N.C., airport has a wall decorated with posters of film and television productions so everyone can see that history on arrival. It’s a small thing, but easy, and our history is longer.

It’s important to note that any production coming into Sacramento generates revenue for Sacramento. If we can attract people of credibility and stature such as Gerwig, we look more like the world-class city we want to be. If we demonstrate that we honor the people who came from here as much as they want to honor us, we show our civic pride.

This is one more way to create jobs in Sacramento – permanent, living-wage jobs. Everyone benefits from the arts and not just from an aesthetic viewpoint. Artists spend money as they make money, just like everyone else.

It’s all about jobs. Jobs in the arts are jobs, too.

Blair Leatherwood is a local actor in theater, film and television, and has lived in Sacramento more than 50 years. He is a member of Actors’ Equity and was a member of the For Art’s Sake initiative in 2007-08.

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