North Bay, California’s film industry rebounds with filming bookings and tax incentives


As for the television world, the somewhat dark Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” set in a Sebastopol school dealing with teenage suicide ran from 2017 to 2020 and lit up local economies in the counties of Sonoma, Contra Costa, Marin and Solano with $21.9 million. in expenses, when he was shot. More than half of those expenses were local salary expenses, according to the report approved by the state Film Commission.

Great film opportunities on the island of Mare

In Solano County, film production companies can receive a 5% cash rebate on local expenses for items ranging from flowers and supplies to catering and dry cleaning on sets that fall under Film Mare’s control. Island. The non-profit entity was created in 2016 to promote productions from the former US Navy base in Vallejo.

Filming on Mare Island uses facilities operated by Cinelease, an industrial provider of equipment and rental space that was established in 1977 by its $2.3 billion parent company, Herc Rentals, headquartered in Bonita Springs, Florida.

Thanks to Cinelease’s coordination efforts with Film Mare Island, the island has hosted numerous projects, from a “Venom” sequel to the TV show “Nash Bridges.” The island boasts one million square feet of outdoor space available for filming, as well as 200,000 square feet of soundstages in cavernous on-site warehouses.

When the pandemic hit and shutdowns followed, the heavy equipment rental company’s entertainment division quickly pivoted to renting forklifts and other heavy equipment from Factory OS, a Mare Island neighbor that manufactures prefabricated houses.

The change in business strategy carried the company through the end of last year.

“We got dark the first two months and didn’t book during that time,” studio development director Mark Walter said, referring to the year-and-a-half that COVID-19 was raging.

Beginning in January 2022, film crews began booking warehouse space with Cinelease, with its average daily rate of around $650.

Cinelease reached pre-pandemic booking levels at around 15 days per month. Twenty days are available to reserve.

“We started off slow but got back to 2019 levels,” Walter said, referring to Mare Island bookings. “So yeah, we’re out of the pandemic.”

The 51-year-old argues that the need for soundstages in Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area coincides with the demand for content to power an abundance of streaming services. For him, Mare Island offers great potential in terms of space and equipment.

“It’s basically a city within a city,” said Walter, a Manhattan Beach transplant and former top firefighter who went to work for Sony Studios before answering Cinelease’s call to operate a facility on the island in 2016.

Over the past five years, Cinelease Studios has provided space and equipment for productions such as “Bumblebee”, the sixth installment released in 2018 as part of the Transformer film series.

“That’s where the battle of the robots took place,” he said, pointing from the golf cart to the island’s historic district. “They wanted this for the historic drydock.”

For each production, he says, there are different demands.

While making this year’s coming-of-age film “Fairyland,” producer and co-writer Sofia Coppola researched the surroundings of one of the empty historic homes found on the island. These reservations come with “certain requirements” that maintain the integrity of historic structures, Walter said.

The film industry expert noted that when Cinelease arrived on the island there was “very little activity”, but that quickly changed.

“The film crews are bringing new life to the island,” Walter said while touring with the Business Journal. “There are 1,800 acres on the island, so we see potential for continued growth. The Bay Area market is still untapped in terms of necessary infrastructure.

Sometimes more unconventional needs are met in warehouse space.

The company is providing space for the construction of the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts, Walter pointed out during a visit. The museum will be assembled in the Los Angeles Fairgrounds and will include works of art including paintings, sculptures, murals, photographs, comics, book and magazine illustrations, and films. The project, which is kept secret, is managed by Kreysler & Associates, an American Canyon-based manufacturing company.

Movies in Marin

For those promoting the industry in Marin County, there is a noticeable difference between activity in 2020 and now as well.

This includes the Marin Convention & Visitors Bureau, which includes a cinema office.

“I think the industry is still in recovery mode from pre-pandemic, but it’s definitely picking up. Just in the last month in particular, we’ve had more requests for locations and in a wider variety of requests,” said Deborah Albre, director of creative services and film liaison for the office.

She added that location scouts gravitate to the “green hills and wildflowers” ​​that appear in film and television. Television commercials constitute a large concentration of filming.

“The majority of Marin’s location inquiries are normally for automotive commercials, corporate video commercials, and catalog and wedding photography, so hopefully that’s a good sign of better times. to come,” she said.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, manufacturing, technology, energy, transportation, agriculture, and banking and finance. For 27 years, Susan worked for various publications, including the North County Times, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. Contact her at 530-545-8662 or [email protected]


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