"I told my director of photography, 'There are three things I do not want to see in my movie: the Golden Gate Bridge, a cable car and the Transamerica building,'" says Alan Jacobs, local director of Nina Takes a Lover. "I put my characters in places that natives would recognize, not tourists." Jacobs' winning romantic debut (which he shot with a local crew in four six-day weeks) opens Friday in an odd quintet of cities -- San Francisco, Portland, Cleveland (Middle America) and Madison, Wisconsin (a college town with cheap TV ad time) -- in one of the most bizarre release strategies in recent memory. It's still the big leagues to Jacobs, who honed his storytelling chops making short marketing films for Apple portraying how the Mac could be utilized in different industries. He's about to nail down the leads for his next film, SFO, a comedy that American Zoetrope's Tom Luddy and Fred Fuchs will produce; this time out Jacobs portrays our windy burg through the eyes of first-time tourists -- the opening shot is of the Ferry Building's clock tower. Does Jacobs agree with the legions of guidebook authors that San Francisco is for lovers? "It is a romantic city; that's what keeps me here." Jacobs pauses, then chuckles. "Once when I was in love in Wooster, I thought that was the most romantic city."
Another S.F. booster is Toronto filmmaker Atom Egoyan, whose mesmerizing and haunting new film, Exotica, opens Friday. Egoyan used to visit San Francisco frequently with his father, who studied here. "I have a very emotional attachment to this city and places in this city," he confides. "A couple of months ago I was here between flights and I had three hours at the airport. It's the only city in the world where I actually got into a cab to come down for one hour just to walk around. Every time I come here I feel recharged. It's the only American city that I can imagine myself living in," he insists. "Any time I have any opportunity to come here I leap at it because it's inspiring to be here." Late in Exotica, Egoyan tips his hand by slipping in a sly, funny-only-in-context San Francisco joke. "It was a fond tribute to a city I hope to be able to shoot in someday, because I would love to make a movie here." With a wry smile he adds, "I must confess there are places in the world I am in love with that I wouldn't want to bring a film to, because in some ways a film production is associated with a lot of stress and tension, and in a way it almost contaminates a place. I feel that way about the city I was raised in, Victoria, B.C., on the west coast of Canada. Everyone goes, 'Are you ever going to shoot a film there?' No, because it's a place of sanctuary. It's a place I go to get away from films."
Life With Mikey
How far are you willing to go to breathe life into a fading career? New Zealand? That's where Michael J. Fox is headed, to work with horror director turned arthouse auteur Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures) in a thing called The Frighteners.