It's not at the top of Mayor-elect Gavin Newsom's list, but expect major changes by next spring at the San Francisco Film Commission. For eight years, Willie Brown took an apathetic approach to the office, which is charged with increasing and assisting production in the city. He appointed political loyalists with limited industry experience to head the three-person department; in the case of current Executive Director Martha Cohen, he frequently pulled her away from her primary duties to do tasks unrelated to her job. While under Brown the process of issuing permits and facilitating production functioned smoothly, the marketing of the city to L.A. producers essentially ceased.
As the economy worsened, location scouts, line producers, gaffers, grips, and other members of the Bay Area film community grew increasingly vocal and organized about the dearth of Hollywood movies shooting here. Newsom represented himself as a supporter of production in this town during his campaign, and his transition team has solicited suggestions -- including recommendations for the executive director job -- from groups such as the Bay Area Film Alliance (Reel World, June 18). One intriguing idea is a series of public service announcements, to be conceived by a hoity-toity S.F. ad agency, aimed at winning the hearts and minds of Telegraph Hill residents (and others). The message: Don't think of movie shoots as L.A. interlopers messing with your parking, but as a fount of local revenue and jobs.
Written on the WindThe San Francisco Film Critics Circle, which includes this cantankerous correspondent, named Lost in Translation Best Picture of 2003, with Peter Jackson receiving Best Director laurels for his hobbits-on-a-hike epic. Bill Murray earned the Best Actor citation for Lost, while Charlize Theron took Best Actress honors for her turn as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April) and Peter Sarsgaard (Shattered Glass) aced the Supporting categories. The Son was named Best Foreign Film and Capturing the Friedmans snared Best Documentary. The inaugural Marlon Riggs Award -- named after the late filmmaker of such brave, uncompromising movies as Tongues Untied and presented to a Bay Area artist whose work shares those virtues -- went to Sam Green (The Weather Underground).
EcstasyI know it's late in the day, but nothing guarantees bonus points with the movie aficionado in your life like a lusciously illustrated coffee-table book. 75 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards ($75, Abbeville) will delight glamour hounds, trivia buffs, and fans of American films. Serious students of lighting and photography -- and anyone who's seduced by breathtaking images -- should savor Making Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography ($65, Harry N. Abrams). There's no law against treating yourself, by the way.
Fists of FuryJust as the onslaught of holiday flicks began, the Examiner laid off film critic Jeffrey M. Anderson. Never mind that this is a peak season for prestige pictures, reader interest, box office, and -- dare I say -- movie ads. Well, somebody at the Ex figured that out, and commissioned Anderson to write a couple of reviews a week on a freelance basis for the foreseeable future. ... Local filmmakers were all but shut out of Sundance, but Daniel Gamburg's improvised feature I.P.O. (Reel World, July 30) and Christopher Metzler and Jeff Springer's documentary Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea were selected to screen in the nearby Slamdance Film Festival. ... Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria, Victor Silverman and Susan Stryker's doc-in-progress about the 1966 match that ignited a militant transgender movement in San Francisco, received a grant from the Horizons/Frameline Completion Fund. ... A new California anti-piracy law takes effect Jan. 1, allowing theater patrons to make a citizen's arrest if they see somebody recording the movie off the screen with a camcorder or other electronic gizmo. Leaving aside the possibility of having your nose reconfigured at no charge, do you really want to join the megacorporations' vigilante snitch army?
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