Wake The Town
Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

Location Spotlight: San Francisco


Kaboom’s founder, EP Lauren Schwartz and HOP Steve Sills take us through the diverse and ‘scrappier’ filmmaking opportunities that San Francisco has over LA - and give us some tourist advice

Location Spotlight: San Francisco

From the Golden Gate Bridge to the underutilised East Bay area, San Francisco provides a blend of famous landmarks, rugged urban scenery and ideal shooting locations with plenty of character and variety. 

San Francisco-based production company Kaboom Productions takes us through some of the hidden gems of the region, gives advice on where to stay, eat and more - and warns us never to use the word ‘Frisco’. 


How would you pitch San Francisco/the bay area to any production companies looking to shoot in the area?

The Bay area is great because you have such diverse areas and terrain to choose from. Between San Francisco, the East Bay and Marin county- not to mention Napa and Sonoma- there are a ton of interesting locations you can feature and leverage. We personally try to shoot our location jobs outside of LA as it has gotten so costly to shoot there. I always joke that in LA you pay 10-15K for a house and pay off all the neighbours, while in the Bay area you pay 4-5K for the same house and they bring you lemonade! Certainly, the Bay area has become savvier about these things but the basic premise holds true.


What are the main qualities of the area?

In addition to great locations, I think you will find a nice diverse talent pool for the extras and small parts you need. If you are looking for five top improv folks you would cast in LA and fly them up for the shoot… but for general casting and diversity of looks, San Francisco has you covered. Plus, San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the US - at least they did pre-COVID!

California is known for its filmmaking, especially in Hollywood/LA. What does San Francisco have to offer that LA doesn’t? Why would a production company choose San Francisco over LA?

The Bay area is not where you want to do your stage shoot or a heavy art job. You can, but it’s hard to do and LA is so much better for that sort of a job. But the Bay area is great for location shoots. I think the area offers more location options for less and you spend a lot less time travelling between locations.


Is there a difference in tone/theme/style between the work that comes out of San Francisco versus the work from LA?

I think the style of work perhaps is a bit more fun here in San Francisco. There are not as many big splashy productions - but the work is creative and fun and perhaps a bit scrappier... in a good way.


How much variation is there when it comes to cultural differences? Generalising a little perhaps, how are San Franciscans different from Angelenos?

Here’s what I would say about the difference in crews: LA is a professional filmmaking town. Just like banking is the mainstay of NY and politics is for DC, filmmaking is a primary industry in LA. In San Francisco, the crews are great technicians and filmmakers as well but it’s not their only thing. Crews live in San Francisco and the Bay area for the lifestyle, not for the industry. The San Francisco crews are more like family - there is not as deep a bench so folks really know everyone in town. That can be a really great thing on set.


What would you say are the top locations in San Francisco? 

 While it has traditionally been popular for car photography due to its cinematic drives, San Francisco has also been the home to many classic and contemporary films. The Bay Area and Northern California have a wide variety of locations including big-city urban looks, beach coastlines, rugged mountains, rustic pastures and suburban homes.  The city is divided into several unique sections, all with a distinct character from the iconic seaside/bay views to hipster neighbourhoods to large city avenues. The architecture ranges from mid-century and contemporary modern to Victorian to generic North American residential.

Which location would you say is most popular?

 The Golden Gate Bridge and its adjacent Golden Gate National Recreation Area are very popular, which includes the Marin Headlands and the Presidio/Crissy Field area.  Other areas are The Embarcadero, the Ferry Building, Union Square and the Bay Bridge.  

And which location(s) is underrated/underutilised?

 The East Bay area is underutilised but offers amazing options including very urban areas (Oakland), rolling hills neighbourhoods (Berkeley) and lush suburban neighbourhoods (Lafayette/Orinda). 

Which location would you describe as the biggest attribute to local production?

 Street scenes in the city are easier to shoot than in most cities and San Francisco offers so many cinematic vistas from within the city, it is easy to add production value, even for small budgets.

Explain the climate and the best/worst times to shoot in San Francisco?

Do not come to shoot in San Francisco in the summer and expect sunny beaches - not in the city at least. Yes, you can get sunshine and great weather in the East Bay or the North Bay, but San Francisco really does get quite locked in by fog and you need to anticipate that.

How is the infrastructure in San Francisco for supporting large productions?

 San Francisco has world-class camera, lighting and grip rentals. The crews are top shelf, mostly people who work frequently in Los Angeles but prefer to live in the Bay Area.  There are limited sound stages in the city proper but enough to cover basic needs and most shoots.  There are large warehouse spaces in the general vicinity used for big-budget feature films which can be used for large set builds if necessary.

What have been your biggest/most successful production in San Francisco to date? 

We did a great shoot many years ago with a production company and a director out of Mexico that involved flying shopping carts down the hills of San Francisco into the bay. That was fun. But more recently, the jobs that we have pulled off really well are those where you need a lot of different looks in one spot but you only have a few days to get them all. And so you find one great house that can give you dramatically different looks and then grab a random empty warehouse for the other part of the spot... Or you find a few houses that give you various looks and are close enough to each other where you can do a company move in a day and still get a lot of great shots. As I said, I don't think of the Bay area for huge productions. I think about the Bay area for when you need to get really creative and can’t just throw money at it.


Which production companies do you admire/are doing great work in the area?

I love the work we have been doing, to be honest. But I also think Luis Pena and his company, Revival Film, have done great work in the area as well.


As an outsider, what would you say are the biggest Dos and Don’ts in the region?

Don’t bring a PM from LA. Try to hire a local. Do be very cognisant of the crew's needs around COVID and their real, sincere desire to be as safe as possible. And for certain: don't call it Frisco.

Where would you suggest a foreign production stay while they are in San Francisco? 

I love some of the hotels along the Embarcadero, like Hotel Griffin and 1 Hotel. The Ferry Building is beautiful, has great shops inside and you can take a great walk or run along the water.


Where are the best bars/restaurants? Any hidden gems you could suggest?

Pizzetta 211 and Pearl SF are two great restaurants owned by the same restaurateur, they are out in a non-touristy neighbourhood and are both great. I also love the Slanted Door which has become touristy as it is now situated along the Embarcadero but it became my go-to when it was a small hole in the wall in the Mission. Excellent food and great ambience.

Tacolicious is also a favourite. They have a mission and a marina location.

And for breakfast, nothing beats the pastries at Tartine. For a great sit down breakfast, Bugaloos is my hands-down favourite and has been for decades!

Any other tourist recommendations?     

The tour of Alcatraz is surprisingly good! I am a fan of any hikes in the area and there are many. Both city hikes and a plethora of gorgeous mountain hikes in Marin. Golden Gate Park, certainly no secret spot, is wonderful on a nice day. You can go to one of the museums, check out the swing dancers on Sunday, or just stroll through any one of the garden areas. 

view more - Location Spotlight
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
Kaboom Productions, Mon, 13 Dec 2021 16:31:00 GMT