August 24th, 2013

OPINION – Quiet On the Set!

Film Commission’s Demise Leaves Valuable Industry In Limbo

newshoesA major casualty of recent layoffs at the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA) was the San Diego Film Commission. The commission’s three employees were among the SDTA’s drastic staff reductions, 31 in total, resulting in the shuttering of the organization after 38 years of service. Unable to safeguard funding for its own core sales and marketing functions, the SDTA had no choice but to make the cut.

Although not a shock to visitor industry insiders, the closure of the commission is just the latest blow to a venerable institution that has spent time under the Chamber of Commerce and its own nonprofit umbrella before being rescued and absorbed by the SDTA last year. Nevertheless, the commission’s sudden demise caught many by surprise.

Established in 1975 by then-Mayor Pete Wilson, the organization’s funding came primarily from the City of San Diego with modest supplemental grants from the Port and County of San Diego. Significant reductions in city financial support over the ensuing 30 years eventually pushed the commission toward tourism funding through the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD), where fierce competition for TMD dollars is strictly measured on demonstrated hotel room night generation. Although significant, the commission and film industry’s economic value and impact to San Diego are difficult to measure against this key metric employed by the TMD.  As a result, the organization is simply not a good fit for the district’s room night centric funding model.

The commission’s unceremonious relegation to the cutting room floor several weeks ago has left many in the community wondering what can be done to bring the operation back to life. Former Film Commission CEO Cathy Anderson, whose recent commentary in the Voice of San Diego provides a good overview of the organization’s history and important benefits to San Diego, is exploring the possibilities and will be meeting with city officials and other stakeholders in the coming weeks to discuss potential options for the commission.

It will be interesting to hear what those options might be, including perhaps a rerun of the organization’s opening episode at City Hall nearly four decades ago, possibly under the auspices of a new and enterprising mayoral administration, likely to be in place by February, if not sooner.

No doubt, something should be done to revive the now defunct San Diego Film Commission, a longtime box office hit for the local economy. What that something will be is anyone’s guess.


2 comments to OPINION – Quiet On the Set!

  • Paul O'Sullivan

    I’m very supportive of Kathy Anderson’s efforts to revive the Commission. We should both put our shoulders into this one, Sal.

  • salv4930

    Yes, Paul. I agree. My understanding is that efforts are underway to revive the organization. These efforts are focused on the City of San Diego. We’ll likely have a sense of the city’s reception in the coming weeks.

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