The Greta Gerwig film Lady Bird may have been set in Sacramento — but a lot of the movie was shot elsewhere.
"She ended up shooting the exteriors here,” explained Sacramento-based documentary film writer and producer Ed Fletcher.
He was a reporter for The Sacramento Bee at the time Lady Bird was made and says the city’s inability to negotiate a deal with filmmakers cost locals opportunities for work.
“Had that been shot here, that would have been a whole other wave of lighting people, sound people, technicians, actors, background people that would have been able to put Lady Bird on their resumes," Fletcher said.
Jennifer West hopes to change this. She’s the new manager of the Sacramento’s film office, and says the city has people with the skills to work in film.
But, since it’s just her second week on the job, she has yet to meet all of them.
"My job is to sort of engage the community, wrap my arms around them, bring them in, find out what the local workforce is, build on that, train a larger, more cohesive workforce,” West said.
West previously worked with Councilman Jeff Harris’s office, putting on the Pops in the Park music series. In the 1990s, she worked as a freelance production assistant on feature films in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., and as a manager of television production for New Line Cinema.
She hopes to collaborate with filmmakers like Fletcher, who produced a 2018 documentary Do the Dance about strippers in 1969 arrested for dancing naked at a club in Orangevale, says he has received very little help from the city on his project.
“I’ve reached out to the film office as it was constructed previously, and there wasn’t much help to be had,” Fletcher said. “So, I’m certainly hoping that this new office will be helpful.”
Mike Testa with Visit Sacramento says moving the film office to City Hall should provide more support for local talent.
“When Visit Sacramento ran the film commission, our charge was to bring in outside productions that generated hotel room nights,” Testa said. “The local filmmaker was not our target.”
Historically, Visit Sacramento issued up to 70 film permits annually. The value of those permits in terms of money spent in the region has not been tracked, but West says that will change.
“We hope to establish an exit interview to find out how much money they spent while they were here and what they spent it on,” West said.
Visit Sacramento says about a thousand hotel rooms are booked each year because of the film industry.
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