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Film Commission headed for hiatus

Submitted by on 1, January 21, 2009 – 8:30 amNo Comment

When members of the city’s Film Commission got the agenda for their quarterly meeting last week, it held a surprising plot twist: City staff plans to put the commission on hiatus for the next two years.

Commission members said they fear the hiatus will scotch the progress they’ve made in furthering the city’s efforts to draw films, television shows and commercials here over their three years of existence. But a city staffer in charge of the commission said the city just can’t afford to staff it anymore.

“We have been looking at ways we can do more with less,” said Dorene Soto, who heads the city Development Services department’s business development division. “We’re stretched as thin as we can go.”

The film industry has slowed down, Soto said, and the city is getting a fraction of the requests for filming locations that it once did. Meanwhile, her department has lost half its staff over the past four years. She said the folks who are left need to focus on core city priorities.

But film commissioners said they have made great strides toward putting Alameda on the film industry map, making the city’s filming rules more industry-friendly, creating a city website for the film industry and putting together location shots and brochures.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” Commissioner Kenneth Dorrance said. “I understand the city is hard-pressed for funds. But we don’t spend anything.”

Since the commission is a public body, the city has assigned it a staff member to write agendas, attend meetings and type minutes.

Dorrance said the commission’s purpose is to bring money to the city, and that he’d like to see the city get film projects that are coming to the Bay Area. And he fears that putting the commission on hiatus would hinder its progress toward that goal.

He said commissioners are unlikely to okay the hiatus, but Soto said their vote is only advisory, and that the hiatus is coming. Soto said the city will simply cancel the commission’s quarterly meetings until the money is available to hold them again.

“They’ve done a wonderful job,” Soto said.

The commission is slated to meet at 3 p.m. today at City Hall West, Room 156.

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