Essay: Making movies

City’s first film commissioner wants to make Sacramento a production destination

By Jennifer West

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to see a re-release of Bambi at the movie theater with my mom. I can vividly recall the smell of the popcorn and being in complete awe of the film on the big screen and all the emotions that came with it. Now, as an adult, I love the fact that I can enjoy popcorn and be in awe from the comfort of my own house while streaming episodes of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

We’re in the midst of a content boom. Consumers have an endless appetite for binge-watching shows and movies. So content producers are in a war; Netflix is upping the ante by announcing that it plans to spend more than $17 billion in 2020.

Looking to seize on these opportunities, the city of Sacramento opened the new Office of Film and Media in October and recently hired me as the new Sacramento film commissioner.

Sacramento has a long, rich history of film, television and commercials. Projects shot here include the hit movie Lady Bird and an array of television shows featured on Travel Channel, A&E, Fox, E!, HGTV and History Channel.

The city and I understand the value that this industry has on our city because it provides local jobs, increases local spending, fosters artistic expression and raises our profile nationally and internationally.

Sacramento’s film services previously were handled by Visit Sacramento. The city’s Office of Film and Media will expand upon Visit Sacramento’s great work and will continue to provide support and resources to film, television and commercial producers while positioning Sacramento as a production destination.

I, too, have a long history in the film industry and in serving the Sacramento community. I worked on feature films in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., before becoming the manager of television production for New Line Cinema. After moving to Sacramento, raising a family and running two businesses, I served in the City Councilman Jeff Harris’s office and produced the successful Pops in the Park concert series.

Jennifer West is the city of Sacramento’s first film commissioner, overseeing the new Office of Film and Media.

Understanding the film industry and the Sacramento community will be key to success in my new role. I have already begun to foster several great relationships with those in the industry. I have met with California Film Commissioner Colleen Bell, Beverly Lewis, director of the Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office, and Kathleen Dodge, executive director of the El Dorado Lake Tahoe Film & Media Office. I plan to attend the Association of Film Commissioners International professional development days in Los Angeles on March 30-April 3.

Not only do we need to make sure we gather our resources, refine our marketing and develop relationships with the industry, we need to take the next big step of more actively supporting production so that Sacramento can be competitive with other regions. Although there has been an increase in content being made, every production is about the bottom line. Stakeholders are looking for additional ways to bring down the cost of filming. We must work together to create these incentives to become more competitive in the industry.

In the next several months I look forward to fostering relationships with key stakeholders in and outside of the region. I look forward to working with the local and global film and media industry to help address their needs. With their help, we will turn Sacramento into the production destination it deserves to be.

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