San Diego Film Commission plays matchmaker

A trio of young movie makers has chosen to film portions of their indie project in La Jolla, drawn in part by childhood memories and in part by the efforts of the San Diego Film Commission.

Directed by Ari Davis and produced by Raja Collins and Mike Logan, “The Outside” tells the story of a young surfer’s journey to fame and fortune, only to lose it just as fast. The cast includes Michael Graziadei, Nia Peeples, Thomas Garner and Cris Judd.

Logan currently lives in the area, but grew up in San Diego. Davis and Collins grew up surfing in La Jolla.

Disappointed in the lack of authentic surf movies, they hope to incorporate many of their own memories and experiences into “The Outside” to create a true-to-life feel to the story.

“We really wanted to shoot in La Jolla, but we didn’t know if we’d be able to afford it,” said Collins.

That is where the San Diego Film Commission stepped in to make things happen.

Established by Mayor Pete Wilson in 1976, the organization acts as a liaison with public safety agencies, aids with insurance and liability issues, offers a location library representing the entire region and extends personalized service to each filming group.

"(Wilson) created the commission outside of government as a one-stop shop to facilitate the permit process for projects that wanted to film here,” said Kathy McCurdy, the commission’s director of feature films.

Supported by county, port and city funds, the organization operates as an economic development program. Film production - whether commercials, television shows or movies - generates tremendous revenue.

Since the commission’s inception, there has been steady growth in the number of filming projects drawn to the region.

The movie “Top Gun” and the television series “Simon & Simon” are two of the most well-known projects, responsible for more than $5 million in economic impact.

Since then, San Diego has been the backdrop for print, video and film.

Mitsubishi, BMW, Exxon Mobile, Black and Decker, Goodyear Tires and other manufacturers have filmed commercials in San Diego.

Area landmarks such as the Coronado Bridge can be seen in magazines such as Self, Vogue and Men’s Health.

Some of the TV series that have come to town include “Scrubs,” “Nip/Tuck,” “JAG,” “John from Cincinnati,” “24" and “Veronica Mars.”

Studios have also capitalized on San Diego’s benefits with movies such as “Scorpion King,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Traffic,” “Bring it On!” and “Bruce Almighty.”

In fiscal year 2007, filmmakers rented more than 27,800 rooms and brought in $96,200,000 of revenue. Portions of five major films were shot in San Diego, including Harrison Ford’s “Crossing Over.”

Independent feature films have grown significantly, jumping from eight in previous years to 17 in 2007.

With most major studios carrying indie divisions, this is one of the best markets to capture.

San Diego appeals to filmmakers for numerous reasons including the versatility of the geography, no permit fees and free use of city public properties such as Balboa Park.

Thanks to the assistance of the film commission, the producers of “The Outside” were able to shoot in La Jolla.

Over 15 days, the 35-member crew filmed scenes at the La Jolla Shores Beach, Kellogg Park, Mitch’s Surf Shop and two private homes.

It’s a definite financial boon for the community. More than half of the crew is from San Diego, and those who are not are staying in local hotels.

Part of McCurdy’s job is selling filmmakers on the advantages of San Diego. In La Jolla, it was easy.

The parking lot near the beach made for easy access for the crew and trucks. The diversity of the landscape allowed Davis to create several different looks at one beach without having to travel to multiple locations.

Public relations is yet another vital component of the film commission’s mission. Filming can be disruptive, yet education goes a long way in preparing local businesses and generating excitement among residents.

“It’s a tough balancing act,” McCurdy said. “Any time you bring a project into a neighborhood, there’s going to be interruptions.”

“Honestly, I’ve been surprised at how nice La Jolla has been letting us into their area,” said Collins, who plans to return with future projects. “We’re trying to put San Diego back on the map and show all the icons.

“It’s very surreal to me because I grew up here. I’m coming down to where I grew up dreaming about things and now I’m doing it. It’s a feeling of success for all of us.”

“The Outside” is scheduled for release later this year, with special screenings in San Diego. Learn more about the movie at