16. San Diego, California
Do you feel the need for speed? San Diego is back in the headlines, particularly its Miramar Marine base, once the location of the Navy’s TOPGUN training program. With Tom Cruise being spotted in San Diego through the fall as Top Gun: Maverick got underway, who could blame even local film officials for being excited? “It was very exciting to welcome Paramount back to San Diego for the sequel,” San Diego Film Liaison Brandy Shimabukuro tells MovieMaker. “Given what an icon the original is and its San Diego roots, it felt like a homecoming. Oftentimes, productions of this size are measured solely by economic impact—and with good reason—since a cast and crew of about 250 lived and worked in San Diego for nearly six weeks, but the reality is that hosting major productions like this isn’t just an economic boon, it helps bolster civic pride. We look forward to seeing our hometown on the silver screen in June 2020.”
Fighter jets or no, San Diego appears to be making strides to reassert itself as a player in the film production arena after budget cuts in 2013 went unaddressed for a couple of years. In 2015 mayor Kevin Faulconer hired a filming program manager, streamlined permitting and established online directories of local crew, but the building blocks of a deeply staffed and resourced Film Office are still falling into place. In July it was reported that a dormant 180,000 square-foot recycling facility in the city’s San Elijo Hills—45 minutes closer to L.A. than downtown—could be converted into a production facility, but what is needed is more coordination with local producers and local subsidies. A consultancy tasked by the site owners is reaching out to the city council.
Faulconer tells us that the official reestablishment of the Film Office in 2015 wasn’t just a statement to say they were open for business: “It was a message to the world that while San Diego may be the industry’s best-kept secret, it won’t be for long.” He also cites some of the cultural qualities that SD has to offer, from its history of promoting film, photography, and other arts to its binational location. “It’s a dynamic environment for anyone looking to tell their story,” he says.