From Captain Marvel to Pirates of the Caribbean, the film industry brought $1.4 billion to San Bernardino and Riverside Counties since 1995. This income is unlikely to continue as the film industry has been “hit hard,” says Dan Taylor, President of the Inland Empire Film Services.
Taylor previously served as the Liaison for the San Bernardino Film Commission and the Deputy Director of the Inland Empire Film Commission. His primary role is to help production companies obtain filming permits and provide a resource center where they can hire local people and vendors.According to him, the film industry brought in $50 million to the Inland Empire last fiscal year. A number the region is unlikely to reach this year. Taylor discusses why and how Covid-19 has affected local film productions.
Q: Under normal circumstances, how beneficial would you say the film industry is to San Bernardino County’s economy?
A: I don’t think the community realizes how much filming happens out here. We’re probably in the top five locations for filming in the state of California. That’s because we have a very diverse region. We have a lot of deserts, a lot of mountains, and urban areas open for filming. That is not the case in a lot of the states. We’re one of the few places — if not the only place — in California where you can have a shoot in the morning where you have your talent skiing down a mountain slope, and in the afternoon you could have them riding an ATV in the desert. Where else can you find that in the U.S., let alone in California?
Q: You mentioned cities and urban areas, has COVID put a stop to any filming being done there?
A: In the beginning, yes. Right around March, everything shut down, and it wasn’t until July that things started to open up again. Now almost everybody is open. Each have their restrictions, but in general, it’s open for filming now. I would say, probably in October, we’ll be looking at getting back into full swing for filming. Commercials were the first things to start up again, but it takes TV and features a little longer to get up to speed because they have to start ramping everything back up again
Q: Last fiscal year, the film industry brought in $50 million for the Inland Empire. Do you think we’ll get close to that number this year?
A: Probably not. If you’ve taken three or four months of the prime filming time, it’s going to be a major hit. I haven’t calculated what’s happening in the region from the information that I have, so I couldn’t tell you exactly what it would be, but I doubt we’ll be able to hit what happened last year.
Q: In your estimation, how many major film productions did we see in San Bernardino County last year?
A: I’d have to actually look at my records to find out what they were, but as far as major feature films I maybe had three or four.
Q: How does that compare to this year so far?
A: It’s kind of hard to say because three months into the year, COVID hit. March, April, May, June is when a lot of filming comes through, and it didn’t happen this year. There are some features that are considering coming out, so we may get two or three. It’s a different year and it’s really hard to predict.
Q: How do you think COVID has affected the small businesses that rely on film productions to survive?
A: It’s been a major impact. Some of them are really struggling. Like the town of Lucerne Valley, for example. Small little town, but that small little town gets a lot of filming in the outskirts, so it’s a great economic impact. There’s a lot of dollars spent in that town for supplies or food or whatever they need. They got hit big and they’re struggling. Some of them survived and some of them didn’t, so it’s one of those things where hopefully they had enough reserved to maybe survive and be able to pick back up again, but we’ll see. I’m hoping that in October/November things will go back to full swing, and we’ll be going back to normal again, in a sense. As normal as can be.