I'm so proud to have worked on this production. Good for San Franciso and the Bay Area.
HBO drama Hemingway & Gellhorn doubles San Francisco for global locations
HBO’s new TV feature Hemingway & Gellhorn filmed entirely in and around San Francisco, but the city doubles for locations around the world. It stars Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman and charts the true-life relationship between Ernest Hemingway and famous war correspondent Martha Gellhorn.
Tasked with creating a compelling period drama on a budget of less than USD20 million, the production ruled out filming locations in Europe and Puerto Rico early in the process. San Francisco offered the right fiscal package, as well as being a good practical option for many of the cast and crew.
Trish Hofmann was one of the project's Executive Producers for HBO: “We didn’t have the luxury of travelling around the world looking for filming locations as we had a modest budget. It was actually the director Philip Kaufman who first suggested San Francisco.
We didn’t have the luxury of travelling around the world looking for filming locations as we had a modest budget. It was actually the director Philip Kaufman who first suggested San Francisco.
Trish Hofmann, Executive Producer
“He’s lived there for 50 years and he went around with our Location Manager Patrick Ranahan, taking pictures of small pockets of the city that could double for other parts of the world. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say!”
Kaufman comments: “I knew I wanted to make this film in San Francisco because of all the cities in the world, San Francisco had the most variable kinds of locations that could be moulded and transformed into what I was looking for.
“I know this city. And there’s so much talent here, so many wonderful locations; the crews, the extras, the atmosphere, the food and the city’s co-operation all make it a great place to film.”
Beginning in 1936, the story of the often tumultuous relationship between Hemingway and Gellhorn visits nine different countries – including Cuba, Spain, Finland and China – all of which were recreated within 25 miles of San Francisco’s city centre.
China’s rice paddies were recreated on the salt flats of South Bay and China Camp State Park near the Golden Gate Bridge doubled for Cuba and Florida’s Key West. Chinatown stood in for Shanghai and a derelict railway station in Oakland was dressed to double for Hotel Florida in Madrid.
An authentic Finnish church in Pacific Heights proved a handy double for Finnish scenes. Flat lands around Livermore, a small city just east of San Francisco, stood in for sequences set during the Spanish Civil War.
Filming incentives played a major role in securing the shoot and the production qualified for payments from the state of California as well as the city of San Francisco. Susannah Greason Robbins is Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Commission: “The Scene in San Francisco Rebate programme played a significant role in getting Hemingway & Gellhorn to shoot in San Francisco, offering a cash rebate of up to USD600,000 in anything the production paid to the City.
The Scene in San Francisco Rebate programme played a significant role in getting Hemingway & Gellhorn to shoot in San Francisco, offering a cash rebate of up to USD600,000 in anything the production paid to the City.
Susannah Greason Robbins, San Francisco Film Commission
“This included production offices, stage space and locations owned by the City, up to four police officers per day, permit fees, payroll tax and any other City fees they incurred.”
The project is something of a coup for San Francisco and the Bay Area as it’s a startling showcase for the city’s flexibility as a filming location. While iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf tend to dominate San Francisco’s international image, HBO has revealed what else can be done in the city with the right set dressing.
Hofmann concludes: “San Francisco is an easy sell to the studios. It’s near Los Angeles and it’s in the same time zone, which is increasingly an issue for productions when they look at shoots in places like Europe and Australia. It’s getting harder to get A-list actors – and indeed producers – to travel overseas.”
Hemingway & Gellhorn premieres on HBO on May 28th 2012.
Global Filming Incentive - United States of America (see more…)
- North Miami Film Incentive
- Miami-Dade County Production Incentive Programme
- Kansas City Rebate Incentive
- Virginia Motion Picture Tax Credit
- Wyoming: Film Industry Financial Incentive (FIFI) Program
- West Virginia Film Industry Investment Act
- Washington DC: Rebates
- The Washington Motion Picture Competitiveness Programme
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