TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Lake Tahoe’s picturesque and varied landscape of towering mountains, woodlands and blue waters attracts not only visitors, but movie production companies that are helping drive the local economy.
Since early 1999, production has generated $17 million for local businesses in Placer County, $10 million of which is spent in the North Shore/Truckee region, said Beverly Lewis, director of the Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office. In 2012 alone, productions and film crews generated an estimated $1.2 million in the North Shore/Truckee region.
“What they don’t bring with them, they have to get from the local economy,” Lewis said, including fuel for vehicles and generators, lodging for crews, materials for set designs and food for crews and actors, among others.
Cindy Streepey, owner of A Sante Lakeside Fitness in Tahoe City, experienced that firsthand during the fall shoulder season when production crews purchased membership to her gym during their several-week stay in the area.
“They were fun, nice people who brought business to the community,” she said. “It was great.”
The needs of production companies and the local economic benefit from this work was highlighted in a Tahoe Film Conference held last month before government officials
“The film industry truly is an economic driver,” said Jennifer Montgomery, Placer County Supervisor for District 5. “It brings Placer County to the world.”
Noteworthy films that have captured Placer County on screen include “Godfather Part II,” “Almost Famous” and “The Muppets,” among others. Yet, the “bread and butter” for the area are commercial productions and photo shoots, Lewis said.
The Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office helps these productions by providing location photos, scouting and permit assistance, and local contacts to expedite filming needs, among other things.
“We’re here to maximize the economic opportunities for local businesses and residents from this mobile industry,” Lewis said.
On the state level, the film industry is also an economic driver.
“The film industry brings millions of tourists to California,” said Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission. “People do want to visit the places they see on TV and in the movies.”
California, which at one time was where almost all movies and commercials were shot, faces competition from other states that offer financial incentives to production companies. In order to compete, in 2009 the state legislature enacted its own film tax incentive — the California Film and Television Tax Credit Program — giving production companies tax breaks for production shoots in California.
However, Lewis said she and other stakeholders would like the program — which offers $100 million annually for productions, along with additional tax credits — to expand in order to attract larger productions to areas outside Southern California, such as Lake Tahoe.
“(It) would probably make a notable difference,” said Lewis.