"Stage Set for Disney to Film in City Hall,
New Rules Sway Last Supervisors"

by Jason B. Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 6 March 1999

It appears that Walt Disney Pictures will get permission Monday to rent San Francisco's historic Board of Supervisors chambers to film scenes for a movie starring Robin Williams.

Supervisors postponed voting on a measure earlier this week to authorize filming for the movie "Bicentennial Man," partly because of concern that the company was not providing enough safeguards for the ornate chamber.

Supervisor Michael Yaki, one of those who had doubts about the idea, said yesterday that the supervisors are likely to approve a deal that would force Disney and all future filmmakers to stick to a set of guidelines for using the chambers.

Disney originally was to pay $5,000 a day to use the City Hall chambers for four days this spring. But under the guidelines, it would have to pay $10,000 for the first day it used the chambers, then $20,000 for each subsequent day.

Supervisor Leslie Katz, who submitted the original proposal, said she is optimistic that Disney will accept the guidelines and pay the higher charge.

"They haven't officially confirmed that it will work, but I'm hopeful," Katz said.

Disney location manager Rory Enke said he had no problem with most of the guidelines.

"That's not uncommon in a room such as that. I'm not asking for carte blanche," Enke said.

"In terms of the fees, that is something that has to be determined by the producers of the film," Enke added.

He said the $10,000 fee sounds commensurate with other fees around the city.

Yaki said, "I would hope these restrictions would make film companies think twice about filming inside the chamber, unless they are truly committed to maintaining its historic and architectural beauty."

Under the deal, the supervisors would pass Katz's resolution at their meeting Monday. Then Yaki would introduce his guidelines, and the board would pass them at a later date.

"The guidelines that are being introduced would require full participation of historic preservation experts and the city architect to monitor what goes on inside the chamber," Yaki said.

The city attorney's office drafted the guidelines Thursday for filming and film-related activities inside the chamber, based on discussions with the city architect, the clerk of the Board of Supervisors and the Film and Video Arts Commission.

The guidelines include:

  • A requirement for a detailed description of any proposed filming activity.

  • A requirement that lighting not hurt the chambers, particularly the irreplaceable Manchurian oak lining the walls.

  • Strict rules regarding temperature, humidity, vibrations and noise.

  • A ban on food, drink, animals, pyrotechnics, fogging devices and smoking.

  • A ban on real or fake weapons, including guns, knives and swords.

    The chambers have been used only once before in a movie, the 1989 film "Class Action" starring Gene Hackman.

    "Bicentennial Man," based on a novel by the late Isaac Asimov, is a science fiction story set 200 years in the future in which Williams plays a robot that wants to become a man. The film will be Disney's Christmas 1999 feature.

    Most of the movie will be shot in the Bay Area. A few hundred union workers are already busy building sets and doing other preliminary work before shooting starts.

    ©1999 San Francisco Chronicle

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