"Renewing an Affair With San Francisco,
Alan Jacobs, Ex-Local Gone Hollywood, Returns to Film 'SFO'"

by Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 February 1999

Alan Jacobs used to be a Bay Area filmmaker, and now he's a Los Angeles filmmaker doing a movie about San Francisco.

Which only goes to show: You can take a filmmaker out of the Bay Area, but you can't take the Bay Area out of the filmmaker.

Jacobs' previous movie, "Nina Takes a Lover," starring Laura San Giacomo, was also set in San Francisco. He's been in town filming "SFO," which was shot in a variety of well-known San Francisco locations. The picture takes place at night, which meant a lot of long hours and sleepless nights.

Just one example of the glamorous life of a director: Jacobs spent one night between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. shooting on the crooked part of Lombard Street. He is probably the first person, aside from residents, to spend more than 10 minutes there.

He has a lot to say about what it's like to film in San Francisco — and apparently it's all good. "It's amazing how cooperative everyone was. I wrote the script with various locations in mind. The only place we couldn't get was the Palace of Fine Arts — something to do with the neighbors." Then again, who could blame them for not wanting a film crew outside their window all night?


When Jacobs filmed "Nina Takes a Lover," he told his cinematographer that he wanted "no shots of the Transamerica Pyramid, Golden Gate Bridge or the cable cars. For 'SFO' I went in the complete opposite direction, because the main character is a tourist. So it's a celebration of San Francisco in the way that Woody Allen's 'Manhattan' is a celebration of Manhattan."

The picture stars Timothy Hutton as a fellow who's about to be married the next day, but he's lost one of his shoes. He searches the city for his missing shoe with the help of a beautiful and unhappily married woman, played by Maria Grazia Cucinotta.

"Time figures heavily in the movie, because it's set on the night that the clocks are set back," says Jacobs. "We got permission to change the time on the Ferry Building. We have a shot with two guys in harnesses, hanging outside, turning back the hands on the clock. Actual ly, the time was being changed from inside the building. We shot that at around 4:30 in the morning."

Jacobs also filmed at the California Academy of Sciences — "We actually stopped the pendulum there." Other scenes were shot at locations such as the Beresford Hotel on Sutter, Max's Diner on Third Street, Maiden Lane, Potrero Hill and, of course, San Francisco International Airport, which was the hardest place to shoot. "When you get off a plane and walk to the baggage checkout, it seems like nothing," says Jacobs, "but with a camera crew you realize it's a very long distance."

The picture also includes some of what Jacobs calls San Francisco's "human landmarks," including comedian Don Novello and Mayor Willie Brown.


Jacobs says he didn't get cooperation for his film because he put the mayor in his movie but rather the other way around — that he gave the mayor a role as a way of saying thanks. "He was excellent. He plays a judge, and I have to tell you I was really nervous, thinking, 'Uh-oh, this guy is a public speaker; he's used to being really big.' But he toned it down and was focused and disciplined. He knew all his lines."

Jacobs, originally from Queens, lived in San Francisco for 10 years before moving to Los Angeles in 1997. Before becoming a feature filmmaker, he made marketing films for Apple Computer. He quit his job to make movies and took a place on Third Street, where he wrote the scripts to "SFO" and "Nina Takes a Lover" in 1991.

"It's funny," says Jacobs. "I sat in a little room on Third Street, eight years ago. Then suddenly, there you are, and these things are actually happening."

"SFO" still has to be edited. After that it will be shown to distributors. A company will have to buy it, and only then will audiences get to see it. The soonest that will happen is the fall. It could be a year from now. But it's likely to happen. "Nina Takes a Lover," a nice little picture, has given Jacobs a track record.

©1999 San Francisco Chronicle

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