San Diego

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Helps Put San Diego on MovieMaker’s Top 20 Big Cities for Filmmakers

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San Diego's coming for you, Hollywood. A national film magazine has ranked America's Finest City one of the top 20 locations for filmmakers to live and work. 

MovieMaker Magazine last month released its annual list of the top 20 big cities for living and making films and the always classy San Diego was ranked number 16

The attention caught the eye of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who on Tuesday praised the efforts of the San Diego Film Office, which is still in its infancy, to put the city on the filmmaking map. 

"San Diego’s film industry is in the middle of a renaissance,” Faulconer said. "We’re welcoming more and more filmmakers here to tell their stories and capture the vibrant and diverse cultures and geographic landmarks that make San Diego such a special place."

Tom Cruise is in San Diego for the anticipated "Top Gun" sequel. NBC 7's Joe Little is at Naval Base Coronado with more.

Most notably, San Diego has become the home to "Top Gun: Maverick," a sequel to the film that highlighted San Diego's elite Naval fighter pilots. 

San Diego made headlines when "Top Gun" star Tom Cruise was spotted just outside the main gate to Naval Air Station North Island on Coronado while filming scenes for the upcoming sequel

MovieMaker said the movie's production in San Diego is one reason why the city was selected for their list this year. 

Top Gun: Maverick's six-week production brought a cast and crew of about 250 people to San Diego, a film office spokesperson told NBC 7. 

San Diego has ramped up marketing efforts in recent years to target films like "Top Gun," with campaigns like "Set the Scene in San Diego" targeting creators to chose the region as their filmmaking destination.

The push led to a 40 percent increase in filming dates from 2017 to 2018, according to the city. 

San Diego had 1,600 permitted filming dates in 2018 from the likes of Paramount Pictures, Vice, E! Network, Comedy Central, HBO and National Geographic, the city said. 

Productions ranged from documentaries to TV series and national advertising campaigns. Even a few reality show tapings were scheduled in San Diego last year, including an episode of ABC's "The Bachelor" and episodes of "Total Divas." 

Tom Cruise is in San Diego for the anticipated "Top Gun" sequel. NBC 7's Joe Little is at Naval Base Coronado with more.

The history of movies in San Diego stretches back to 1898, according to the San Diego History Center. 

Filmmakers behind movies like "Citizen Kane" chose the Spanish architecture of Balboa Park as a backdrop for their productions while San Diego's military community brought movies like "Devil Dogs of the Air" and "Some Like it Hot" to the region. 

In the 80s and 90s, the San Diego Film Commission helped get movies like "Top Gun," "Almost Famous" and "Traffic" to the city. 

But San Diego's film industry hit a snag five years ago when the San Diego Film Commission was dismantled due to budget cuts. San Diego leaders touted the need to establish a unified film support system and the San Diego Film Office was born a few years later.

On top of San Diego's "72 and sunny" weather, the city offers production incentives for movie industry professionals who choose to shoot in San Diego. 

The San Diego Film Office helps filmmakers connect with permitting, film crews, advertisers and other industry professionals that can help them get their production made. 

The film office lists nearly 250 locations across the city filmmakers can consider when determining whether to shoot in San Diego -- from classic icons like Balboa Park's Casa del Prado to less recognizable locations like the San Elijo Recycling Plant.

Even private property owners can offer up their sites as filming locations through the newly launched Location Submission Engine. 

To determine the rankings, MovieMaker looked at the number and length of productions in each city, the number of resources available to filmmakers and how many filmmakers have paved the way within that particular city, among others. 

The place most recommended by MovieMaker: Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The southwestern city hit a major milestone last year when it became home to more than 50 major productions within the last three years -- most famously "Breaking Bad" spin-off, "Better Call Saul."

Here's the full list:

  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  2. Atlanta, Georgia
  3. Vancouver, British Columbia
  4. New York, New York
  5. Los Angeles, California
  6. Chicago, Illinois
  7. Toronto, Ontario
  8. Austin, Texas
  9. Montreal, Quebec
  10. Memphis, Tennessee
  11. Boston, Massachusetts
  12. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  13. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  14. Portland, Oregon
  15. Miami, Florida
  16. San Diego, California
  17. Dallas, Texas
  18. San Francisco, California
  19. Houston, Texas
  20. San Antonio, Texas
For explanations on why each city was chosen and for the top productions in each city, check out MovieMaker Magazine's story here
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