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The Enforcer 

Cops on location, cowboys in oaters, and mountains of film events

Wednesday, Nov 12 2003
Sgt. George Carrington, the film production liaison in the SFPD's Police Law Enforcement Services unit for the last six-plus years, was anointed City Employee of the Year at the ninth annual California on Location Awards in L.A. a few weeks ago. "It is a big deal, because I'm kind of a low-profile guy," Carrington said when I reached him during his morning commute. "I don't seek awards. I just do my job, and to be recognized to that extent is both shocking and gratifying."

Carrington, a 24-year department veteran who bested the mayor of San Diego and a Burbank fire captain (among others) for his plaque, balances the demands of moviemakers (cleared streets, closed intersections, crowd control) with those of driving, parking, shop-owning, and sleeping residents. But he notes that Hollywood flicks shot here do more than inject cash into the local economy. "Not only the general public but city entities should be reminded that the No. 1 industry is tourism, and people become aware [of S.F. as a vacation spot] through the various media," Carrington said. Congrats also go to Bay Area location scout Scott Trimble, who received the Robin Eickman Memorial Mentorship Award for Location Professionals, named after the late S.F. film commissioner.

Cowboy Justice "Westerns are both fun and culturally revealing," says Scott Simmon, S.F.-based UC Davis English professor and author of The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre's First Half-Century. "But you couldn't find a more unfashionable genre, there's no getting around that." A thousand westerns were made in the 1930s, but Hollywood essentially stopped producing them in recent years, when women and younger men stopped going. "They're so unknown that the conventions have become like Kabuki theater to a lot of people," the Mission District historian says with a chuckle. "People tend to think that westerns are very simple, [but] when you go back and look at the old ones they're doing things that aren't done anymore." For example, several early oaters (to use the '40s term) center on Native American communities, with whites showing up as villainous disruptions two-thirds of the way in.

Simmon points out that numerous movies set in the contemporary west (Lone Star, Red Rock West, Lost in America) play off the myths of the Old West. "The characters think of themselves as westerners in a new land," he says. But one old western trope -- the final showdown between the white hat and the black hat -- now lives on in every action movie. "You can almost count on your hands the number of westerns that don't resolve things with a gunfight at the end," Simmon remarks. "With westerns, there's always somebody to shoot." Look out, pardner, for the centennial of the western approaches: The Great Train Robbery debuted in December 1903.

Day for Night Moviegoers who enjoy hobnobbing with directors have a full dance card the next few weeks. Limited tickets remain for Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros) and his 21 Grams screening on Thursday, Nov. 13, at the Rafael Film Center. New Yorkers Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong visit Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 14 and 15, with Nightclubbing: New York Punk and New Wave, 1975-1980. Experimental filmmaker and former S.F. resident Eric Saks returns for a three-show Cinematheque retrospective on Nov. 16, 20, and 23. On Nov. 19, Paul VanDeCarr previews the demo reel of his unfinished documentary After Jonestown (Reel World, March 12) at the S.F. Main Library, while Robert Greenwald (Steal This Movie) introduces Uncovered -- The Truth About the War in Iraq at the S.F. LGBT Center. Finally (whew!), Ang Lee (The Hulk) is slated to appear at a hepatitis B benefit on Nov. 20 at the Herbst Theatre, marking the 10th anniversary of The Wedding Banquet.

About The Author

Michael Fox


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