The city of Sonoma is located in the area known as the North Bay region 100 miles northeast of San Francisco. Sonoma is in the southeast corner of Sonoma County close to the Napa County border. The city limits encompass 2.7 squarer miles with a population of just over 10,700 according to the 2020 census.
The history of the Sonoma Valley is influenced by Mexico. Present-day Sonoma is the location of former mission lands built by the Mexican government in 1823 to strengthen its hold in the North Bay region from the encroaching Russian immigrants. Mexico passed the secularization act in 1833, removing all missions and lands from the church to strip it of its influential positions in politics and the economy.
The population grew, businesses opened and prospered, and the fervor for the land grants went unchecked. When the gold rush began to wane and the economy experienced a recession, the benefactors of the land grants tried to sell out. It took 30 years of litigation before title to the land could be cleared and ownership is proven.
Today, Sonoma is home to many famous wineries and vineyards and hosts many events like the International Film Festival. Due to its splendid climate with an average high in the summer of 85 degrees F and 60 in the winter, all sorts of outdoor fun can be found here. In addition, the weather and beauty make a Sonoma filming location easy to find.
Filming Options in Sonoma
The filming venue options in Sonoma are mostly specialty commercial spaces, like tasting rooms, and outdoor spaces with scenery typical of the Sonoma Valley wine country. Only a few of the offered spaces are residential properties. The city and the valley of Sonoma experienced the infusion of over $177 Million of revenue into the local economy from the film industry in 2020.
The behind-the-scenes work is important and necessary but tends to remain in the shadows without thanks or recognition. The logistics of parking and staging areas, transportation to/from the film locations, and monitoring the status of the permit package all need to be secured before any filming can begin.
- Media Services
Filming is a business, and all businesses need to leverage exposure on the internet and in print. The business of storytelling, and the story itself, need the crafting of messages and brand development throughout all phases of filming. The connection between the public to the story begins in the pre-stages of production and is cultivated through distribution.
The food service brought to a film set needs flexibility in the style of serving and in the menu options. The possibilities are great in that the service of the caterers will be needed for an entire day or multiple days. In between the service of the meals, beverages and light snacks will need refreshing. This style of catering is really a form of event planning.
Filming Companies in Sonoma
In addition to the film’s benefit of local connections and knowledge brought by the local talent and crew members, the job creation and wage investment will bolster the merits of the application for tax incentives. The areas surrounding the San Francisco Bay recognize the positive aspects of filming in Sonoma.
- Baldwin Productions
Jim Baldwin, the owner and operator of Baldwin Production, is located in the San Francisco Bay area and serves the Sonoma Valley. The specialty of Baldwin Productions is providing logistic services to the film set. These needed services are supplemented with daily web uploads and digital scouting.
- Wavemaker Media Design
This design and production studio, serving Sonoma County and northern California since 1996, works with its clients to maximize advertising potential. The initial step in any marketing plan is the logo design and the brand identity. Wavemaker will work with the producers to ensure the film’s first impression on the public is clear and true to the message.
- Aurora Catering
This husband-and-wife team own and operate Aurora Catering in the Bay area since 2008. The talents of the owners are complementary making for a successful business of catering and event planning. The talents of a master chef are melded with those of a professional event coordinator. The clients benefit from this well-rounded service plan complete with referrals to vendors for any needed rentals.
Pros and Cons of Filming in Sonoma
The evaluation of advantages and disadvantages is important for your filming in Sonoma. The listed items in each category need to be weighted in relation to the entire project and budget as opposed to being considered equal and mutually exclusive. The items listed below are only suggestions for consideration.
The city of Sonoma is nestled between the Sonoma Mountains to the west and the Mayacamas Mountains to the east. In northern California, the Mediterranean-type client is experienced away from the Pacific Ocean.
- California film commission
A film location in Sonoma can qualify for tax incentives. A 20% non-transferable tax credit can be awarded to feature films and a transferrable tax credit of 25% to independent films. The films are ranked specific to the genre and the budget, not first come, first served.
- Popularity of Sonoma
Sonoma personifies the aesthetic features the rest of the US identifies with California. The vineyards, mountains, warm Mediterranean climate, organic farming, and the 55 miles of coastline are all in Sonoma. A film location will benefit from the charm of the city and the vistas of the vineyards.
- Venue limitations
Although Sonoma has all the features of what is “California,” the city’s area encompasses only 2.7 square miles. Any change in a filming location could very easily be in Sonoma County. This will require another permit package submitted to another jurisdiction.
When filming within the city limits, all film projects need a permit but the city does not have a designated film office with liaison services or other resources to aid in the processing of the application package.
- Cost of doing business
The cost of living in Sonoma is nearly 60% higher than the US average and 12% higher than the average California city. If there is a housing budget, then expect these costs to be 177% higher than the national average.
Famous Locations in Sonoma
- Sonoma Ballooning Adventures
This is the best way to view historic Sonoma, the vineyards, and the panoramic views of San Francisco Bay. The flights are subject to cancellation due to inclement weather or wind currents that do not cooperate. This adventure requires a moderate fitness level with no serious medical conditions.
- Sonoma Wine Trolley with Lunch
This professionally guided tour in a replicated San Francisco trolley will chauffer guests through picturesque vineyards. The trolley will stop at three tasting rooms with lunch at VJB Cellar for Italian cuisine. The tour will last about four or five hours and gives guests the opportunity to sample the wines and food.
- Mystery Mission Scavenger Hunts
This is an interesting way to get acquainted with Sonoma. The tours are guided, and each hunt is different, through art exhibits, off-the-path corners, and historical monuments throughout the city. This is an eclectic way to spend two hours on vacation, on a team-building exercise, or a family reunion.