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Cover of the fall 2003 SFSU magazine. Photo of Professor and talk radio show host, Michael Krasny


SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer 2003, Volume 3, Number 2.

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Alumni & FriendsAmi Zins at a car commercial shoot featuring actress Adrienne Bernabei. The location at Oakland's Telegraph Avenue and 15th street was also used in 'The Matrix Reloaded'. Photo by Lui Gino de Grandis


Oakland's Reel World

At 2:30 a.m. in downtown Oakland the director of "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" calls it a day for the movie's cast and crew. It's a wrap for everyone except Oakland's film coordinator, Ami Zins (B.A., '88; M.A., '92). She's making calls in search of a club where actor Sean Penn can unwind with a few friends.

When camera crews are on location in Oakland, Zins is on call 24 hours a day to take care of production-related details.

Whatever the project, Zins spends a lot of time with SFSU alumni. A television pilot co-produced by and starring Danny Glover, "The Law and Mr. Lee," was filmed in Oakland over the summer. In October filming began for "Black August," a movie directed by another alumnus, Samm Styles.

There are also a few alums in Zins' personal life. "We're a big SF State family," she says. Zins' husband, her father and her stepmother each hold SFSU degrees.

Zins fell into her dream job by accident. Five years ago she was teaching theatre at Laney College when she visited the Oakland Film Office in search of internships for her students. Without a coordinator, the office had nearly come to a standstill. Zins offered to work on a part-time basis until the position was filled.

At her first industry trade show in Los Angeles, Zins ran into Tom Rooker, a movie producer who had given up on the Oakland film office after his repeated calls had gone unanswered. Zins convinced him to reconsider. Filming was soon under way in Oakland for Rooker and Clint Eastwood's movie, "True Crime."

In a few months, Zins took on the position full-time. She has since helped bring moviemakers to Oakland to film features including "Haiku Tunnel," "The Hulk," and "The Matrix Revolutions."
There are perks -- like the time Zins was front-row when Santana ended a video shoot with a five-hour impromptu concert. Still, she says hanging out with the rich and famous isn't the best part of her job. What she enjoys most of all is bringing business home.

Zins guides cast and crew to local hotels, clubs and restaurants, and asks that extra food from catering spreads be delivered to city homeless shelters. Every day of filming in Oakland brings in an estimated $42,000 in revenue for the city through permit fees, equipment rentals, and money spent in local businesses.

These benefits aren't always easy for residents to appreciate when their driveways are blocked or the sound of simulated gunfire is sailing overhead. Before shoots, Zins goes door to door with volunteers to get residents' approval.

Merchants receive financial compensation for lost business and residents are paid if shooting takes place on their property.

"It's been exciting watching Oakland grow as part of the film community," Zins says. Her coworkers verify this. Zins is known for jumping and shouting "Yes!" each time she hears a shoot is a go.

-- Adrianne Bee


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Last modified February 16, 2004, by the Office of Publications