Hollywood takes Portland by Storm

Lights, Camera, Put a Bird on It

By Annie Rudwick

Growing up in Northbrook, Illinois, the hometown of director John Hughes, I was lucky enough to have “Save Ferris” painted on my water tower and iconic films “Sixteen Candles,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and “The Breakfast Club” filmed in my town and at my high school. As a kid, it was my claim to fame, and as an adult, not much has changed. It is the best and easiest way to define my hometown.

As a five-year resident of the Eliot Neighborhood and a thirteen-year resident of Oregon, I am happy to say Hollywood has arrived in Oregon. Actually, Hollywood found Oregon a long time ago; movies like “Five Easy Pieces,” “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and “National Lampoons Animal House” were all filmed right here, not to mention some of my personal favorites “The Goonies,” ”Stand by Me,” and “Kindergarten Cop.” Check out a complete list online.

In recent years, thanks to multiple factors, the film industry has really taken off. Have you ever wondered how television shows and movies make their way to Oregon, Portland and even Eliot? I recently interviewed Lana Veenker CSA, a fourth-generation Eliot resident and casting agent for popular shows “Grimm” and “Leverage.” She was able to give me some insight on current and upcoming film and television projects in town, the impact of the film industry in Oregon, and some ways Eliot can be part of this filming wave.

Recent projects being filmed in town include the TNT’s recently wrapped show “Leverage,” which just finished its fifth and final season, NBC’s “Grimm,” the second season of which is in full swing, and IFC’s hugely popular “Portlandia” which is expected to come back for a third season. In addition to well known films like “Twilight,” independent films such as “Gone” (2012) were filmed here, and thanks to LAIKA, several animation projects, including “Coraline” and Academy Award nominated “ParaNorman,” were produced here.

What makes Oregon such a great place to film? Location, location, location. We have mountains, dunes, desert, rivers, waterfalls, beaches all in one state and without the customs and immigration hassle of cities like Vancouver, BC. Portland is an easy two hour flight from Los Angeles and is in the same time zone. Out of town actors can fly home for the weekend. In addition, Portland supports a strong pool of local skilled actors, also known as cast, and production and post-production crew.

On top of the beautiful setting and talent, Oregon has robust and generous film and television incentive programs. According to Oregon Film, these include the Oregon Production Investment Fund and the Greenlight Oregon Labor Rebate, among others.

What does Oregon get back in exchange for such a generous incentive program?

The film industry gives a lot back, especially with high tech, family wage jobs, which help to sustain a robust creative class. With a relatively small footprint on the local area, the film industry is a “clean industry” according to Veenker. Projects come in, hire, patronize local businesses and then leave with little trace. A secondary benefit is free publicity and tourism. One example is the June 2010 25th Anniversary of “The Goonies,” when fans of the classic film descended on Astoria. Every hotel was full; every bus tour was booked. The celebration was reported in national newspapers.

Local businesses and residents can take advantage of the publicity. Eliot bars and restaurants like Mint 820 and the Tavern were featured in Portlandia. If you are interested in having your home or business added to the location database, the Oregon Film Organization can help. For more information, please visit http://oregonfilm.org/locations/.

Unfortunately, the incentive program is running out of funds, and as a result a lot of potential projects are not coming to Oregon. The Governor is in favor of doubling the incentive fund, but support from the state legislature and Oregon residents is vital to continue the film industry growth. Please contact your state representative if you are interesting in supporting the film industry.

Was your business featured in a film or TV program? Did you have a positive experience with local film/television production? Lana Veenker is interested in hearing your story. Contact her at info@castironstudios.com.

“Save Ferris” may not be written on my water tower in Eliot, but I’ve had multiple friends ask me if “Portlandia” is real. Is Portland really where young people go to retire? Are people really part of a hide & seek league?  And the answer is “Yes!” As someone who loves movies and TV, I say, “Put a bird on it,” and continue to bring great film and TV projects to Oregon.

Contact Annie Rudwick at anniestemwedel@gmail.com and Lana Veenker at info@castironstudios.com 

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