Oregon Film: Record Year, Even Brighter Future

By Vince Porter, Executive Director, Oregon Governor’s Office of Film and Television

Over the past few years we’ve seen steady growth in Oregon’s film and TV industry. In 2008, Oregon was host to the first Twilight movie, 2009 brought us Leverage and LAIKA’s Coraline, and then 2010 followed up with Portlandia. This steady growth has been good for everyone in the state, but in 2011, Oregon reached a new level of film and television production.

Thanks to three television series (NBC’s Grimm, TNT’s Leverage, and IFC’s Portlandia), the Lakeshore feature Gone, and two animation projects (LAIKA’s ParaNorman and Bent Image Lab’s Jingle All the Way), the total amount of film, television, and television commercial production in Oregon exceeded $110 million. This number is significant because the previous record was in 2009 when the amount was $62 million. Needless to say, the industry is firing on all cylinders and the good news is that the future is even brighter.

Leverage films on Mt. Hood.

One significant turning point was landing the second season of Leverage, which is produced by Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment. The show will be entering its fourth year in Oregon in 2012 and by the end of the season, the show will have spent more than $100 million in the state. Dean has been a great advocate for the local film and TV community, not only for his production but for the recruitment of several others as well. If you ask Dean, there is no limit to the possibilities in the state. Dean has fallen in love with the state so much that he’s even moved the show’s setting for season five from Boston to Portland. We look forward to seeing what this change will mean for the show.

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein in Portlandia.

Although Portlandia doesn’t provide us with the economic impact numbers that a show like Leverage brings, it certainly delivers in many other ways. Originally created as a fun side project between Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen and musician/actor Carrie Brownstein, Portlandia has quickly ascended into a cult favorite for the Independent Film Channel. So much so that early in 2012, Fred and Carrie took the show on a six-city live tour. It might be that we’re a little tuned in to all things Oregon, but Portlandia has seemed to seep into just about everything.  Even The New York Times book review section uses the show for reference (see the Wildwood review).

Shooting the Grimm pilot. Photo by Scott Green/NBC.

Thanks to the positive momentum of these two shows and a concerned effort to market the state as a premier television series location, Oregon landed a big fish in 2011 with NBC’s new drama Grimm. The show is a modern daypolice procedural with a twist of the classic Grimm Fairy Tales, all set in the city of Portland. After an early ratings bump, NBC ordered a full season of the show, which immediately made it the largest production ever to be produced in the state over a one-year period. As an added benefit, the show has reached out to the local visual effects community, and all the visual effects for the show are produced by local companies Hive-FX and Bent Image Lab.  Both companies were selected after several companies from outside the state also bid on the work. It’s a testament to the level of creative talent that lives here in Oregon.

Speaking of visual effects and animation, this is a part of Oregon’s industry that is perhaps growing at a faster rate than the live action world. After LAIKA’s successful film Coraline, the studio has gained momentum and signed a two-picture distribution deal with Focus Features. The first of the two films is ParaNorman, which is due to be released in August of 2012. The second film, yet to be announced, will begin production in 2012 for a 2014 release.

Oregon’s animation industry is far from a one company town, as there are numerous animation, digital media and video game companies popping up all over the state. One such company is Bent Image Lab.  Bent produces animated commercials (much like LAIKA’s house division), and in 2011 produced the critically acclaimed Hallmark Channel holiday special Jingle All the Way. There are many other great animation, digital media and video game companies producing great work—too many to mention in this short article—so we created a dedicated blog for Oregon’s animation industry called www.oregonanimation.com. Be sure to check it out and definitely look into one of these talented companies for your next project!

As the entire motion picture industry continues to experience massive changes thanks to technological advancements, Oregon will have the opportunity to capitalize on its deep tech sector and talented creative industry. Companies like Intel and advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy are already looking into the future of storytelling. In Oregon we pride ourselves on integrating age-old handcraftsmanship with cutting-edge technological solutions with the end result being something unique and authentic. In the coming years our hope is that this approach will guide us towards continued growth, both in acclaim and productivity.

Oregon has always thrived when it was focused on “what’s next,” and we hope that will be true as well in the motion picture industry.

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