Washington Filmworks Hosts Seattle Town Hall Meeting

By Douglas Horn

On Saturday, July 26,  Washington Filmworks presented a Town Hall event at the SIFF Film Center in Seattle.

WF board president Don Jensen opened the meeting and recapped the current situation with WF being unable to award any more incentive money for feature films, television series, or commercials until January 2015 due to reaching the $3.5M cap on annual incentive fundraising. He announced that the board’s key goal going forward is to work to increase the annual cap and to that end, the board has appointed James Keblas and Lance Rosen to co-chair the advocacy committee with this specific goal.

WF executive director Amy Lillard then presented an update on WF activities during the past year, beginning with results from the recently completed jobs and vendor surveys. The vendor survey—new this year—had 96 respondents, 88 of which were in Western Washington and 12 in Eastern Washington. The companies surveyed reported a total of 953 employees and $32M in economic activity from film and video projects. The jobs survey had 514 respondents. Ninety percent of respondents were from the western part of the state and 32% reported that they also worked outside the state (presumably due to a shortage of jobs within Washington).

Ms Lillard then reported on the incentive program, which is currently incentivizing two large productions: the SyFy Network series Z Nation currently filming in Spokane and Captain Fantastic, a feature film starring Viggo Mortenson. Further, when these projects were approved, there had been five other projects in to process of applying which the board had to turn away. These prospective projects totaled $55M in economic activity for the state that was lost due to the incentive cap.

Washington Filmworks Executive Director Amy Lillard (L) leads the Seattle Town Hall meeting with Advocacy Committee Co-Chairs Lance Rosen (C) and James Keblas (R)

Washington Filmworks Executive Director Amy Lillard (L) leads the Seattle Town Hall meeting with Advocacy Committee Co-Chairs Lance Rosen (C) and James Keblas (R)

Advocacy committee co-chairs James Keblas and Lance Rosen spoke about their committee’s efforts to raise the annual cap on the incentive so that the industry can continue to grow in the state. They noted that WF is the only state incentive that the Washington State Labor Council has endorsed.

Douglas Horn then introduced the newly launched social media hashtag campaign for the Washington State film and video industry: #FilminWA. The hashtag is meant to be added to social media posts and pictures (ie. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) to help create a central, searchable clearinghouse for Washington State film industry information and an easily tracked metric for social media engagement within the industry.

Lacey Leavitt and Krk Nordenstrom then presented information about the newly reorganized WAFilmPAC, a political action committee with the purpose of promoting the film and video industry to state legislators. Leavitt and Nordenstrom are officers, as is Ronald Leamon, who serves as president. WAFilmPAC will be raising funds and providing information about state legislators’ positions on film industry issues for August primaries and the November general election.

The meeting closed after a vigorous question and answer period between the audience and presenters. A similar town hall meeting took place in Spokane on Sunday, July 27th at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park.

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