By Mary Erickson Oregon Editor
With nearly two decades working at the intersection of Oregon media industries and government affairs, Nathaniel Applefield has helped to build economic and political support for filmmaking in the state. Now he’s taken on a new role as Interim Executive Director of the Oregon Media Production Association (OMPA), following the February 2015 departure of former Executive Director Tom McFadden.
Applefield’s career in the local film industry started with brief work on a short 8mm film in the late 1990s, but he moved into political campaigns for the next decade. In 2011, he became the Executive Director of Portland’s AFTRA branch (which soon became SAG-AFTRA). As the organization underwent successive downsizing, initiated by SAG-AFTRA’s head office, Applefield began to shift his focus over to the OMPA. He started working with the OMPA’s Government Affairs Committee and soon started on the Board of Directors.
As the industry in Oregon has grown, Applefield has worked to gain visibility for many of the industry’s workers. During his tenure on the OMPA Board, he grew the number of Source Oregon’s listings of performers from 120 to 1,200. He spearheaded organizing the Media Production Industry Day event in 2013, held in the Salem Capitol. This crucial, industry-wide lobbying effort brought over 120 industry professionals to the Capitol to meet with legislators. “When we got our stakeholders taking on an ownership role,” says Applefield, “we were able to do something amazing.”
Now Applefield is in the midst of steering the OMPA after McFadden’s departure. “Tom’s successful service saw many accomplishments,” confirms Applefield. “For one, he doubled the membership numbers of the OMPA” during his seven-year tenure. This growth means that the OMPA needs to start honing its long-term vision, starting with a Board strategic planning retreat in May to jumpstart the conversation.
Another of the OMPA’s most immediate activities is its involvement in the current legislative session, where two House bills and one Senate bill are being debated. Instead of one big event like that of 2013, Applefield is organizing a more sustained effort that will take place over multiple days. It kicked off on May 18, with The Librarians star, Christian Kane, opening the legislative assembly with a song. Laika’s The Boxtrolls made an appearance, along with a virtual reality Wild experience and an evening reception.
Meetings between industry representatives and legislators will happen over multiple days. “This will give us sustained interest, keeping our industry in the minds of the legislators,” Applefield says. He acknowledges the challenge that legislators face in determining priorities for the limited available funding. In their talks with legislators, OMPA members will stress the positive economic impact that the media production industry makes in the state.
As the OMPA begins its search for a permanent Executive Director, Applefield will continue promoting the industry in the region at all levels of government and representing the diverse membership of the OMPA. “Oregon has lots of talent for onscreen roles and talent that’s needed behind the scenes. We’re continuing to build a healthy industry.”