Category Archives: Commercial

WA State’s Most Influential Women in Film, TV and new Media

Scott A. CapestanyBy Scott A. Capestany Editor-In-Chief

Over the past decade, a growing band of Pacific Northwest talented and fierce female creatives have taken the regional community of independent film, TV, media and music by storm. This two-part cover story takes us into the hearts and minds of some of Washington’s and Oregon’s most admired and influential women who have helped pave the way on how we consume media, create films/music, produce visual art (films) and empower others through their creative and artistic talents. Their work today continues to push the limits of innovation by contributing to the ever-growing and quickly-evolving landscape of our region’s multi-media sector. We are proud to call these women ‘our own.’ But most importantly, so very grateful for what they do for others through their leadership, inspiration and love within our communities.

For part one of this cover story, we are honored and excited to commemorate the careers and achievements of 18 unique and fascinating women from Washington State within the world of film, TV, media and creativity. Highlighting their profound and worthy contributions is just one factor we took into consideration. The other, which is equally important throughout the process of creative collaboration, is the leadership and teamwork skills that each of them have so admirably displayed over the years. Our selection is not in any order of significance, but rather a collective equal presentation celebrating women pioneers that have fought hard in their professions, stepped outside the box, made their voices heard and, most importantly, become game-changers that continue to push for equality and women empowerment in the entertainment space.

Congratulations to these outstanding women from the Pacific Northwest, and be sure to look for part two of this story, which will feature women in film from Los Angeles, in the next issue of Media Inc.

SCILLA ANDREEN, co-founder and CEO of Seattle-based IndieFlix, has truly become one of the most iconic empresses of women empowerment and influence within the world of indie filmmaking.

Scilla Andreen

Scilla Andreen

What Variety magazine calls ‘the Netflix of indie films,’ IndieFlix is now the world’s premier online indie film streaming service that specifically provides a platform for content representing independent thinkers, offering a unique and never-before-seen distribution and revenue model for filmmakers. Content that is featured on the IndieFlix platform allows filmmakers to get paid through metrics involving ‘minutes viewed’ and most recently can now access all their films’ data of their actual viewing audience.

“We created IndieFlix with the filmmaker in mind first that offered more than just a platform for showcasing their finished films,” Andreen said. Currently now in beta  testing, IndieFlix filmmakers can for the first time have access to all the necessary data as to who, where, and how consumers are viewing their content, which she believes is a game-changer in the industry.

As a veteran entrepreneur, Andreen’s work over the past two decades as an Emmy-nominated costume designer, award-winning filmmaker, producer, popular speaker, international film festival juror and dedicated advocate of independent film has helped open up doors and inspired millions of creative artists, both in front of and behind the camera. Her recent empowerment documentary project run through her IndieFlix foundation, which highlights ordinary women doing extraordinary things, recently returned home to Washington State after making a national tour around the country featuring a band of young female filmmakers interviewing and highlighting other women’s empowering stories. The documentary now is being screened at hundreds of schools across the nation. Her current project Screenagers is a fascinating look into today’s youth and their usage of digital technology, directed by Seattle physician and award-winning filmmaker Delaney Rustin. Visit and for more.

Having directed every single one her seven feature films in Washington State, (Click HERE) our next woman of influence likely does not need a formal introduction. If you have had your eye on the Pacific Northwest Indiefilm line-up over the last decade, writer/director LYNN SHELTON has essentially embodied what women in film and Washington State filmmaking has become. Along with her good friend and Seattle producer Mel Eslyn, Shelton feels there needs to be a greater effort by Washington State legislation to see the value and benefit of making films and TV shows in Washington.  (This published prior to the renewal of the 2017 incentive program).

“The thing about the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program is that it’s so beautifully engineered and designed to benefit the Washington State economy and professional filmmakers,” said Shelton. “In fact, Washington State was the first state ever to create a film incentive that included union standards, like pension health benefits.”

Lynn Shelton

Lynn Shelton

Spending half her time in L.A., Shelton works both as a writer and director for a number of well-known network and studio projects. Her work has been seen on Netflix, Showtime, Fox and 20th Century TV in episodes of series such as Mad Men, Shameless, Master of None, Fresh Off the Boat, New Girl and Maron.

Shelton also feels that it is a very unique time for women in film. “I believe that we as women are upon a very special moment that I hope is not wasted,” she said. “A moment of opportunity… that I hope is not wasted.” Now that the conversation of women in film and the lack of gender diversity among directors in Hollywood has been brought to the forefront of the media, Shelton senses a much more profound willingness and actual  desire of women wanting to change the pattern by hopefully enhancing the numbers of women directors at large in the workplace. Shelton is actively pushing to bring her next feature to the Evergreen State, produced with our next featured woman of influence and her good friend, Mel Eslyn.

One of the most decorated and hard-working independent film producers from Washington State is MEL ESLYN. Having begun working on movie sets at the age of 14, Eslyn’s resilient and admirable work ethic has spanned two decades, leading her to producing over 15 films, including 3 of Lynn Shelton’s 6 major feature films. Over the last handful of years, she has produced a series of feature films that have screened at some of the world’s top film festivals, including Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca and SXSW. She recently won the prestigious Piaget Producers Award at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards that honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality independent films. The annual award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.

Mel Eslyn

Mel Eslyn

“One of the biggest hurdles for me as a producer has been my ability to bring more of my films to Seattle. Once projects reach a certain budget, a state film incentive comes into play quite significantly as to where the film is made,” Eslyn said. “It’s my goal in the next year to bring at least one, if not two, feature films to our market that in turn will help bring more awareness to legislation to see the huge benefits a feature film has on impacting local community’s business and economy.” One of Eslyn’s biggest contributions to the Washington State film scene over the years has been her loyalty to her crew and co-workers. Although a number of her films have been filmed outside of Washington State, she brings along many local crew people to work alongside her.

When it comes to connecting the Pacific Northwest’s growing pool of talented actors, casting director NIKE IMORU, CSA, is the one woman who not only gets the job done, but is counted on by the leading producers throughout Washington and now in Los Angeles to find the most talented performers in film and TV. Nike, pronounced “Nee-Kay,” has been a professional casting director in Washington for over 10 years and currently is the lead casting director for the state’s largest recurring cable TV series, Z Nation.

Nike Imoru

Nike Imoru

“It’s been my goal ever since I began casting to offer more to actors during the casting process than what typically they would get during an audition,” Imoru said. Known around the region as a true “actors coach,” she is a classically trained professional theater actor herself who hails from the U.K., where she also taught acting at a few prestigious schools before becoming a full-time CSA. She recently opened up a state-of-the-art casting studio facility in West Seattle, where she will be spending most of 2016 casting and supporting Z Nation. Visit or find Nike Imoru Casting on Facebook: ‘Act with Inspiration.’

With approximately 45 film festivals and competitions each year for filmmakers and folks to attend around the state, STEFANIE MALONE, executive director of the world’s largest youth film festival NFFTY, helms a quite impressive and quickly growing international festival in downtown Seattle each spring. Now in its 10th year, NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth) receives over 950 submissions from over 20 countries around the world made by youth filmmakers between the ages of 5 and 25.

Stefanie Malone

Stefanie Malone

An Emmy Award-winning producer herself, Malone’s work in the PBS arena for many years led her to Seattle, where she became the community engagement and education director for Seattle’s local PBS affiliate, KCTS. Although her full-time commitment to NFFTY year-round occupies most of her bandwidth, her ongoing relationship with KCTS and WETA (the Washington, D.C. PBS affiliate) allows her to pursue her true passion and love for developing and producing documentaries. “It’s hard to leave PBS entirely after being with them so long, so I’m grateful I can continue to work within that space where I still think it is an excellent platform for filmmakers to showcase their films and TV shows,” Malone said. Her team of likeminded leaders and growing numbers of supporting staff at NFFTY has allowed the festival to expand its annual events and festival offerings to the public. Visit

Working for the City of Seattle as executive director for the Film+Music Office, KATE BECKER leads a staff of seven who oversee a multitude of resources and permitting activities that help facilitate filmmakers, musicians and special events. Whether it be a feature film, TV series, commercial or new media production that involves city parks or hundreds of locations run by the city, Becker’s team truly is the ‘one-stop shop’ for the professional filmmaker. Each year, the city issues over 400 film permits for projects filmed in and around the city.

Prior to working with the city, Becker served in leadership roles at Kate BeckerSeattle Theatre Group, Art Share L.A. in Los Angeles, and the New Art Center in Newton, Massachusetts. She co-founded Seattle’s Vera Project and the Old Fire House, nonprofit art- and music-based all-ages venues that have helped build Seattle’s creative economy talent pipeline. Becker has also produced more than 1,000 all-ages shows and numerous major fundraisers and galas. Talking about women in film, Becker said, “I’m so happy to work in a market (WA State) where so many talented women are leading our local industry by producing and creating exceptional content which is a true feather in our cap.”

Becker also works quite diligently as one of Washington State’s top interactive advocates for helping bring new filmmakers to the state from around the world while attending national and international festivals and markets. “We are excited the members of the film industry are actively convening in pursuit of a production facility to be located in Seattle,” she said. “Something like this could do wonders for the film/TV and media landscape.” Visit

As co-founder and owner of Mighty Tripod Productions (MTP), one of Seattle’s most respected actor development, management and indie production companies, ANGELA DiMARCO truly has become an empowering woman of influence, both in front of and behind the camera. With a genuine heart to help others (she is known as ‘Mama DiMarco’ among her circle), she helps mentor and prepare actors for the rigorous road of working in the business.

Angela DiMarco

Angela DiMarco

“MTP is an evolution of who I was, growing up without having quality training and mentorship that I believe is a major cornerstone of becoming a professional artist,” said DiMarco, who runs the company with her talented and award-winning husband David Hogan, who himself has over two decades of theater, film, TV and talent leadership under his belt.

“David and I wanted to create a platform in Mighty Tripod Productions for Northwest actors taught by Northwest actors, available to all ages to hone their craft, build their confidence and, most of all, be mighty,” she added. You can find DiMarco on all social media channels under Mighty Tripod Productions, her own hashtag #dontwaitcreate and at

Once a creative artist decides he or she wants to take the plunge into the world of acting or modeling in the Seattle area, TERRI MORGAN’s TCM Models and Talent Agency would be considered by many one of the most well-known and reputable agencies in the state. Starting up in 1979 as a modeling agency over in Eastern Washington, Morgan decided to take her love for helping others within the industry to Seattle and opened up a new location downtown in 1990, where they remain today. By 1998, her well-seasoned staff established a new talent division that has provided actors opportunities in commercials, feature films, TV series and new media requiring on-camera talent.

Terri Morgan

Terri Morgan

“Coming from a modeling background myself, I know how hard it can be to break into the business not knowing how to navigate the oftentimes intimidating and rigorous demand of the business or how the auditioning and selection process works,” she said. “TCM specializes in counseling and advising talent by offering a well-developed road map for actors and models to utilize if they choose to enhance their careers.” Visit TCM at

One of Washington State’s best known features is its rich and vibrant Native American culture and history. Our next woman of influence has spent over a decade developing an awareness  and sensitivity to the power of media and film as a modern storytelling tool for local communities, primarily the indigenous people of the region. As co-founder and executive director of Longhouse Media, now in their 11th year, TRACY RECTOR (Choctaw/Seminole Tribe) has produced over 350 film shorts, worked with over 40 tribes from around the United States, and has served over 3,000 youths by bringing filmmaking tools to tribal students from around the country to help them tell their own stories. Her work has been featured by Cannes Film Festival, ImagineNative and National Geographic’s All Roads Film Project, while also leading the first filmmaking team from Seattle to have a documentary on PBS’ Independent Lens and appearing in the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian. Not to mention, she’s a recent Sundance Film Institute Lab fellow participant and Tribeca Film Festival all-access grantee to boot.

Tracy Rector

Tracy Rector

Aside from being an award-winning director/producer and advocate, Rector developed and launched the quite successful educational program ‘SuperFly,’ a program that challenged students to create 5 films in 36 hours, which then screened in conjunction with the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).

“SIFF’s decade-long collaborating with Tracy on ‘SuperFly’ was an exceptional opportunity that not only provided exemplary training and experience to youth across cultures, but built bridges between the Native community and their neighbors from cities across the USA. Today, Tracy’s new ‘4th World’ program continues that depth of intent, as we are proud to be working with her to fill the need for additional training for up-and-coming Native filmmakers,” said Dustin Kaspar, education director at SIFF.

Rounding off her admirable leadership throughout the communities of the Puget Sound, Rector currently sits as City of Seattle Arts Commissioner.

“My vision is to bring traditional and contemporary education together on a foundation based in environmental stewardship,” said Rector. As a monthly series, her ‘Indigenous Showcase’ program at the Northwest Film Forum also blends culture with community. She added, “The Indigenous Showcase program screens films made by Native Americans or in part supported by the Native American community.” Read more about Rector at and

Abby Dylan

Abby Dylan

With the growing number of actors and performers living and arriving to Seattle, ABBY DYLAN is a woman whose lengthy multi-decade experience in the industry has landed her passionate voice for actors at the top of the most prestigious organizations in show business. Dylan is an elected member of the SAG-AFTRA Board, where she serves as the National Chairman of the SAGIndie Committee and ViceChair of the Legislative Committee. In addition, she is also a director of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Board, and was appointed to serve on the Board of Washington Filmworks by both Governor Christine Gregoire and Governor Jay Inslee. In 2016, Dylan also was appointed to the Board of the SAG Foundation as their new secretary. For more, visit,, and

Every spring, Seattle ushers in one of the biggest and longest-running city-wide events, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Ranked as one of the top film festivals in the world, SIFF showcases over 450 films, shorts and documentaries from over 80 countries throughout a 25-day odyssey. BETH BARRETT, director of programming, spearheads the division along with her team of staffers and volunteers that help formulate the line-up and presentation of films each year. Barrett has been with SIFF since 2003, joining as an intern in communications and quickly moving along into the programming division. Over the course of her tenure, she has watched SIFF grow from 5 staff to now over 25 full-time staffers.

Programming essentially works with the incoming filmmakers each Beth Barrettyear, streamlines communication between programmers and watches hundreds of films leading up to the festival with the objective of bringing the best films they can find from around the world and our own region to screen in Seattle. To help local filmmakers from Washington State showcase their films on an international platform, SIFF offers a unique ‘Northwest Connections’ showcasing. “The program is designed to help elevate local filmmakers to international attention that essentially represent a microcosm of the work being done by Pacific Northwest artists with projects of all types of films, genres, styles and lengths,” Barrett said.

Her commitment to bring some of the best films from around the world made by women is a top priority while paying close attention to her final design of the festival’s programming. “It’s really important to me to have women from all around the world represented here at SIFF on an equal footing every year,” said Barrett.

Be sure to mark your calendars for May for this spectacular presentation of world cinema right here in Seattle by visiting for all the events, parties and screenings.

Recently winning the ‘Best TV Personality’ award put on by KING 5 in 2015, ANNY HAVLAND has been making a huge splash in the world of online empowerment through her uplifting reality TV/Web series called Talk It Up TV. Originally from Bellingham, Havland came to Seattle to explore more opportunities using her magical gift of connecting and inspiring others. In 2010, she co-founded and now produces her own series that boasts over 5,000 YouTube subscribers from all around the world.

Anny Havland

Anny Havland

Talk It Up TV is a new style of media that is reality TV at its best with a positive twist. Instead of reporting and highlighting negative tragedies, we share these real-life stories with our viewers and create a positive ending to each story with a shocking act of kindness that are unforgettable,” Havland said. Each episode is lined with a powerful, very uplifting and heartfelt message that offers a life-changing experience for the individual. Visit Havland online at or by using the hashtag #tiuarmy.

One of Seattle’s most dynamic documentary filmmakers is ROSALIE MILLER. Her handful of films she has produced in just the last five years have screened at over 100 film festivals worldwide under her own banner, Wanderhouse Productions. Her independent production company focuses on producing micro-budget narrative and documentary projects with an emphasis on digital media production. The Wanderhouse website boasts: “We are dedicated to creative collaboration, compelling storytelling, and subject matter intended to inspire others.”

Rosalie Miller

Rosalie Miller

Miller’s resilient and fierce approach to the filmmaking process radiates wherever she goes with quite vocal and well-developed skills in pitching, fundraising and audience engagement. Her feature-length documentary Personhood (now in post-production), which documents the burgeoning personhood movement and the far-reaching impact of laws designed to protect the fetus, won both the Women in Film Seattle Professional Grant and the 2015 American Documentary Film Fund.

Aside from her work behind the camera, Miller is a member of SAG-AFTRA and is a well-known actress who has appeared in dozens of feature-length films, shorts, commercials and TV series in Washington State. Miller is currently in production on her next documentary, an intimate portrait piece about Seattle-based dance artist and drag queen, Jody Kuehner (aka Cherdonna Shinatra). Visit and for more.

Producer LEAH WARSHAWSKI has over a decade of experience in film and TV production. Warshawski has worked on some of TV’s biggest series, including Lost, Survivor and Alias. She recently wrapped her own feature-length documentary Big Sonia, which in 2015 won the prestigious $50,000 film grant award given annually by True Productions in partnership with the Seattle International Film Festival.

Leah Warshawski with her doc subject and grandmother, Sonia.

Leah Warshawski with her doc subject and grandmother, Sonia.

“The process of documentary filmmaking is becoming more about the films’ campaigns than just about the actual movie being made,” Warshawski said. “Big Sonia has been a story I’ve always wanted to tell about my own grandmother. So we decided early on to develop a nationwide campaign for major cities that would also educate and involve local communities around the country surrounding her story.”

Warshawski also is currently working with local filmmakers Jo Ardinger and Rosalie Miller on the doc Personhood as producer. “When Jo approached me to join the team, I just couldn’t say no because of the impact I knew this film would make on our communities and country,” she added. Her current projects can be found at

RYAN DAVIS is a professional film publicist, communications specialist and co-founder of Seattle’s Smarthouse Creative. With over 30 years of combined experience in film marketing, publicity, distribution, programming and exhibition, Smarthouse Creative helps filmmaking teams find their audiences and bring attention to their work during all phases of their projects, from fundraising to festivals to distribution. They also work with select film festivals, non-profits and startups to deliver digital strategy, publicity and audience engagement services to position clients at the forefront of their respective industries.

Ryan Davis

Ryan Davis

For over a decade, Davis has worked in nearly every aspect of the film business including documentary film producing, film festivals, distribution, exhibition and sales. She and Smarthouse have placed multiple projects on media platforms such as HBO, CNN, The
New York Times, newspapers and local radio. Independent film projects that Smarthouse has run PR/marketing on have screened all over the world. Prior to Smarthouse, Davis served as a marketing leader for multiple non-profit arts groups and organizations including the Northwest Film Forum and Northwest Folklife.

Smarthouse Creative gets Media Inc.’s vote for best local indie film PR & marketing firm! Visit

If there is one woman creative in Seattle that personifies the fastest and hardest-working bird on earth—the hummingbird—it most certainly is producer/actor LORRAINE MONTEZ. For over a decade, Montez has appeared in over 20 films as an actress and over a dozen films as producer. She is known widely in the local film community for her unlimited amount of energy and drive she pours into her daily routine as a filmmaker, educator, mentor and actor.

Lorainne Montez

Lorainne Montez

After noticing that fewer roles were being offered in film and TV to more mature women as a performer in the local market, she took the initiative to begin writing and soon formed her own production company, Abundant Productions. “I strongly believe in the laws of attraction,” Montez said. “I wanted to create a company that would attract goodness, abundance and creativity.” A recent feature film she produced under her Abundant flagship, The Hollow One, was acquired by Raven Banner Entertainment for international and domestic distribution.

Montez has been a vocal and active member of Women in Film for many years and recently served as the marketing and communication chairwoman for WIF Seattle. As a producer who feels there needs to be a bigger pool of well-educated filmmakers in the art of marketing and producing skills, Montez also instructs a marketing and producing class at Shoreline Community College. She also heads up a monthly workshop called Abundant Creative Playground, a platform where writers and professional actors come together in an interactive creative setting to enhance literary material. It’s a process she calls “disrupting the writing process in a productive and unique way.” Find out more at

Award-winning journalist MAUREEN FRANCISCO is a woman whose journey into the world of TV and media has been quite unique. After arriving from the Philippines as a young girl to Federal Way, Washington, she learned to speak English by watching the nightly news. Fascinated by The Oprah Winfrey Show, Francisco was quickly inspired to pursue a career in journalism, which led her to an early career working for major network affiliates (CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX) around the country as a news reporter after graduating from Pacific Lutheran University. Upon her return to the Puget Sound in 2004, Francisco continued her work in TV at Northwest Cable News.

Maureen Francisco

Maureen Francisco

By 2013, she joined her husband as co-executive producer of NW Productions. Their company produces live shows, including the Pacific Northwest qualifying events for the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington
States. “We coordinate and produce all of the events for both pageants in our region including doing the PR for our title holders and contestants under a separate division of NW Productions,” Francisco said. “We are in charge of procuring sponsors, selecting judges, screening contestants for eligibility requirements and finding our host venues.”

NW Productions also produces red carpet events, women empowerment workshops, and reality/talk show programming throughout the Puget Sound. Visit

With 1 in every 10 Americans now using online dating services, the number of people looking for love online has never been greater. SUSIE LEE, CEO and founder of the dating app Siren, took things into her own hands a few years ago by creating an entirely new approach to the virtual world of online dating. “Our members set the tone of our community; we focus on connections that matter in a respectful space,” said Lee. “Siren is a platform where wit and personality shine.” Lee’s brainchild won the App of the Year by GeekWire in 2015, and recently landed an additional $500,000 in funding to help expand their 20,000 membership base and operations.

Susie Lee

Susie Lee

The app works quite differently than most apps, in that members receive a “Question of the Day” asked by artists and other types of creatives in the local community. The questions ignite conversations, which in turn promote members to uncover their true personalities organically, rather than with a generic profile and photo.

A graduate of Yale, Columbia and UW with degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, science education, and art, Lee uses her skills as a social sculptor to amplify humanity in technology. Her work has been collected by numerous institutions including the Denver Art Museum, Mitchell Center for the Arts, Frye Art Museum, and Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. For more, go to

We invite you to learn more about the women of influence within TV, film and media as we continue our coverage in our next issue, which will feature women from the state of Oregon.

Features writer Scott A. Capestany is an award-winning producer, educator and advocate for women in film. Visit him at and all social media platforms @capestanyfilms. Email

Ashland Named A Best Place to Live and Work as a Filmmaker by MovieMaker Magazine for Third Year in a Row

Ashland article_Bagshaw

By Ginny Auer Executive Director, Southern Oregon Film and Media (SOFaM)
Photo by Sean Bagshaw

When thinking of Ashland, most people’s minds go to the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the powder atop the slopes of Mt. Ashland or the many local wineries and breweries. But after a third year in a row on the list of best places to live and work as a filmmaker in MovieMaker Magazine, Ashland’s reputation as a filmmaking hub is solid as well.

Ashland was recognized by MovieMaker Magazine as the #2 Town to Live and Work as a MovieMaker in the nation for 2014, and then was honored with a bump to #1 in January of 2015! In 2016, MovieMaker changed the criteria for the award to combine small cities and towns. Ashland beat out film hubs with populations of more than 150,000 and more robust incentive packages, ranking at #5 on the list this year. How is it that this small town of 20,000 is getting such accolades? MovieMaker cited “a bustling culinary scene, a no-big box store policy (and no state sales tax!), film festivals, independent theaters and a super-supportive film organization called Southern Oregon Film and Media (SOFaM).”

SOFaM supports the local film industry by promoting the region to both local and out-of-area producers, and works to connect productions with local film professionals, actors, equipment and resources via its online directory. With its large database and deep reach across the entire region, SOFaM is a great place to start for any film or media project.

In recent years, Ashland has shown up on big and small screens quite a bit. Wild, with Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, featured the downtown area, as well as nearby sections of the scenic Pacific Crest Trail. Ashland was also seen in Night Moves with Jesse Eisenberg and then again in the locally-produced independent film Black Road. Companies like Hewlett-Packard and even John Deere are finding Southern Oregon a great place to film.

Ashland has a film-friendly community, with low- to no-cost permits, strong state incentives, no sales tax and unexpectedly large numbers of filmmakers, technicians, equipment, support services and on-screen talent.

And then there are the kinds of resources you don’t expect to find in a town this size. Beyond the talented performers that join the Oregon Shakespeare Festival each year, OSF’s costume rental shop is just as impressive. The shop is the size of a football field with costumes from nearly every era, and it regularly rents to theaters, film and TV productions across the country, including Saturday Night Live.

Ashland is in the center of a filmmaker’s goldmine. Southern Oregon boasts a unique and beautiful coastline, high desert to the east, and many small towns with a host of unique venues for shooting. Medford, situated at the heart of the region, is the location of an airport with direct flights to and from Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. When taken as a whole, the MovieMaker designation of Ashland as a best place to live and be a filmmaker really applies to all of Southern Oregon.

Cameras are rolling in Southern Oregon like never before and SOFaM extends an invitation for new and returning filmmakers to join in and see what all the buzz is about!

Rob Thielke: Remembering A Seattle Icon

Brett Stevenson (right) with good friend and TV icon Rob Thielke.

Brett Stevenson (right) with good friend and TV icon Rob Thielke.


Photos courtesy of Brett Stevenson

On August 16, actor Rob Thielke, best known to Northwest viewers as the eccentric “Vern Fonk” in the Vern Fonk Insurance TV commercials, passed away after a long battle with colon cancer. Here, Brett Stevenson, owner of ad agency Stevenson Advertising, expounds on his friendship with Thielke and the legacy he leaves behind:

My friend, Rob Thielke, spent most of his life with the world thinking his name was Vern Fonk. For 24 years, Rob played the character on TV that everyone knows as Vern. Rob died Sunday, August 16, after a battle with cancer. He was just 50 years old.RobBeachedWhale

When I first met the real Vern Fonk, a larger-than-life insurance agent on Stone Way in the Fremont area, he said he wanted to do TV advertising and sent me to his daughter, Rene. Rene hired my brand new ad agency and we dreamed up commercials for Vern’s insurance agency. One of the first commercials required someone to play the role of Vern Gump, a takeoff on the Forrest Gump movie.

One of Vern’s salesmen, Rob Thielke, volunteered to play Vern Gump. I met Rob and Rene at Green Lake with my cameraman, Trent Woolford. Trent and I were shocked to see that Rob had shaved the sides of his head to look just like Forrest Gump. I remember saying to Trent, “Man, this guy is really committed to this little role!”Rob superheroine

What followed was the first of hundreds of commercials that have shocked, offended or delighted Northwest television viewers for over 20 years. The commercials created a large cult following of Vern Fonk fans. It was impossible to go anywhere with Rob, without people yelling, “Vern!” or stopping him on the street for an autograph or selfie. I could tell that Rob loved the attention but was always amazed that so many people recognized him and loved him.

The other part of the Vern Fonk phenomena was the success of the company due to Rob’s performance in the commercials. When the real Vern Fonk passed away in 2006, the company was one of Washington’s most successful insurance agencies. After Vern’s death, his daughter and son-in-law, Rene and Kevin Mulvaney, ran the company until it was acquired a few years ago by a large international holding company, Confie, for millions of dollars. Rob Thielke was appointed President of Vern Fonk Insurance, by Confie, and continued in that role until his death.RobMouthguard

One of the unique things about Rob Thielke was his fearlessness when it came to playing the Vern Fonk role. If the script called for us to shave the letters V. F. (for Vern Fonk) in Rob’s back hair, he did it. If he had to dress in a loincloth like Tarzan, no problem. Rob even wore a fake chin to be Jesse Ventura, and he dressed up like a strange version of Liberace. He danced on cars, shot zombies, and threw giant fake rocks at a Sasquatch like the Six Million Dollar Man. Rob did ‘70s dating videos, was arrested by fake policemen, and sang rap songs like a Hollywood rap star.RobDance

During all of his adventures, Rob’s actor-brother, Joel Thielke, was always by his side participating in every cornball, quirky skit that we dreamed up. There was something about Rob’s presence on the screen. His unusual look and speech patterns were hypnotic and addicting. He developed raving fans among both young and old, both white collar and blue collar television viewers. His uninhibited movements and stares into the camera left you muttering, “What was that?” when the commercial was over. To this day, people “honk when they drive by Vern Fonk” because of the power of Rob Thielke.RobOrgan

There will not be another, and the loss staggers both my mind and my heart. Rob was both the weirdest guy, and the most kind-hearted guy I knew. Giant hugs to his wife Kathy, their five kids, and his brother Joel. Here at the agency, Tim Grand, Shawn Sergev and I will be reeling from this loss for years to come. How can Seattle be Seattle without Rob as Vern Fonk on TV?

Please visit and share your thoughts about Rob Thielke and Vern Fonk. Rest in peace, Rob. We will miss you, my friend.

In Memoriam

Media Inc. readers wrote in with their thoughts and memories of Rob Thielke and what his loss means to the community. Here is just a small selection of those comments.

So very sorry to hear of this wonderful man’s passing. He will be greatly missed. I’ve enjoyed his crazy stupid commercials for years. Even when I was down his commercials could make me laugh. RIP “Vern Fonk”. Honk, honk! – A J

Rob brought joy to sooooooo many people with his whit, crazy facial expressions and wonderful sense of humor. May the FONK be with him!! I will HONK each time I pass his old ofice. – Jeff Ruffner

I love his commercials, seems like a guy you want to have a beer with. this is sad. – David Koppenhofer

Very sad day. Rob was my insurance agent years ago. He always spoke of his family, wife, children and step children, his Brady Bunch. A great guy. I love his commercials, but to just know Rob was an honor. Prayers to his family and friends. Rest in peace Rob. – Bryan Hurley

This is heartbreaking. My sympathies to his family. He always made me laugh. His commercials, his delivery of the message made you remember the product… and HIM! He was very talented and fun. I am so sad for his family and friends. Stupid cancer… Again… a huge loss to everyone. – Trudy D’Armond

Your family is in my thoughts and prayers as you celebrate the life of this very funny and nice man. His commercial always made me chuckle. – Kristine

I am so sorry to hear of his passing. His commercials were so fun, stupid, and hysterical! He will be missed. Good thoughts and prayers to the family. RIP. – Janet

Honk If you miss Vern Fonk – Kristen

Red Door Films Secures Multiple Telly Awards

The Red Door team on location at Goodwill.

The Red Door team on location at Goodwill.

By Mary Erickson Associate Editor

Portland’s Red Door Films has been operating in one form or another for over 25 years. Filmmaker and owner David Poulshock has accomplished multiple types of media productions, from ad spots and industrials to documentaries and children’s programming. Over the years, Red Door has been recognized by the production industry, but 2015 marks the first time that the studio has received nine awards in one ceremony.

Several of Red Door’s newest ad spots were recognized with Telly Awards this year, including a Silver Telly for “What Goes Around,” a spot produced for Goodwill Industries of the Columbia-Willamette. “The Goodwill projects are full of heart,” says Poulshock. “We can get into the lives of people who are willing for their stories to be told. The end result is good stories.” Seven other Goodwill ads won Telly Awards, as well.

Director Poulshock interviewing  Goodwill’s “Teddy” in the style of Errol Morris.

Director Poulshock interviewing Goodwill’s “Teddy” in the style of Errol Morris.

One of Red Door’s strengths is its storytelling. “Storytelling is often used as a buzz word,” reflects Poulshock, “but that’s where the real craftsmanship comes in. A good story activates certain areas of the brain to produce a sensory experience.” As a result, Red Door’s projects are recognized for their storytelling excellence.

Poulshock gets in on the zip lining action during filming of a Spirit Mountain Casino ad.

Poulshock gets in on the zip lining action during filming of a Spirit Mountain Casino ad.

A series of Spirit Mountain Casino ads emphasized excitement and adrenaline, both on- and off-camera. Poulshock stepped into the shoes of the ads’ characters, trying bungee jumping and zip lining for the first time. “Dare to Have Fun,” which takes place on a roller coaster, won a Bronze Telly.

Red Door Films is shifting its focus to finishing post-production on a documentary, Raw Materials. Featuring three people who work in a Virginia plastics factory, Raw Materials gives Poulshock a chance to focus on character and integrity by showcasing the real people of blue collar work. Onscreen, we find a cowboy, an ex-felon and a seventh generation hillbilly as people worth knowing.

Sometimes directing is like coaching a football game. Here’s Poulshock at the 50 yard line (center,  back row, with the glasses) with his coaching staff. No, really, they were on location at a Costco.

Sometimes directing is like coaching a football game. Here’s Poulshock at the 50 yard line (center, back row, with the glasses) with his coaching staff. No, really, they were on location at a Costco.

Poulshock’s one-man shop can take on work that fits his criteria, partnering with producers and other crew with whom he works well. The studio has grown and contracted over the past 25 years, depending on the size of current projects. Now, Poulshock is looking forward to raising funds for a feature film and continuing to fashion projects that are close to his heart.

“It’s a joy to get into the sandbox and play,” he notes.

More information about Red Door Films is available at

Beloved Seattle TV Icon Passes Away

Rob Thielke, best known to Northwest viewers as “Vern Fonk” in the fonkVern Fonk Insurance TV commercials , passed away yesterday, August 16, after a battle with cancer.

Thielke starred as Vern Fonk for the past 24 years, becoming a local television icon and a beloved celebrity in the Seattle area and beyond.

His presence in the community and on television will be greatly missed. Look for a tribute to Thielke in the upcoming issue of Media Inc.

Portland Filmmaker Wins 9 National Telly Awards

Portland filmmaker David Poulshock and his production company Red Door Films were recently awarded an astounding nine Telly Awards for TV commercials and web videos they produced on behalf of clients Spirit Mountain Casino and Goodwill Industries of the Columbia-Willamette.

“It’s a real honor,” said Poulshock, “especially for the recognition it gives the wonderful talent and stellar production crews who worked on these projects.”  According to Poulshock, the overall production included six :30 spots for Spirit Mountain Casino, and five :30 spots and four 3-minute web documentaries for Goodwill.

It's all over. Phew! Director Poulshock relieved after his bungee scout for Spirit Mountain Casino's Dare to Have Fun campaign. Yep, he jumped.

It’s all over. Phew! Director Poulshock relieved after his bungee scout for Spirit Mountain Casino’s Dare to Have Fun campaign. Yep, he jumped.

Shot back-to-back over two weeks,  the two projects couldn’t have been more different.  “For Spirit Mountain’s Dare To Have Fun campaign, it was comparing crazy scary carnival rides and bungee jumps to the real fun to be found at the casino,” Poulshock said.  “For Goodwill, it was telling heartfelt and inspiring stories about real people making the best out of their lives with Goodwill’s help.”

According to Dave Roberts, Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette’s Sr. Marketing Services Manager, “We have such compelling stories to tell about the real people Goodwill helps, David Poulshock was the ideal choice as writer and director. He’s a great collaborator, and has an uncanny ability to connect with his subjects and get their real feelings onto the screen.”

Spirit Mountain had a completely different kind of story to tell. “We wanted a unique campaign that showcases all the fun and experience Spirit Mountain Casino has to offer,” said Angela LaBarbera, Advertising Manager.  “Red Door did a stellar job. The spots really grab your attention. They’re fun, exciting and thrilling — just like the Casino!”

Just before the drop. Portland actors Dino Castagno and Alexa Simone wonder what Poulshock got them into.

Just before the drop. Portland actors Dino Castagno and Alexa Simone wonder what Poulshock got them into.

Of three entries for Spirit Mountain Casino, the TV spot  Roller won a Bronze Telly. Of 11 entries, the eight  Goodwill Telly Awards include: What Goes Around — TV:30 — Silver; Stacey’s Story — Webisode — Silver; Graciela’s Story — Webisode — Bronze; Pete — TV:30 — Bronze; Abby — TV:30 — Bronze; Abby’s Story — Webisode —Bronze; Graciela’s Story — Webisode — Bronze; Mission Campaign — TV:30 series — Bronze.

More winners and contenders can be seen at Red Door’s Vimeo Reel.

“Of course, winning all these Tellys feels good,” said Poulshock, “but more important, it was just a blast working with Spirit Mountain to create so much fun, and a joy working with Goodwill to tell stories that resonate with so much heart.”

Take a deep breath. Director Poulshock, actress Alexa Simone and DP Reed Harkness get ready to zip!

Take a deep breath. Director Poulshock, actress Alexa Simone and DP Reed Harkness get ready to zip!

While there are too many to list here, the combined production teams involved over 30 of Portland’s finest crew members. Directors of Photography were Mark Petersen (Goodwill) and Reed Harkness (Spirit Mountain). Locations included Portland, Bend, Mt. Hood Adventure Park, Tree-To-Tree Adventure Park and Oaks Park. Cameras provided by Koerner Camera Systems. Grip/Electric: Sasquatch. Sound: Runaway Trains. VTR:Cascade Video Systems. Insurance: Gales Creek. Editors were Nancy Anderson of Bingo Lewis and David Poulshock of Red Door Films. Color correction by Bingo Lewis’ Rob Anderson. Sound design and sweetening by Richard Moore and Randy Johnson of Tag Team Audio. And original music by Cal Scott. VO on Spirit Mountain, October Moore. VO on What Goes Around, David Poulshock

Founded in 1979, the Telly Award is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials, video and film productions, and web commercials, videos and films. The highly respected competition receives over 12,000 entries annually from 50 states and many foreign countries.  “The Telly Awards has a mission to honor the very best,” said Linda Day, Executive Director of the Telly Awards.  Red Door Film’s accomplishment illustrates their creativity, skill and dedication to their craft.”

For more information, please visit or contact David Poulshock at

Bread-and-Butter in Southern Oregon

Motorcycle USA spot rolls on location. Photo by Tyler Maddox

Motorcycle USA spot rolls on location. Photo by Tyler Maddox

By Anita Gomez

Everyone likes to talk about the large-scale productions and big-budget films and TV shows that come to Oregon. But for those who live and work in the Oregon production industry, the day-to-day local and smaller-budget productions, TV and web commercials, and corporate videos keep bread on the table. And much of that everyday creative action is happening in Southern Oregon.

Leading the pack of companies that return time and again to shoot in Southern Oregon is Emotion Studios. Their work for clients such as Nike, Adobe and Hewlett-Packard takes them around the world, but they’ve shot many of their recent HP spots in Southern Oregon.

“Shooting in Southern Oregon is like coming home to me,” says Glen Janssens, a CEO and director now based in San Francisco but who previously lived in Southern Oregon. “The combination of incredible crew, talent, the wide variety of stunning locations (and great food!) make Ashland and the Rogue Valley among my favorite places to shoot. And… a macchiato from Case [Coffee] rivals any that I’ve ever had.”

Budweiser recently shot a high-profile spot in Southern Oregon. “One of the reasons was the 50-plus acres of private land my family owns. It made it easy for Budweiser to stage whatever they needed, including a large bonfire,” explains Tyler Maddox, owner of Maddox Visual Productions, who appeared in the spot. Other locations for the spot included the film-friendly Medford/Jackson County Airport and the City of Jacksonville. The spot’s production company hired many local crew.

On stage for Sauce Labs marketing videos. Photo by Todd Wilson

On stage for Sauce Labs marketing videos. Photo by Todd Wilson

Southern Oregon sees a lot of production for the auto industry, thanks to its incredible array of environments and roads. The C2 Ranch outside of Eagle Point was recently scouted for Subaru, and Crater Lake and the coast have been locations for Mercedes, Ford and more. Lithia Motors, headquartered in Medford, which grew from a single car dealership in 1946 to one of America’s largest chains of automotive dealerships, shoots almost all of their dealer spots and running packages in Southern Oregon, using local talent both in front of and behind the camera.

One local company doing work for both local and national clients is the aforementioned Maddox Visual Productions. With 15 years of experience in the industry, their list of recent clients include Husky Liners, Motorcycle USA, Goodwill Industries, Motorcycle Superstore, Bell Helmets, Brammo Electric Motorcycles, and Harry & David. Maddox Visual Productions is situated on large rural ranch property that Tyler Maddox’s family owns in Jacksonville. The complex includes a 1,650-square-foot studio with a 3-sided cyc wall studio. Combined with the only 5-ton grip truck in Southern Oregon and an inventory of rental camera gear, Maddox is keeping many members of the production industry in Southern Oregon busy.

Shooting picture perfect pears for Harry & David. Photo by Rocky Garrotto

Shooting picture perfect pears for Harry & David. Photo by Rocky Garrotto

In the agency world, Lanphier Associates in Medford is one of the region’s largest. With 27 years of experience in marketing and advertising, Lanphier provides a range of creative services, including print, web, branding, radio and television for their clients, which include Premier West Bank, Cascade Wood Products, Pacific Retirement Services, and many others.

Adding to the list of local creative agencies and production companies that aggressively pursue commercial and corporate work using a diverse set of skills and experience is Sights & Sounds. The event production company used their 25 years of experience, combined with their video production chops, to assist the show Wheel of Fortune when it came to the area.

The beauty of Southern Oregon is not just a draw for commercial clients. It’s also a region that attracts creative people from around the country to take advantage of its great locations, experienced crews, abundant acting talent, and cost-friendly resources. Feature film company Joma Films relocated from Los Angeles and diversified into marketing work for Mondavi Wines, eMyth, and the Ashland Independent Film Festival, among others. Fraser Film Group principal Todd Wilson relocated from Atlanta, bringing clientele like Leica Geosystems and Sauce Labs in tow and producing their spots in Southern Oregon.

Commercial work demands high creativity requiring quality crew and the top tools of the industry, and both are in strong supply in Southern Oregon. Lotus Motion Pictures, one of the new kids on the production scene, owns one of the EPIC Dragons available for rental. Other high-end cameras that can be found in the area are the Black Magic, Canon C500, and Sony FS700 with Odyssey 4K recorder. Jib arms, steadicams, MōVIs, drones and more are also available locally. Reel House Films, owner of a 30-foot jib arm, will soon be reopening a 5,000-square-foot soundstage with large green screen cyc wall.

Rocky Garrotto, who co-owns the Odyssey gear with Sights & Sounds, exemplifies the strong and multi-talented crew that live and work in Southern Oregon. “In a smaller market, you have to wear many hats. I shoot, 1st AC, light, grip and edit. Because of those diverse skills, I have been able to work on a variety of productions, ranging from in-house training videos to local car commercials to complex shoots for HP and Leica.” Garrotto, who is listed as a Location Scout/Manager in the area’s online industry directory hosted by Southern Oregon Film and Media, recently scouted for L.L. Bean. The clothing retailer came to shoot their 2015 Fall Catalogue on local BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands.

Whether it’s for the web, TV, or any of the many growing outlets for video marketing, production is booming in Southern Oregon and growing every year. Quality creative talent is attracting attention, further strengthening the region’s reputation as a great place to live and work as a filmmaker. For information contact Southern Oregon Film and Media (SOFaM) via its website,, or e-mail

Anita Gomez is a freelance writer living in Grants Pass, OR.

Augmented Reality Will Bring Us Together

By Stephanie Hoover & Crystal Foley Staff Writers
Photos by Levy Moroshan

Devon Lyon of Lyon Films directs a Dell Venue tablet commercial.

Devon Lyon of Lyon Films directs a Dell Venue tablet commercial.

Most people work to pay their bills and express their passions on the side. Devon Lyon, founder of Lyon Films, is one of the lucky few that gets to do both simultaneously. The Portland-based production company is celebrating 10 years in creativity-fueled business.

“We are fortunate that what pays our bills and what ignites our passions are mostly one and the same,” Lyon said. “Working with creative agencies or directly with clients to craft a creative, meaningful message that honors their brand or service.”

However, time constraints of 30 or 60 seconds can be challenging. Lyon said he is “personally always looking for opportunities to produce and direct longer form narrative,” as well as a love for the short film format.

“I’ve had some success in that regard in the past and will be producing a new short later this year—so keep your eyes peeled,” he said.

Devon Lyon

Devon Lyon

Lyon Films has produced a range of work, employing anywhere from 5 to 50 people per shoot, depending on what the client needs. While they started off producing political commercials, the company’s current expertise falls into three categories. Their biggest sector is commercial production and direction, which includes standard 30- or 60-second spots for traditional broadcasting or targeted web advertising, which is becoming more common. The second is corporate communications, such as B-to-B and internal communication and messaging.

However, Lyon said their most rewarding work is their focus on local non-profits, such as the Portland School System’s program, All Hands Raised.

“We are blessed to have such amazing people in Oregon and we count ourselves lucky to know many of them,” he said.

Lyon Films’ national spot for Carrington College.

Lyon Films’ national spot for Carrington College.

Lyon is proud to call Oregon home, and is happy to have worked with the state, the Oregon Media Production Association (OMPA) and corporate clients, all of which helped bring top quality work to the state.

They’ve worked with many local companies, including ZoomCare, All Hands Raised, Timbers, Mercy Corps and Ralphs. National brands they’ve worked with include Dell, Intel, EA Sports, IBM, Alienware and Amazon.

Lyon has a hard time identifying his personal favorite production, but has a few notable favorites. One is the spot they produced for the gaming PC brand Alienware, which involved building an armored personnel carrier set, as well as commissioning a mini gun, like the one Jesse Ventura had in Predator. They recently wrapped up another video game system based spot that involves a space explorer, which Lyon said was a blast to produce.

Filming a spot for Alienware.

Filming a spot for Alienware.

Lyon is looking to venture into new ways to tell stories using augmented reality, a concept he is particularly excited about. He is currently exploring partnerships in virtual reality and immersive, non-linear storytelling, which he thinks is the next “evolutionary step in how stories are told.”

“I can’t wait to use technology—in the real world, in real time—but in ways we’ve only begun to imagine,” he said. “The prospects for those of us who are storytellers [are] just limitless.”

Lyon thinks there is an upcoming evolution, with the advancements in virtual reality, such as the optical overlays with Google Glass, and alternate reality gaming on the Oculus Rift. He believes these technologies will converge into something he likes to refer to as augmented reality. He gave a TED Talk in November of 2014 on how augmented reality will change the future of playing, not only in the sense of video games.

While those opposed to gaming may tout a correlation to antisocial behavior, Lyon believes augmented reality has the opportunity to foster even more meaningful exploration and adventure with other people.

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift

Lyon himself grew up with games and considers himself an avid gamer, and has been since his first system, an Atari 2600. He has since branched out in systems and game types.

“I enjoy sports games (FIFA) and I enjoy deep, story-based [role playing] games,” he said. “At the moment I’m stoked to be working through Zelda’s Wind Waker (2003) with my seven-year-old daughter. It is so much fun to play and explore together.”

Regardless of whether Lyon is able to stake his hold in the augmented reality field, he is enjoying the dynamic landscape of production.

“Producing and directing is ever-changing. Each project offers unique challenges and rewards. I am always learning something new, but even better, I’m always working with fantastic people that are incredibly passionate about what they do,” Lyon said. “From clients to crew and actors, the world of live action production is second to none.”

For more information about Lyon Films, visit

DIGITAL ONE Receives Double Honors at Rosey Awards

Portland-based post-production studio DIGITAL ONE has been honored by the Portland Advertising Federation (PAF) with two Rosey Awards in the audio category for web videos produced for MasterCraft and Chrome Industries.

This MasterCraft film earned DIGITAL ONE a Rosey Award.

This MasterCraft film earned DIGITAL ONE a Rosey Award.

The two award-winning web films follow on the coat tails of an impressive year for DIGITAL ONE. After receiving an AICP Award from the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, a permanent home in the Museum of Modern Art’s archives, and a place on the CLIO Awards shortlist, MasterCraft’s “Mission 04: History Is History” can now add Rosey Award to its running list of accolades. The film was produced by Nemo Design, shot, edited, and directed by Bump Films, and sound design crafted by DIGITAL ONE audio engineer Chip Sloan.

DIGITAL ONE's film for Chrome Industries.

DIGITAL ONE’s film for Chrome Industries.

The second Rosey Award was bestowed upon “Massan Barrage Cargo”, a three-minute web film directed and produced by Kamp Grizzly for the San Francisco-based bike outfitter Chrome Industries. For this endeavor, Sloan hit the streets on his fixed gear bicycle to record all-original and authentic foley to accompany the fearless protagonist, San Francisco fixed gear icon Massan Fluker. Glimpses of quintessential Portland are seen throughout the piece, culminating in an epic and striking love letter to the City of Roses.

Said Sloan, “The best part of these projects was that they were beautifully shot, and had solid creative briefs that allowed freedom [as a sound designer] to be unabashedly creative and just go to town.” He continued, “It’s an honor for such well produced and creatively jarring pieces to be recognized by the advertising community, and I’m truly thrilled to have been a part of the process.”

For more info, visit

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.