Category Archives: Featured Articles

Beyond Customer Service

Grow your business by leveraging your entire organization to expand current accounts

By Lisa Magnuson Guest Columnist

Are all your customer-facing employees armed to sell? Are you attracting expansion business on a regular basis through your front-line people? Is your company thinking beyond customer service to win more business?

If you want to grow top line revenues and attract more customers, then everyone on your crew must get in the boat, grab an oar, and begin to row. Yes, we mean everyone—from the CEO to account managers to customer service to marketing and PR. If you’re a university, then we mean the folks in the admissions department, too. From stem to stern, it’s all hands on deck, and everyone is pulling for the team like they mean it.

Leading organizations, both in the private and public sectors, are seriously re-thinking their sales assets.  In short, they believe that if you engage or impress the customer in a meaningful way, you can make a difference. Combine this idea with another, such as it’s much easier to expand business with current customers than to land new ones. This synthesis means you have the opportunity and obligation to influence the customer’s perception of value and their willingness to invest additional dollars in your products and services.

The Struggle
However, many organizations struggle to make the transformation. Non-salespeople just don’t want to sell. For most, it’s not part of their calling, mission, or skill-set ‘profile’ in the business world. They don’t see themselves in a revenue-generating role, and may even carry a negative impression of selling. Let’s face it, in this extremely competitive, high-definition age, we almost have to be ‘born’ to sell, or at least be ‘wired’ for it these days. Besides, most departments are (or will surely claim to be) overworked with the task at hand; they don’t believe they have any additional bandwidth to take on more duties, let alone be interested in trying their hand at ‘sales,’ even if it’s only part-time.

Be in Front of Your Competition
There’s a fine line between asking everyone to be a salesperson and arming all customer-facing resources with the necessary focus, direction, knowledge and tools to help grow the company. Thriving organizations are rapidly making the transition from the traditional ‘sales as a single department model’ to ‘empowered employees’ who are informed, motivated, and enthusiastic enough to make a real (and permanent) difference to the top and bottom line. If you want to be out front, begin your transformation now or your competitors may cross that finish line first.

7 Easy Steps to Get Moving
1. Evaluate all your human touch-points. These are all the people in your organization who ‘touch’ the customer in some way. They can include delivery people, reception, field employees, customer care resources, and so on. Most companies have a virtual army of folks who touch or engage the customer, yet they remain an under-utilized resource without any ‘sales’ interaction, training, or relationship-building efforts.

2. Prioritize the non-sales group having the largest, most significant, or greatest long-term impact on your customer. (Don’t stop here but it’s a smart place to begin.)

3. Start to create or build awareness and expectations around just how important their role is in growing the company, and what it takes to sustain that growth. Point out the links between their job and all the possibilities that exist to positively influence the customer into expanding their business.

4. Invest in training, development, and ongoing support initiatives to move beyond a customer service/problem solving mentality into a pro-active, pro-‘public relations’ approach to build customer awareness, brand loyalty, and potential expansion.

5. Offer simple but effective tools and best practices such as talking points, sample questions, guides, real-world examples, and even focus groups to help them move beyond customer care to customer development.

6. Measure progress and highlight and reward accomplishments—both big and small—to ensure a positive, sustainable, company-wide attitude of achievement.

7. Expand to the next group until the entire organization is rallied around company growth goals, and your employees (along with the customers they touch) become a virtual army of well-informed, mission-ready, and market-savvy brand ambassadors.

Although this approach may seem simplistic or even impractical, it can be both powerful and transformational, and perhaps even downright game-changing to your competition. In this tech-hungry, ultra-connected, and data-driven marketplace, sometimes the difference between tapping into additional revenue (or not) is asking your customer just one simple question: ‘What else can we do for you, today?’

Lisa Magnuson, founder of Top Line Sales, LLC helps high potential sales people, business owners who sell and VPs of Sales win more sales. She works side by side with her clients to navigate through their most complex sales cycles and sales challenges with remarkable results. A recent accomplishment was helping one client secure 44m in contracts last year using her proven framework for landing large opportunities.


Geena Davis (Photo courtesy Getty Images via The Hollywood Reporter)

Oregon Lands TNT Pilot

Hot on the heels of Leverage’s series wrap, Oregon has landed yet another TNT project from director/producer Dean Devlin and his team at Electric Entertainment.

Geena Davis (Photo courtesy Getty Images via The Hollywood Reporter)

Set to begin filming in April, the as-yet-untitled pilot features Oscar-winning, Emmy-nominated actress Geena Davis (The Accidental Tourist, Commander in Chief) as an unconventio­­nal bail bondswoman and bounty hunter whose eccentric personality and unusual tactics give her an advantage in a tough and unpredictable business. The show is inspired by the real-life story of Mackenzie Green.

Other castmembers include Scott Bakula (TNT series Men of a Certain Age, Quantum Leap), as a detective who is also the ex-husband of Davis’ character, and Marsha Mason (The Goodbye Girl), as the strong and independent mother of Davis’ character.

The pilot script for TNT’s bounty hunter drama was written by Oregon native Scott Prendergast and Amy Berg, with Dean Devlin set to direct. Prendergast, Berg and Devlin serve as executive producers on the project, along with John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky, Tom Lassally and Michael Rotenberg. Davis serves as co-executive producer, while Devlin and Berg are the showrunners. The project comes to TNT from Electric Entertainment, Ternion Productions and 3 Arts.

“We’re thrilled to continue our relationship with TNT and Electric Entertainment,” said Vince Porter, executive director, Oregon Governor’s Office of Film and Television. “As the legislature is contemplating a possible expansion of our incentives, it’s nice to have a new project waiting in the wings.”

For more information on Oregon’s production industry, visit


Film Has a Leading Role

By Jessie Wilson, Programs and Communications Coordinator, Washington Filmworks

Washington State has long been a home for innovation and entrepreneurial business models. As Hollywood begins to explore alternative distribution paradigms, Washington State is perfectly positioned to lead the digital revolution.

To help facilitate the creative process, Washington Filmworks has launched the Innovation Cycle of the Filmworks Innovation Lab, a pilot funding assistance program designed to explore the intersection of technology and storytelling. By leveraging the diverse landscape of in-state technology resources and motion picture production infrastructure, Washington Filmworks is helping film take a leading role in developing a new creative economy for Washington State.

In order to better promote this kind of entrepreneurial spirit, the Washington Filmworks Board of Directors can allocate up to $350,000 in funding assistance, across two cycles per year. The inaugural Film Cycle of the Lab was created to nurture traditional forms of filmed entertainment, and recently committed $175,000 in funding assistance to five diverse projects from emerging Washington resident filmmakers. These projects go into production throughout 2013. The Innovation Cycle is underway now. It was created to support filmmakers using new forms of production that are specifically designed to incorporate and distribute motion picture content in inventive ways. The Board may allocate up to $175,00 for this cycle.

Distribution outlets are expanding. With new access points come new audiences and enhanced opportunities to share intellectual property, as well as to build potential revenue streams. The Innovation Cycle challenges creative entrepreneurs to produce motion picture content that traverses multiple delivery platforms. The process is juried and requires that applicants develop a thorough project plan that relays how their story will unfold across multiple delivery platforms and, more importantly, how the story is enhanced by being seen in different venues and environments.

The following briefly outlines the eligibility criteria for the Innovation Cycle:

  • Motion picture content may be narrative, documentary, animation, experimental, serial, episodic, or other type. Content may be feature-length or short.
  • Projects must spend $25,000-$499,999 on qualified in-state expenditures upon award of Filmworks Innovation Lab funding assistance.
  • At least 85 percent of the workforce for the physical production of motion picture content must be Washington residents.
  • Projects must use a majority of Washington residents in Key Creative positions.
  • Qualified projects must spend at least 95 percent of the motion picture content production budget in Washington State.

Washington Filmworks created this program in part to explore new ways that filmmakers and motion picture workers can contribute to the local creative economy and generate more opportunities to keep film industry professionals working.

“Washington State is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this digital revolution, and create revenue streams that integrate our in-state technology resources,” says Amy Lillard, Washington Filmworks executive director. “Washington Filmworks is passionate about developing programs that empower our local storytellers to lead the innovation revolution. Using our creative capital and technology expertise, we can create a new economic development model for the world to follow.”

Want to learn more about the Filmworks Innovation Lab? Visit (and click on the Innovation Lab tab) or call 206-264-0667. Funding assistance recipients for this cycle of the program will be announced in May.


On the Record: Copacino+Fujikado

Media Inc.’s interview series, in which we discuss the latest and greatest with a different Northwest company each issue, continues with Copacino+Fujikado.

“We’ve been voted the hardest agency name to spell for 15 years running, which is exactly how long we’ve been in business,” jokes Copacino+Fujikado creative director Mike Hayward. The Seattle-based agency boasts a long and illustrious client list that includes REI, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Seattle Mariners, Safeco, Visit Seattle, and Premera Blue Cross.

“I think we’re a strong hybrid agency,” says Hayward. “We have our roots in advertising, which I think pushes us to focus on the central idea first, but we’ve also developed a killer engagement strategy and digital team. I really love how the agency has evolved over the years.”

Here is Hayward, on the record:

What do you like best about your job?
Having clients I truly care about and the variety of the work. I can go from working on a brand campaign for a museum to a mobile experience for a winery. And the people here are the best (we have the data to prove it). It’s a group of really talented, funny, smart people with no big egos.

Copacino+Fujikado just released the latest set of Seattle Mariners commercials. What has that partnership meant to you over the last few years?
The agency got its start thanks to Kevin Martinez, vice president of marketing, and the Seattle Mariners. Kevin is still our client today. It’s great to have that kind of shared history and level of trust. When people ask what C+F does, the Mariners are usually the first client we mention. Which is followed by them saying, “I love that Edgar light bat commercial!” Which was actually an ad for Eagle Hardware that we didn’t do.

Who or what inspires you, either personally or professionally?
Jim Copacino and Betti Fujikado, who are avid readers of this column. I actually get inspired fairly easily. I find myself geeking out over new social and digital tools all the time. I’ll run over to our creative technologist Nat Duffy (or he’ll come to me) and say, “What can we do with this new thing?” The pace of innovation is incredibly exciting to me. Right now we’re playing around with “hashbots,” our term for robots that perform a physical action in response to tweeted hashtags or keywords. So far we’ve built a mechanical bobblehead, a piñata-pecking bird and a light-up Space Needle that plays Salt N Pepa’s “Push It.”

How important is it for your company to connect and engage with your surrounding community?
I’m not sure there’s another agency that’s quite as rooted in the community as C+F (so much for the “no big egos” thing). We’re very active with local community groups and state universities, and our client roster reads like a guide to the Pacific Northwest. It’s a point of pride for us. And just next month, we’re hosting our first Digital Summit here. We’re bringing together social media managers from 20 different Seattle businesses and attractions to see how we can all work together in a mutually beneficial way.

Copacino+Fujikado has earned many prestigious awards over the years. What are some of your most gratifying professional accomplishments?
We’ve won Best of Show at the ADDYs two years in a row for ideas that weren’t traditional ads, which I think says a lot about the agency overall. Awards are certainly a measure of success, but I really like how we can now see the impact of what we do through social media and real-world metrics. So it means more to me to see kids dressed up like Larry Bernandez at Mariners games, or watch the #2DaysInSeattle hashtag take off or see our children’s ibook for the Aquarium hit 100,000 downloads on iTunes. Not that we don’t still like our shiny statues.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Why was “the Auburn Supermall” the first thing that popped into my head? I know I’m supposed to say a tropical paradise or cultural mecca, but I would be in the stands at Pasadena watching WSU win the Rose Bowl. Which leads to the next question…

If a genie granted you 3 wishes, what would you wish for?
For WSU to win the Rose Bowl. And I assume we’re excluding the usual “world peace” and “infinite wishes” answers, right? Then my other two would be a World Series for the Mariners and for our good friend Steve Cunetta to finally kick this cancer thing. We miss you at the office, buddy.

Bobby Hougham gives direction to The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus.

Killer Instinct

Seattle Production Company Shoots International Promos for The Walking Dead

“As we walked through the lot, there were dead bodies everywhere. The wind was blowing, sheets of metal were banging. It was really creepy.”

That’s Bobby Hougham, co-creative director of Seattle-based production company thenewBlank, discussing his time on the set of The Walking Dead, the zombie-centric AMC series that is now in its third season. Earlier this fall, thenewBlank traveled to Atlanta to shoot international promo spots for the series, and Hougham and his team were able to see firsthand what it’s like to live during a zombie apocalypse.

Bobby Hougham gives direction to The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus.

This series of promos is part of a package for Fox International. thenewBlank has also recently shot promos for Glee, New Girl, Ben and Kate, and American Horror Story, among others.

“Fox had just rebranded but didn’t know how to develop it for promotions and social media, etc.,” explained Hougham. “We were contacted and we did a full blown pitch—we developed a bunch of different ideas on how the rebrand could be used in multiple circumstances.”

Since this was an international project, a big challenge was the communication barrier.

“The Fox U.S. tagline is ‘So Fox.’ which doesn’t translate well into many other languages,” said Hougham. “We worked on developing different tags and different promos that would work on a wider scale.”

thenewBlank won the bid and got to work.

The team traveled to Hollywood Center Studios in L.A. to shoot promos for Fox comedies like Glee and New Girl.

“We shot on the stage—the actual stage—that Lucille Ball’s show was shot on,” said Hougham. “Right next door to that stage was the George Burns stage, where he did his show. From that Hollywood history point of view, it was a very cool experience.”

But it was nothing compared to what the team would encounter in the woods outside Atlanta.

“We were on The Walking Dead’s set, sharing their studio space,” said Hougham. “All of their stages were jam-packed full of stuff, so we were tucked into interior sets for our shoot.”

As enormous fans of the show and the comic book on which it’s based, the team at thenewBlank was enthused to not only be on set, but to walk around in between shoots and explore the Walking Dead world, from the prison yard to the various interiors. Working closely with the cast of a production is a part of regular life for thenewBlank, however this production was a particularly unique experience. It wasn’t merely that the production offices were set up in The Governor’s office or that you would find dead bodies lying around just outside their set, it was more about how the close-knit cast and crew accepted them as part of their team.

“During the shoot we were welcomed in,” said Hougham. “We definitely got an amazing sense of camaraderie. They’ve been working together for nine months in the middle of nowhere and we had the distinct feeling we were a part of that family.

“For the Hollywood shoot, all of these actors are hustled in on their off days, and they’re told, basically, ‘you gotta stand up and act pretty for these random people.’ But on Walking Dead, they were coming from rehearsal. They came in between takes. It wasn’t so much of an inconvenience or a hassle for them, but more of a ‘welcome to our home.’”

That’s not to say Hougham and crew were always completely at ease. He described working with the zombies—referred to as “walkers” in the show—as “remarkably creepy.”

“The walkers don’t see, but they hear and smell really well,” said Hougham. “So you have these people milling about, and then you cue them that they hear or smell something. Looking right into the lens, it looked and felt as though they were looking at and hunting me.

“After that, I needed to go ‘shake it off.’ It was really creepy; really cool.”

And the creepiness factor didn’t wane in between takes.

“I came out of lunch, and down the hall I see three walkers having a smoke and BS-ing. Saying to myself, ‘Oh sure, I’ll bite,’ I headed over and started talking with them,” recalled Hougham. “They were in full makeup—I mean, full on dead and rotting—but they’re talking and behaving like normal, living human beings, of course, and I still caught myself getting the chills. Even in real life they are just bizarre, just creepy. And when they’d snap back into their ‘zombie’ mode, you just wanted to run.”

Hougham co-wrote and directed the spots, which were shot over five days in September at an undisclosed studio in Atlanta.

“Kammie Mcarthur wrote initial drafts of the scripts, and I worked with her and finessed the final scripts,” he said. “My partner Sevrin Daniels has been handling the creative direction and post-production side of things.”

The final promos are delivered as After Effects templates that can be easily altered to fit the needs of the various countries it will be shown in. Said Hougham, “We’re creating these promos that are pretty boiled down but certain things like iconography and text can be altered without headache.”

Upon completion of the Walking Dead promos, thenewBlank team was back at it, traveling to Wales for Da Vinci’s Demons, a Starz and BBC production that Fox is distributing nationwide. The team will also soon be shooting another promo for a different show, but Hougham wasn’t at liberty to say which one.

“The Fox promos are an ongoing project,” he said. “It’s a big project and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”

No rest for the weary, apparently. Especially during a zombie apocalypse.

Tom Skerritt and Shirley Knight with director Gary Lundgren on the set of Redwood Highway.

Independent Feature Filmmaking Roars Back into Southern Oregon

Tom Skerritt and Shirley Knight with director Gary Lundgren on the set of Redwood Highway.

By Gary Kout, Founder & Executive Director, SOFaT
Photos by Gary Kout and Gary Lundgren

Southern Oregon has been the backdrop for many feature films, starting all the way back in 1914 with Grace’s Visit to the Rogue Valley. Though generally an uncommon event, a strong flurry of filming began in 2000 with at least one independent film being shot every year in the area. Then in 2010, filmmaking came to a screeching halt with no films being made, and in 2011 there were only two micro-indies with budgets in the $100,000 range or less.

Those keeping tabs on the industry know that private equity, the usual source of funding for indie production, had become incredibly difficult to procure. The distribution models for independent films had also been going through a fundamental shift, with fewer and fewer theatrical opportunities, skewing everything towards the less lucrative digital markets. Finding money and making money had dropped through the floor.

Redwood Highway films at It's a Burl.

But late 2012 saw a dramatic change in the production landscape as not just one, but two good-sized independent films, both with strong creative talents and recognizable casts, filmed in Southern Oregon. Eager to shake off the dust from their long break, the local industry rose up to meet the challenge.

Night Moves, the latest film from critically-acclaimed director Kelly Reichardt, was the first film to roll cameras. Reichardt’s last two films, Wendy and Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff, were both multiple award nominees and winners at major festivals. Continuing her preference for filming in Oregon thanks to its wide range of locations, film-friendly environment, experienced crews, and competitive incentives, Reichardt and longtime screenwriting partner Jonathan Raymond set their latest story of eco-terrorism in the small communities and beautiful landscapes of Southern Oregon. The movie stars Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Dakota Fanning (the Twilight series) and Peter Sarsgaard (An Education).

The second film was Redwood Highway, the follow-up feature from the creative team behind Calvin Marshall, starring Steve Zahn, which also filmed in Southern Oregon in winter 2007. Redwood Highway tells the story of Marie, a resident at a retirement community who decides to walk 80 miles down the Redwood Highway to see the coast of Oregon for the first time in 45 years. The movie stars award-winning veteran actress Shirley Knight (As Good as It Gets), with strong supporting roles by Tom Skerritt (A River Runs Through It) and James LeGros (Point Break).

Lining up a shot of Shirley Knight on the Redwood Highway.

Thanks to our familiarity with the local industry, director Gary Lundgren, my fellow producer James Twyman, and I cast several local actors, many of whom perform with the acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival and have strong Hollywood film and TV credits.

Living up to its name, Redwood Highway filmed primarily along the actual Hwy 199, Southern Oregon’s main route to the coast. As travelers along the fabled highway know, many interesting and incredible sites await them. The filmmakers wanted to recreate that experience, making the movie a sort of greatest hits of the Redwood Highway. Their filming locations included Lake Selmac, Eight Dollar Mountain, It’s A Burl, Cave Junction, Great Cats, Rough and Ready Bridge, Jedidiah Smith State Park (in California), and the beautiful coast in Brookings, Oregon. Other locations filled out the production schedule, covering a large swath of Southern Oregon: Mountain Meadows Retirement Community in Ashland, Talent Club in Talent, the Applegate River Lodge, and downtown Grants Pass.

Night Moves also filmed all over the region, from as far north as Roseburg, east to Lake of the Woods, west to the Applegate Valley, and the main population centers of Medford and Ashland. All told, there wasn’t much of Southern Oregon that didn’t see cameras roll, nor feel the economic impact of feature filmmaking.

Southern Oregon Film and Television (or SOFaT for short), the membership-based local professional association and de-facto film commission for the region, assisted both productions. SOFaT provided strong recommendations about the filmmakers to local public agencies and private businesses, which helped to acquire locations, smooth the various permit processes, and perpetuate the already pro-filming attitude in Southern Oregon.

Director Gary Lundgren with actresses Michelle Lombardo and Shirley Knight on the set of Redwood Highway.

When both productions inquired about local crewmembers and services, SOFaT directed them to its online directory where many professionals in the local industry list their contact info, credits, and links to samples of their work. As a result, many SOFaT members were hired to work on both productions. Such employment not only contributes to the local economy, but it builds the resumes and raises the overall experience level of the local industry, making those members and the region more attractive to future productions.

SOFaT and the Southern Oregon industry hope that 2012 is merely the start of another busy decade of filmmaking, and is already working hard to springboard the results and ramifications of Night Moves and Redwood Highway into future filmmaking activity.

For more information about making your next project in Southern Oregon, visit SOFaT at or contact us at

Gary Kout is the founder and executive director of Southern Oregon Film and Television and a producer on Redwood Highway, as well as having worked on four other feature films in Southern Oregon. He was the production supervisor on the 2011 Academy Award-winning animated feature Rango, starring Johnny Depp, and has line-produced over 100 national commercials.


On the Record: Bad Animals

Media Inc.’s interview series, in which we discuss the latest and greatest with a different Northwest company each issue, continues with Bad Animals.

An Emmy Award-winning audio post-production facility, Bad Animals provides sound design/editing, original music, ADR, Foley, and mixing for projects ranging from episodic TV and feature films to video games, corporate and commercial. The Seattle-based studio is led by partners Dave Howe, Tom McGurk, Mike McAuliffe, and Charlie Nordstrom.

Here is Howe, on the record.

Bad Animals has a long and storied history. What is the biggest change you have seen over the years?
Our biggest change has been the diversification of our clientele. When we took over as owners in 1999, we were primarily a commercial house. Now we probably don’t have more than 20 percent in any one genre (TV/film, corporate, commercial, etc.).

What do you like best about your job?
I love the fact that it’s different every day with new challenges that keep me growing. I also truly enjoy the people that I get to interact with; co-workers, clients, celebrities, politicians, corporate execs, you name it, they all walk through our doors. I joke about what it would cost to have received the education I’ve gotten over the years from being around these people.

What is one recent project you are particularly proud of?
I know it sounds hokey, but there really isn’t one I can place above another. I still get passionately involved with whatever I’m working on at the moment. My goal is to always keep setting the bar higher and make my next project better than the last. I can say I’m proud of many projects for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because of the nature of the work, but many times it has to do with the subject matter and the people that I’m working with.

Who or what inspires you, either personally or professionally?
I have been fortunate to have been mentored by some great people. My old high school baseball coach, Ron Davini, was a huge inspiration. He instilled a work ethic and discipline that pushed me to be far better than I knew I could be. This related not only to baseball, but translated to life as well. A post-supervisor/editor at Universal, John Elias, taught me it’s not about the gear or tools, it’s about relationships and always bringing your best effort to anything you do. And lastly, I want to mention Palmer Pattison. Palmer was probably the best audio engineer I’ve ever been around and more than willing to pass on his knowledge and experience to me when I was still pretty green in the business.

How important is it for your company to connect and engage with your surrounding community?
This is where we live and work, so it’s vital to be involved. It’s important to try to help continue the development of this market because if the market as a whole grows, we all reap the benefits. We try very hard to give back and support local causes and artists. We do this through various outreach activities such as seminars, tours, discounted rates, sponsorships, etc.

(l to r) Dave Howe, Mike McAuliffe and Tom McGurk at the Emmys.

Bad Animals has earned many prestigious awards over the years. What are some of your most gratifying professional accomplishments?
I’m very proud of the national Emmy Awards for Bill Nye the Science Guy and also the Emmy nominations for BizKids. The fact that these are voted on by industry peers means a great deal. I also had a Dolby rep from New York tell me a film I mixed was one of the best mixes he’d ever heard. That was an awesome moment.

If you were not in the recording/audio industry, what would be your dream job?
It’s easy. Jet fighter pilot. I grew up an Air Force brat and was around flight lines a lot as a kid. It was a really tough decision to not follow my dad’s footsteps into the Air Force.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
I’ve lived all over and the one place I always look forward to returning to is right here in the Seattle area. We are fortunate to live in a place of incredible beauty and opportunity.

One Square Mile director Charles-Olivier Michaud speaks with Rainier Beach residents about production. Photo by Chris Swenson

Washington Warms Up with Summer Production

By Jessie Wilson, Programs and Communications Coordinator (Interim), Washington Filmworks

Washington was buzzing with activity during the busy summer shooting season. From production resources to funding assistance, Washington Filmworks (WF) was busy assisting both incentive and non-incentive productions around the state. The WF Board of Directors approved funding for several projects, among them a national commercial that included a number of aerial shots featuring Mount Rainier. Not only did the commercial capture the beauty of one of our state’s natural treasures, it put more than 40 Washington-based cast and crew to work.

In the Seattle area, the Washington incentive feature One Square Mile found a home in the neighborhoods collectively known as Rainier Beach. The film, starring Kim Basinger, Richard Jenkins, and local Auburn High School graduate Cam Gigandet, shot a total of 10 days at 3 different residences.

Line producer Mel Eslyn was pleased with the welcome that the film received. “Rainier Beach literally opened their doors to our production,” said Eslyn. “Neighbors offered up their homes as locations, and visited our set with baked goods for the hardworking crew.”

One Square Mile director Charles-Olivier Michaud speaks with Rainier Beach residents about production. Photo by Chris Swenson

Deborah Moore, One Square Mile producer, felt as if the look of the area was perfect for their production. “The juxtaposition of the working class neighborhood set against the beautiful backdrop of the Seattle skyline with views of the water on two sides added a striking visual layer to our film,” she explained. “It said a lot about our characters and literally was a made-to-order location for us.”

Not only did the area offer amazing visuals, but the relationship between Rainier Beach and the production was mutually beneficial.

“Several neighbors let us use their backyards and other areas for staging equipment and personnel,” said Dave Drummond, One Square Mile location manager. “On warm evenings many of them came out to watch the action from across the street.”

Production brought business to the area as well. Added Drummond, “The Rainier Beach Merchants’ Association provided us with information on local restaurants and businesses, which we took full advantage of.”

On the eastern side of Washington, incentive feature film Admissions, starring Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga, returned production to the Spokane and Pullman areas.

Admissions writer and producer Glenn German discussed their decision to partner with North by Northwest Productions (NXNW) in Spokane to make the feature film. “I had never been to the Pacific Northwest and didn’t know what to expect when we came to scout,” said German. He acknowledges that while the film wouldn’t have happened without Washington’s film incentive, he discovered a hardworking group of extremely talented crew at NXNW who made the experience of creating Admissions extraordinary.

“What began as a financial incentive became a collaboration that I and my fellow producers are tremendously grateful for,” said German. “The services and the caliber of the crew in Eastern Washington were wonderful. Across the board, from costume designers to production designers to editorial, all of the departments were first-rate. There isn’t a better group of people in the film industry. These are really special, hardworking craftsmen.”

Admissions scouted nearly 40 colleges in 6 states to find the particular look they wanted, finally selecting the campuses of Gonzaga University and Washington State University (WSU). “Both campuses had the locations we wanted, but they were gracious hosts, too,” said German.  “We felt completely welcome. The students were excited to participate and all of our needs were handled warmly by the campus staff.”

Both German and director Adam Rodgers were met with such hospitality that they intend to revisit the campuses once Admissions is released. “Our time there was so inviting that we want to return to WSU and Gonzaga,” said German. “We’d like to screen the film, answer questions about production, and share our knowledge on the business of film with students and staff who are interested in filmmaking.”

German and Rodgers see a return trip as a small way of giving back for a fantastic overall experience. “This was a really exceptional partnership,” said German of his time shooting in the state. “One that included NXNW, Washington Filmworks, the campuses of Gonzaga and WSU, and Washington cast and crew. We hope that the quality of the relationship will be reflected in the caliber of the final product.”

With the renewal of the film incentive this past spring, Washington Filmworks couldn’t be more proud to bring an influx of film business back to Washington. If the collective experiences of this summer’s incentive productions are a sign of things to come, locations, cast, crew and vendors in both Eastern and Western Washington are enthusiastically welcoming back production, too.

Scotty Iseri (right) and one of The Digits’ characters, Pavi, discuss a scene.

‘The Digits’ Blasts Off

Portland Filmmaker’s New Web Series Makes Learning a Digital Adventure

The school year has barely begun for millions of American children, but what bothers Portland-based Web series producer Scotty Iseri is that this means there’s also millions of homework questions floating around unanswered, especially about math.

Scotty Iseri

So Iseri conceived a new Web series designed for children 7-to-11 who are struggling with math comprehension. His series, The Digits, strives to make math learning cool through interactive storytelling. Now with a number of episodes already on YouTube for Schools, The Digits ( is also available as a new app (or “appisode”) that launched to iTunes and Android Market in mid-September.

The characters of The Digits began asking kids and parents to submit their brain-stumping questions in episode four about right triangles. Want Pavi to answer about parallelograms? No problem. Want Gorgolax to field your long division quandaries? No worries. You can even ask the recycled robot Ray Ray or the airheaded The Galaxy Twins, Chad and Becky, their thoughts. Fire away in the YouTube comments section, and by subscribing to the channel, parents and kids are notified of a new episode each Wednesday.

Scotty Iseri (right) and one of The Digits’ characters, Pavi, discuss a scene.

Unlike the majority of educational apps and Web series, The Digits was created under the guidance of a curriculum designer and implemented by a 20-year veteran schoolteacher. Iseri strives to address a slightly older age group than most educational apps, aimed at later elementary students (third through fifth grade), which is a critical time in a child’s development. This is the age when kids are making affinity choices and they’re deciding who they are, what they like, and what they’re good at. It’s also when math and science start to get more difficult; math moves from simple arithmetic and into more abstract concepts like fractions, or geometry.

This non-traditional media product is also using a non-traditional funding model. The Digits is a start-up and is working with Angel Investors to create it. Iseri plans a suite of shows and toys focused on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum.

“Television viewership is down and kids are more likely to have access to a smartphone than a desktop computer,” says Iseri. “Instead of fighting for limited broadcast bandwidth, we want to go where the audience is: on phones, tablets and YouTube.”

The Digits plays on mobile devices as well as on the web.

He continues, “Most children’s content (from TV shows to games) is funded by advertising, and the reality is that ad-funded programming does not have children’s interests at heart. This is a new business model for launching an entertainment product. We’re a company that wants to do well by doing good.”

The Digits began as a fellowship with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Iseri set the Web workaday world on fire with Web series Scotty Got an Office Job in 2009, and before that led The Paper Hat project in Chicago. His long-touring comedy rock act “The Big Rock Show” also landed him on the Dr. Demento show.


On the Record: Blue Plate Digital

Media Inc.’s interview series, in which we discuss the latest and greatest with a different Northwest company each issue, continues with Blue Plate Digital.

The Seattle-based production and post-production company maintains an innovative, creative, and customer-oriented approach to their work, which has earned them a loyal, growing client base. According to the team at Blue Plate, “We specialize in productions that our clients can afford, and have developed a long list of raving fans that keep coming back.”

Here is Brian Pelzel (producer/director/owner) and Doug Cooper (director of marketing strategies), on the record:

How has the post-production industry changed throughout the years, and how has Blue Plate Digital been able to adapt?

Blue Plate Digital's edit suite.

Good question. The biggest change in post-production in the last 10 years has been in workflow. The old days of overnight or multi-day rendering projects are no longer an issue, along with digitizing tape. Today’s workflow takes advantage of faster processors and HD cameras recording to flash media instead of tape. This makes the post process more efficient, so we can pass that savings on to our clients.

What do you like best about your job?
Every day is different, and we get to bring visions to life, so our clients can reach their goals.

What is one recent project you are particularly proud of?
We recently won the Wild Waves account, and have been able to raise the bar on their television and radio production significantly.

Who or what inspires you, either personally or professionally?
How we approach creative, and how we execute the creative. It’s how we do it that sets us apart.

How important is it for your company to connect and engage with your surrounding community?
Very. We are very connected to the West Seattle community, as well as the rest of Seattle. We are active in the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Seattle Association, and the Seattle chapter of The Better Business Bureau.

What are some of your most gratifying professional accomplishments?
The fact that our clients keep coming back time after time, project after project.

If you were not in the production industry, what would be your dream job?
Being an innovator.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Right here.

If a genie granted you 3 wishes, what would you wish for?
More office space, more hard drive space, and world peace.