Tag Archives: Animation

Oregon Film Round-Up: What’s New in 2012?

With more than $110 million in production spend, 2011 was a record-shattering year for Oregon film and television. But never content to rest on its laurels, the state’s film community continues to grow and attract major productions in 2012.

Here’s a look at some recent Oregon production projects:

Wheel of Fortune
The popular game show was on location in Portland from March 30 through April 3. Pat Sajak, Vanna White, and the entire Wheel of Fortune crew filmed in the Rose City for the first time ever, taping four weeks’ worth of episodes at the Oregon Convention Center.

The process of getting Wheel to Portland was quite a long one. According to a Portland Business Journal article by Web editor Suzanne Stevens, the effort began in 2002. The show had recently aired from Seattle, and Portland’s ABC affiliate KATU began campaigning for the city to host the show.

Producers scouted the area three different times over the years before deciding to film in the Oregon Convention Center. In May 2011, Vanna White and a small crew came to Oregon to film on-location bumpers at locations such as Multnomah Falls, Pioneer Square, and Pittock Mansion.

Finally, in late March, the entire Wheel cast and crew—totaling in the hundreds—arrived in Portland to film its 20 episodes, which are set to air in May.

TNT’s Leverage began filming season five in early March.

This is the fourth season that the show, which is produced by Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment, has filmed in Portland. According to estimates, by the end of this season, the show will have spent more than $100 million in-state.

In season five, not only is the production moving to a larger soundstage—a newly-renovated, 60,000-square-foot production space in Clackamas County—but the gang is also officially moving to Portland. In previous seasons, the action has been set in Boston but filmed in Portland—but this time around, the show will be set in Stumptown. The Oregon production community is eager to see what this change will mean for the show.

Cast and crew are currently shooting the 15-episode season, which will premiere July 15 with an episode featuring guest star Cary Elwes.

In mid-March, it was officially announced that Grimm has been renewed for another season, and it has been confirmed that the show will return to Portland, according to executive producers and writers David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf.

The NBC series is currently wrapping up production on its first season, and at press time there had been no announcement as to when cast and crew will return to begin filming the 22-episode second season.

March was the month of choice for TV series to announce their renewal! The third season of IFC sketch-comedy show Portlandia, starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, will film later this year and premiere in January 2013.

The breakout hit has scored in the ratings and beyond, spawning a sold-out West Coast tour and a book deal for its two stars.

Also coming to IFC this year are two Portlandia specials: Portlandia: The Brunch Special, set to air this summer, and a 30-minute as-yet-untitled Portlandia holiday special.

Feature Films Set to Premiere
In addition to Oregon’s burgeoning TV production industry, feature films continue to shoot in the area. Two standouts are from homegrown talent—Cell Count, a thriller from Portland-based filmmakers the Brothers Freeman, and LAIKA’s stop-motion animated film, ParaNorman.

Cell Count, which premieres in May at the Fantaspoa Film Festival in Brazil, was the third of three feature films shot in 2011 from the Brothers Freeman/Wooden Frame Productions that utilized the Indigenous Oregon Production Investment Fund (iOPIF). This incentive program provides rebates of 20 percent of goods and services and 10 percent of Oregon labor for films produced by Oregon filmmakers who spend a minimum of $75,000, but no more than $750,000, on their project. Over 50 cast and crew for the film were residents of Oregon.

“This incentive is why we are able to make feature films in the state that we love,” said filmmaker Todd Freeman in a statement. “Oregon has diverse actors, locations, and crew abilities and without this incentive we would have to consider making movies in another state.”

Another Oregon-produced film set to premiere this year is ParaNorman, from animation house LAIKA.

The “3D stop-motion animated comedy thriller adventure film” is set for international release on August 17 and will be distributed by Focus Features. The voice cast includes Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the title character, “Norman.”

Similar to LAIKA’s 2009 hit Coraline, ParaNorman is a slightly-dark, stop-motion animated film for the whole family. The story is about a misunderstood boy who takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.

For more production news and updates, visit the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film & Television at www.oregonfilm.com, and the office’s blog at www.oregonconfluence.com.

Oregon Production

If you’ve ever watched IFC, then you’ve seen their signature quirky-cool ad campaign. But did you know that it was designed and created by Oregon-based company Feel Good Anyway? Or that the 40-plus special effects in the NBC movie A Walk in My Shoes were done by Portland’s visual effects company Hive-FX? Or if you’ve been to Canada lately and seen Koodo Mobile’s adorable spokesman El Tabador, that he was produced by Bent Image Labs, based in—you guessed it—Oregon?

Thanks in large part to TV shows such as Leverage and Portlandia shooting in Portland (as well as the recently announced Grimm), Oregon’s profile in the film industry has been rapidly rising over the last few years. Perhaps lesser known, though, is Oregon’s amazing animation and VFX industry. Three of these companies are the subjects of featured Case Studies on the recently launched Oregon Animation blog.
Last year, NBC shot the feel-good family drama  A Walk in My Shoes entirely in and around Portland. Post-production work stayed local, too, as Hive-FX was hired to do all the visual effects for the film. Hive-FX brought top-of-the-line efficiency and professionalism to the project, as well as a Hollywood-level of quality. The film’s director, John Kent Harrison, praised the company’s work and is eager to collaborate with them again. The crew at Hive-FX has also lent their talents to ad campaigns for major companies like Quaker and Intel.
If “IFC” sounds familiar, it’s probably because they’re the people responsible for the hit show Portlandia. But they’ve also brought their business to Oregon in the form of an über-hip and amusing rebranding campaign handled by local company Feel Good Anyway. Feel Good Anyway won two different awards at the Brand New Awards for their work on more than 50 promos and IDs for IFC, in addition to a new logo and other brand amenities. In fact, IFC was so happy with Feel Good Anyway’s work that they’ll be keeping the company on for inspiration and additional creative partnering.
With the theme of Oregon companies winning awards for creative branding, Bent Image Labs helped earn Canada’s Koodo Mobile the 2010 Brand of the Year award from Strategy magazine. Bent designed the four-inch-tall Lucha Libre Mexican wrestler El Tabador to be the company’s spokesman and he’s been a runaway success. Bent used their experience with stop-motion sets and VFX miniatures to save time and money in scouting locations in Mexico for authenticity. Collaborating with Canadian agency Taxi 2, Bent designed El Tabador from initial sketch to final computer render.
Oregon companies pride themselves on creativity and innovation. Nowhere is this better seen than in the animation/VFX industry. With the spotlight on the actual filming process, it’s great to see these homegrown, behind-the-scenes companies doing so much in the industry. It’s not just familiar locations we should be looking for when we turn on our TVs or go to the movies, but for the local companies behind the magic.
To learn more about Oregon’s animation and VFX industry, go to www.oregonanimation.com.

Lindsay Harrop is a summer intern with the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film & Television. She grew up in the Willamette Valley but now attends Ithaca College in New York, where she studies screenwriting. Says Lindsay, “There are so many fresh, exciting things going on in Oregon’s film industry right now that it’s an awesome place to spend the summer. I’m looking forward to writing about more of these cinematic endeavors over the course of the summer!”

Visual Media Group Creates Buzz

Visual Media Group, a creative content provider based in Bellevue, Washington, is an industry-renowned company that boasts a multitude of clients and scads of awards. But the company’s tremendous success belies its modest beginnings.

Seattle Art Institute alum Kelly Sparks, who opted to create her own video production company after graduating with a degree in Television and Video Production, founded VMG in her garage in 2004. A few years later her husband Mark Sparks, a former journalist and professional writer with 40 years’ experience as a commercial and stage actor, quit his job and joined the business venture as president.
“We worked hard to keep the company going those first six months,” said Kelly, VMG CEO and self-described Queen Bee. “Four years later, those six months easily turned out to be the best investment of our lifetime.”
Since the company’s inception, VMG has blossomed from a one-woman endeavor into an award-winning team of employees whose services not only include video, but also animation and motion design production, audio production, Web sites, presentations and event services. During this time, Kelly and Mark moved the company out of their garage and relocated to a 2,600-square-foot facility in Bellevue.
But growing the business from scratch—and maintaining its growth over the years—wasn’t the company’s toughest challenge. That was yet to come.
In October of 2010, VMG was hit by a robbery that tested their personal and professional fortitude—and set the stage for a new chapter in the company’s history.
“The burglars got away with all our camera equipment and computers and servers,” said Mark, “but they couldn’t touch our drive and determination. While it was almost like starting the business over again, we had a solid foundation from which to rebuild.”
After making a few phone calls and shaking away the shock, the team quickly rallied and got back to work.

Kelly and Mark

“It was a tough time,” said Kelly. “But everyone came together and supported each other through it.”
Added Mark, “We had people working 16-hour days to get us back on track. It took about eight months to replace everything and get back to business as usual. During that time we kept producing quality work for our clients on time and on budget—and we never missed a payroll. Looking back, that’s something we’re really proud about.”
Plus, the company was blessed with a silver lining: VMG’s insurance coverage allowed Kelly and Mark to replace their stolen merchandise with new state-of-the-art equipment. But the Sparks agree that it was their employees that really helped get the company going again—and they attribute VMG’s success to them.
“Our team understands each other and it shows in our work,” said Mark. “Every time we go on a shoot, we hear, ‘my gosh, your team is amazing.’”
VMG prides itself on hiring talented people, letting them develop, and then “getting out of their way,” he continued. “Sometimes Kelly or I provide input, sometimes we don’t. Our overriding concept is to establish clear guardrails and then give our people the freedom to show us what they can do.”
Added Kelly, “We allow them to develop and grow their skills, both in and outside of their job.”
For instance, when VMG was in the midst of rallying from the burglary, Kelly and Mark came up with a “passion project” concept that permitted their employees to hone their skills while the business recovered. They gave their team several paid days off and a production budget to focus on a cause they were passionate about outside of work, and then produce a video on it.
“We call ourselves the VMG family,” said Kelly. “We’re still a business, but we’re also a family. Sometimes everyone is in sync, sometimes we have our challenges, but—when it comes right down to it—we’re there for each other no matter what.”
Having such a tight-knit team of DPs, editors, producers, and designers—not to mention owning their equipment and studio at VMG headquarters—allows the company to produce 95 percent of their projects completely in-house, from concept to completion. Also, with everyone and everything on-site, VMG is able to increase its speed to market.
All of this adds up to a large and ever-expanding stable of happy clients. And as a result, VMG is gearing up for another move—this time to a 7,100-square-foot facility—to better service this growing client base.
After all, it is all about the client.
Though the company has won an exceptional number of awards—most recently five Tellys and an ADDY—the Sparks’ most gratifying accomplishments are when the team finishes a rewarding project and receives laudatory feedback.
“When we get an e-mail from a client that says ‘you guys rock’ or ‘you’re amazing,’ we forward it to the entire office,” said Kelly. “It’s rewarding when our clients are as passionate about our work as we are.
“At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”