It was a stellar year for film, TV and commercial production in Washington and Oregon. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Locations Lauded by MovieMaker
The year kicked off with MovieMaker Magazine releasing its list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2014. In the Big Cities category (pop. 500,000 and up), Seattle was ranked fifth, while Portland was ranked eighth. In the Towns category (pop. 100,000 and under), Ashland, located in Southern Oregon, was ranked second. The judges evaluated locations based on six criteria: Film production in 2013; film community and culture; access to equipment and facilities; tax incentives; cost of living; and a general category that includes lifestyle, weather and transportation.
Film Office Shakeups
A series of stunning film office shakeups began in February when James Keblas, director of Seattle’s Office of Film + Music, was not reappointed to the position under new mayor Ed Murray. Amidst the ire from the production community at large, it was announced that Kate Becker, strategic advisor for the City of Seattle, had been named as his replacement, while Keblas was hired as president of Creature. He continues to work in production as co-chair of the Washington Filmworks Advocacy Committee. In Oregon, meanwhile, Vince Porter left his post as executive director of the Governor’s Office of Film & Television to work as Governor Kitzhaber’s senior policy advisor on jobs and the economy. After several long months of searching, the Board named Tim Williams as Porter’s replacement.
Why Not Us?
The Seahawks were ripe for commercial production fodder during (and after) their 2013-2014 Super Bowl run, resulting in several ad spots shot in Seattle. Among them were Blue Plate Digital’s commercial for CenturyLink, starring Richard Sherman, and Duracell’s viral spot featuring Derrick Coleman, the only current NFL player who wears hearing aids. Sherman and Seattle were again featured in a series of Nike commercials from ad agency Wieden+Kennedy.
Portland Gets Electric (Again)
Principal photography for the TNT series The Librarians began in Oregon on April 10, and continued throughout the summer. The series, starring Rebecca Romijn, Noah Wyle and Christian Kane, is from executive producer Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment, which also shot Leverage in Portland from 2009-2012. The series premiered on December 7.
Incentive Fund Exhausted
Washington Filmworks announced at the end of April that with its funding of a new film, Captain Fantastic, and series, Z Nation, the state’s film incentive program had been essentially exhausted for the year. While those two projects brought jobs to local production professionals and pumped money into the economy, it has been reported that Washington missed out on many other opportunities because of the state’s $3.5-million incentive cap.
Something Wicked Finally Comes This Way
Five years after crew completed production, Something Wicked finally hit theaters in April. Shot at nearly 30 locations in and around Eugene and Lane County, Something Wicked wrapped up in late 2009 but was delayed in post-production due to the tragic and sudden passing of actress Brittany Murphy.
SIFF Turns the “Big Four-Oh”
2014 marked the 40th anniversary of the Seattle International Film Festival, recognized as one of the top film festivals in North America. This year’s festival boasted more than 400 film screenings, such as opening night film Jimi: All is by My Side, closing night film The One I Love, a slew of premieres, and more archival films than in previous years. In addition to film screenings, special presentations included tributes to actors Laura Dern and Chiwetel Ejiofor, a Quincy Jones Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation, and many competitions, panels and presentations.
Northwest on the Small Screen
While mainstay Oregon-based series Grimm and Portlandia were gearing up to film season four and five, respectively, Washington was prepping for a series of its own. Filmed in Spokane and surrounding areas of Eastern Washington, Z Nation wrapped up its first season (13 episodes in total) for Syfy and was picked up for a second. Also (possibly) getting into the series game was The Man in the High Castle, a pilot from Amazon Studios that shot in numerous Seattle locations in the fall. There has been no announcement as yet if the pilot has been picked up. Finally, Runestone, from Road’s End Films, is currently filming in Wilsonville, Oregon.
LAIKA’s Latest: The Boxtrolls
Following in the footsteps of Coraline (2009) and ParaNorman (2012), both critical successes and both Academy Award nominees, Oregon-based production company LAIKA released its latest stop-motion animated feature, The Boxtrolls, in the fall. With 79 sets and over 20,000 handmade props, The Boxtrolls is the biggest production ever to be made in stop-motion animation, and is only the fourth stop-motion movie to be made in stereoscopic 3D. The film was a box office success, grossing more than $17 million in its opening weekend—the biggest opening weekend ever for LAIKA.
Although it premiered at Sundance earlier this year and had screened at other festivals, Lynn Shelton’s latest film, Laggies, finally got its Seattle debut in September as part of SIFF’s Women in Cinema event. Held at the newly reopened Egyptian Theatre, Shelton joined her local cast and crew for a red carpet premiere and post-screening Q&A. The film hit 300 theaters nationwide in October, garnering positive reviews for the director and the film’s star, Keira Knightley.
Oregon’s Triple Feature
Three feature films shot in Oregon throughout the late summer/early fall, including Brother in Laws, Green Room and Cabin Fever:Reboot. The comedy Brother in Laws, from producer Lorne Michaels, was filmed in Klamath Falls and stars Saturday Night Live cast member Taran Killam and Bill Pullman. Green Room, filmed in Portland, also has a star-studded cast, featuring Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat. Cabin Fever:Reboot, meanwhile, filmed in Molalla and Clackamas County with executive producer Eli Roth. All three films are scheduled for release in 2015.
The Relaunch of WAfilmPAC
As the legislative session draws nigh (January 12, to be exact), the Washington film community is gearing up to fight for an increase in the annual film incentive cap. One of the first steps toward this goal was to relaunch WAfilmPAC, a political action committee that was originally formed in 2010. WAfilmPAC aims to elect state legislative candidates who are likely to support the film industry and helps raise money to support the campaigns of those candidates. Oregon, meanwhile, is also looking to increase the state’s film incentives when the legislative session begins in February. Stay tuned to www.media-inc.com as both Washington and Oregon’s legislative session unfolds.
Finally, December 2014 saw the release of Wild, the highly anticipated film starring Reese Witherspoon, which filmed throughout Oregon in 2013. The fact that Wild was made completely in Oregon is a testament to the strong—and growing—film production industry in the region. The film opened to rave reviews, especially for actresses Witherspoon and Laura Dern (both of whom have been nominated for Oscars), director Jean-Marc Vallée, and the state of Oregon’s wondrous locations.