Small creatives making it
Remember the Portlandia episode involving the bike messenger with grotesquely long earlobes about to be ripped asunder in the final scene? Those ears were the handiwork of Christina Kortum, a Portland special-effects makeup artist specializing in custom prosthetics. Among other items, Kortum has delivered a head for Leverage, wooden stakes and edible coins for Grimm, and a bone for the 2011 shot-in-Portland movie Gone. “She was supposed to use it to stab the bad guy,” says Kortum.
A veteran of the haunted-house industry, Kortum credits the Oregon Production Investment Fund for boosting her career in film and television. Since 2005 the state has given cash rebates, capped at $6 million per year, to media production companies, which in turn create jobs and send business to local vendors. Kortum’s income, for example, has doubled each year because of the business generated by Portland’s Hollywood renaissance. “I went from doing a gig here and there to pretty much doing constant gigs that can support my family.”
A Leverage snapshot reveals the film fund’s larger quid pro quo. In the past four years, Leverage Productions has received $17 million from the incentive program. In return, the company has created about 2,800 production jobs, hired 7,000 extras and injected $100 million directly into the local economy. The long list of beneficiaries include 52nd Ave. Hardware, a Southeast Portland lumber and hardware shop that was ready to downsize after the economy crashed in 2008. After becoming the primary hardware vendor for Leverage and Grimm, the owners hired two additional employees — a 33% staff increase, says manager Dave Besaw. “For a small family busi-ness like us, the film industry is significant.”
Oregon’s film incentive has its critics, who argue the program unfairly benefits the wealthy. And despite the ripple effects, even the most ardent boosters concede incentives alone aren’t enough to sustain a local film economy. Portland has gone from being a low-budget town to a place where “big things happen,” says Kortum.
But what Hollywood gives, she acknowledges, it can taketh away. “The film industry — it’s like the locust. They come in, set up and everyone is rolling in money. Then they leave and it’s like:
Christina Kortum, special-effects artist
// Photo by Sierra Breshears
|Kortum has delivered a head for Leverage, wooden stakes and edible coins for Grimm, and a bone for the 2011 shot-in-Portland movie Gone. A veteran of the haunted-house industry, Kortum credits the Oregon Production Investment Fund for boosting her career in film and television.|