Film industry moves into Southern Oregon

Film industry moves into Southern Oregon

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The 2009 movie Calvin Marshall was one of several productions shot in Ashland. // Photo courtesy SOFAT/Rocky Garrotto
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From left, the cast and crew of the movie Calvin Marshall:  Alex Frost, writer/director Gary Lundgren, and Steve Zahn. // Photo courtesy SOFAT/Tad Wagner
The film industry in Oregon has been growing steadily over the years, with film and television productions pouring into Portland and the Coast. Now Southern Oregon is getting in on the action.

“The biggest reason people are drawn to this area is location,” says Gary Kout, founder and director of Southern Oregon Film and Television (SOFaT). “We possess a tremendous amount of diversity that is accessible and production-friendly.”

SOFaT has been one of the big driving forces in building the Southern Oregon film industry, according to Vince Porter of the Governor’s Office of Film & Television, which works with local talent while promoting the region to out-of-state production companies. Some past productions in the area include the 2007 film My Name Is Bruce starring B-movie icon and Ashland resident Bruce Campbell, the 2009 film Calvin Marshall, and the 2010 horror film Rogue River.

“Through those efforts people are learning more about us, keeping us more in mind,” says Kout. “We’ve even heard there are some Portland-based filmmakers looking into Southern Oregon.”

Kout estimates that film and television production in 2009 brought $6 million into the local economy. Commercial productions, including projects by Biography and the History Channel, brought in around half a million dollars in production. The History Channel in 2009 shot re-enactment scenes for a documentary on outlaw Jesse James in the town of Jacksonville. The project was the first production after a moratorium on commercial filming was lifted by the town’s mayor. In spring 2010, Biography produced a documentary on actors featured in the film Silence of the Lambs, including Anthony Heald, a current member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“One project I produced with Disney cost around $125,000. We spent all of about $40,000 outside the state, so that’s $80,000 right there,” says Kout.

SOFaT also works on streamlining the process of hiring qualified crews and finding talented casts. The organization works with local universities and high schools to encourage students to intern with productions. Some former interns have gone on to work for Southern Oregon-based companies such as production company Elsewhere Films.

“The interns come out with high technical skills, but still need to learn the process,” says Kout. “We try and provide people with more opportunities to get time on set and improve their skills. We are doing more than just putting out the call, we are creating fertile ground.”

MAX GELBER

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