Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, has a huge variety of stunning locations on offer, as well as being ideally located just north of California. It also has an astounding diversity of climates: Portland has mild and very rainy winters and warm, pleasant summers; east of the Cascade Mountain range is semi-arid and some mountains have snow-capped peaks year round.
Major US television series are currently shooting there, as have major films, including hard hitters Twilight and Into the Wild. All this has seen a boost in the economy across state, not just limited to the Portland Metro area.
However, Oregon’s relationship with the film and television industry has not always been smooth-sailing. In the 80s it was a popular film location for network movies of the week and coming-of-age style films (The Goonies, Stand by Me), but these eventually simmered down. In the 90s a series of made-in-Oregon movies, including the Free Willy franchise, kept the film economy ticking over. After that though, Vancouver DC became the top choice and most filmmakers opted to film productions there instead.
Since then, backed by state incentives the filmmakers have returned and it’s been a popular destination ever since. In fact, 2011 and the years after that have been the most lucrative for the Oregon film industry.
Great locations, experienced crews and good incentives have firmly put Oregon back on the movie-industry map. Add to that the zero sales tax and Oregon really is an intelligent choice. All purchases in Oregon are immediately discounted 7 to 8 percent over other states due to the fact that Oregon has no sales tax. “There aren’t any papers to fill or cards to show to exempt yourself,” says Oregon Film, “Oregon simply has no sales tax”.
And when shooting wraps, Oregon has some excellent farm-to-table restaurants and breweries.
With so many stunning and evocative locations, Oregon’s played host to a list of films that is as long as it is varied. Films shot in the state include Twilight, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Into The Wild, Goonies and My Private Idaho. TV shows recently shot in Oregon include NBC’s Grimm, IFC’s Portlandia and TNT’s Leverage. All shooting in Oregon at the same time, it was no wonder 2011 was one of the most lucrative years in Oregon’s film industry.
Grimm, NBC’s fairy-tale procedural drama, now in its third Season, was shot in and around Portland, bringing in $50 million for Oregon while filming there. Making the most of the tax incentives, the production spent money on equipment, crew members, construction, lodging, etc.
Different in tone, but also filmed in and around Portland is Portlandia, an original, quirky and funny sketch-comedy television series. All locations were filmed in Oregon, but these were given an exaggerated, dreamy quality.
The gold-standard of films shot in Oregon is Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, the cult-classic becoming-of-age film that saw Christopher Mccandless, played by Emile Hirsch, disappear into the wild of Alaska ( and of Oregon, standing in for Alaska). And Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece The Shinning, where Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood became ‘Overlook Hotel’, the creepy now-bound hotel where Jack Torrance goes mad.
Undoubtedly, the biggest film to be shot in Oregon is Twilight, the first installment of the Twilight Saga, which was also filmed in Portland and its nearby towns. Like Grimm, Oregon’s dark and lush natural beauty is one of the main reasons why Twilight producers decided to make the movie in Portland. The gorgeous woods around Multnomah Falls and Oxbow Park are where Bella and Edward share some of their intimate moments. Although most of the filming took place in and around Portland, filming also happened in other Oregon locations, including Vernonia, St. Helens and Carver.
Other big features to film around Oregon are John Hillcoat’s The Road and the terrifying remake of the Japanese Ringu, The Ring, where interiors were shot in LA and the exteriors in Oregon and neighbouring Washington State.
Permitting times generally range between 2-14 working days. The Columbia River Gorge area takes about 10 days to permit depending on the size and scope of the project.
Permitting in Portland has a two-tier permit system: a “B-roll” permit for crews of 4 and under with no parking or clearance for a maximum of 10 locations per days. It is ideal for crews with limited vehicles and equipment. And a standard filming permit for all other shoots. With this permit all locations need to be specified and approved by the City of Portland. Ideal for bigger crews that need parking, clearance and traffic control and need to control sidewalk or street. Both types of permit require a minimum of 3 days notice to process. Portland police are required for traffic control in the centre and they usually need 4-5 days notice to attach officers. As with most cities and towns in the State, shutting streets is best done on a Sunday. Permitting the Pearl District requires extra lead time.
Oregon State Parks will waive filming fees in exchange for acknowledgments in the credits or other scenarios that would be beneficial to the parks. There are more than 200 parks around the state, encompassing over 96,000 acres of incredible Oregon scenery and 362 mils of Pacific shoreline.
There are also currently 27 cities, including Astoria, Glendale, Lakeview, Glendale, Gold Beach, St. Helens, and 3 counties (Columbia County, Harvey County and Wallowa County) that are “Fee Free” Locations, according to Oregon Film.
The state of Oregon requires a minimum liability coverage of $4 million, naming the agency/organization and its employees as additionally insured. A hold harmless clause is also required. Although differing in the amount of coverage, this is standard procedure required by all States in the US.
Oregon has its fair share of state-of-the art film studios. There are studios across the state, with the largest amount concentrated in Portland.
In Portland, Cine Rent West is Oregon’s premiere sound stage facility, that can cater to most still and motion picture needs. Their completely soundproofed 71′ X 72′ production studio is located in the heart of NW Portland near Montgomery Park. The location has convenient freeway and airport access and is close to many amenities you may need.
Also in Portland, WildeVision Studio is a 6000 sq ft film studio with 20’ ceilings that offers a number of ‘locations’, including a ballroom, art gallery, hotel lobby/suite, full bar, lounge, as well as “Paris” and “Rome”.
Wilsonville-based Intersect Video maintains a 3500 square foot sound stage with a 16' x 32' two wall curved white screen to 16' tall and a 24.5' x 45' three wall curved green screen to 23' tall. It specializes in professional video production, audio production and motion graphics.
Laika is a Hillsboro-based animation studio that produces feature films, commercials and short films. Recent work includes Boxtrolls and Oscar and Bafta-nominated feature ParaNorman.
Oregon’s incredibly diverse locations are not only in close proximity with each other, but also within a two hour flight from Los Angeles. People living in LA can be on a plane in the morning, work a full day in Oregon and be back at home that night, which holds a huge appeal to the big names in the business.
Oregon’s best attractions for filmmakers are its lush, green landscape, which ranges from high mountain passes, rugged seacoasts, magnificent waterfalls and rivers, stony lava beds and world-famous roads. It is rich in small town America looks and agricultural looks including cattle ranches, dairy farms, lumber yards, Christmas tree farms, apple, cherry and berry farms.
More than any other location in Oregon, the city of Portland is a huge draw for filmmakers. In addition to high scores on the scenic beauty front - charming and colourful residential neighbourhoods, Willamette River with its ten bridges, Mount Tabor and Forest Park - what puts Portland on the movie-industry map is its quirkiness, an indie spirit that is as much present in the locations - skate parks, a vibrant China Town, Pearl District, warehouse neighbourhoods - as it is in the crews.
Outside of Portland there is much to feast the eye on: forests, lakes, rivers, wineries, breweries, lighthouses, deserted beaches, fishing villages, mansions. The list goes on and on. Columbia River Gorge is a big attraction for filmmakers and photographers, as is Tillamook Airship Hangers and the world-famous Eugene Hult Center for the Performing Arts.
However, in the business, Oregon is, surprisingly, best known for its variety of beautiful winding roads that carve-up outstanding landscapes. The Oregon Film Office have an entire section of their website dedicated to Oregon’s diverse and picturesque roads, from coastal, to deserted, to curvy, straight and unpaved, it will help you find the perfect solution for your commercial or feature film sequence.
East of the Cascade Mountain range is home to a number of arid looks, including John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Lake Owyhee and Home Creek. Bend and the Three Sisters is the filming hub of that region with all the necessary amenities. Within striking range of Bend, there is Fort Rock, a desolate, yet striking, environment, and otherworldly Crater Lake only a couple of hours drive away.
The eastern third of the State is more tricky to film in due to a lack of basic resources and few towns.
The Oregon Film Commission are your first port of call when it comes to locations in the State. They have over 75 liaisons throughout the state, and good working relationships with state, county and city officials to help with production needs. They have an extensive database which includes thousands of photos, added to on a daily basis.
Oregon has great production services as well as a strong and consistently growing number of talented crew and support personnel who work year round on features, television and advertising
Portland-based Picture This Production Services is Oregon’s largest rental house have been in the industry since 1984 and can supply you with all the equipment you need. In addition to equipment, including PMW-300, PMWF5, PDW-F800, PDW-700, Canon 1D, Canon C300, HDX900, NEX-SF700, EX3, NX5U, HPX-250, Canon C100, Zeiss Lenses, ARRI Lenses, Canon lenses, prime lenses, monitors, fly packs, Steadicam, MoVl M10, wireless transmitters, Fisher 10 dolly, Filmair track, thier facilties also include a 3000sq ft sound stage, grip, trucks & lighting, LED's, audio equipment, and cine prompters. They also offer crew and logistics support.
All of the standard equipment, grip, lighting and camera gear is available locally. Anything else can be flown-in from Los Angeles.