State boost could help local film ventures get rolling

Oregon's film and television industry got a lift Friday when Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill boosting cash rebates for producers by $2.5 million, a move a local film official says will enhance the growing allure of Southern Oregon in attracting productions.

The bill, which saw heavy lobbying from area filmmakers, increased from $5 million to $7.5 million the cash rebate paid to film companies for qualifying expenses, a benefit producers have come to expect from all states, said Gary Kout of Ashland, executive director of Southern Oregon Film and Television.

"With this, Oregon will continue to be competitive with other states, because we have no sales tax, which is like an 8-percent rebate, we have low-cost, permit-free cities to shoot in, and we have a strong pool of crew, cast and equipment," said Kout, who testified in favor of the legislation before the state Ways and Means Committee.

"The new law is very significant. We'll be able to extend the window of opportunity for more productions," said Kout.

"In the past, when the $5 million would run out toward the end of the fiscal year, we'd have to say, sorry, it's gone, and they might go elsewhere."

The film and TV industry is subsidized by Oregon because it has low impact, creates jobs, spurs major producers from California to leave money here and showcases the state to the world.

In signing the bill, Kulongoski said, "Oregon's film and video industry is a bright light in Oregon's economy.

"When projects are produced here in Oregon, it means family-wage jobs for local residents, and substantial revenue for local, small businesses. By signing this bill into law, I expect that we'll see more growth, more employment and more revenue for our state."

After the program started in 2005, the level of film production in the state grew dramatically, said a news release from the governor.

"Oregon has become a popular destination for film and television projects recently and the high demand can now be met, thanks to this bill," said Vince Porter, executive director of the Governor's Office of Film and Television. "We will see more employment for local residents and more income for many local small businesses."

Another bill, SB 863, also will boost the film and TV industry, said Kout, by reimbursing local filmmakers for expenses paid in Oregon.

"It will help independent, low-budget filmmakers who are spending as little as $75,000," he said. "If it's more, they can tap into the larger fund."

The local film and TV group started in the Rogue Valley five years ago as a trade association. It now has 35 members, 15 company members and eight associated businesses, including three on the coast, Kout said.

Kout was a producer on three films shot in Southern Oregon — "Conversations With God," "My Name is Bruce" and, to be released next spring, "Calvin Marshall." The film crews spent $1.8 million in Oregon, he said.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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