FILM OFFICE MAY
CLOSE AS LOCHE YELLS
Copyright 2001 www.seattletimes.com
[ December 29th 2001 ]
An Officer and a Gentleman to the upcoming Angelina
Jolie comedy Life Or Something Like It, our picturesque
state has played a supporting role in numerous
feature films shot on location, thanks to the
efforts of the Washington State Film Office.
if Gov. Gary Locke's latest budget proposal comes
to fruition, we might be seeing far less Washington
on the big screen. The film office in Seattle,
through the efforts of three staffers and a shoestring
annual budget of about $375,000, facilitates production
for film and television projects, encouraging
filmmakers to take advantage of the state's resources.
scout locations, arrange schedules and accommodations,
and help filmmakers find local casts and crew
for their productions. In return, the film companies
spend a great deal of money in the state - in
2000, some $50 million. But, to cope with a budget
revenue shortfall of $1.2 billion, Locke has placed
some 30 state programs and agencies on the chopping
block - and among them is the tiny film office.
If the cuts are passed by the state legislature,
the office faces a shutdown.
Kellett, managing director of the office, expressed
great concern over the possibility of a closure.
"I know this governor's having to make some extraordinarily
difficult cuts. What saddens me is that this is
an industry that has a high return on the dollar
and puts thousands of local people to work," Kellett
said. "At this time, with the economy as tough
as it is, I just think this is an office you want
Kellett and Sharon Wallace, communications director
for the State Office of Trade and Economic Development
(of which the film office is a part), said that
return brings in an average of more than $100
for every dollar invested by the state. The office,
Wallace added, is extremely cost-efficient: "We're
one of the smallest operating budgets in the country
for a state film office."
trade shows, limited advertising, and word of
mouth, it attracts filmmakers to Washington. Other
recent projects include the Stephen King miniseries
"Rose Red" (due on television late next month),
the Jennifer Lopez thriller "Enough," and the
DreamWorks production "Ring." "Our job is to promote
the state for feature film, television, and commercials,
but it's also industrials, music videos, any kind
of production," explained Kellett.
Gowrylow, spokesman for Locke, doesn't dispute
the office's value to the state, but says hard
choices need to be made. "This is certainly no
reflection on the job (the film office) is doing,"
he said. "They may indeed provide some economic
stimulus. We're forced to balance the budget here,
and the governor's proposal would close down some
programs that do not seem to be our core operations."
things such as education or providing a safety
net for vulnerable people are core programs that
we need to maintain and sustain. Things that we
don't consider to be core programs, as good as
they may be, have to be sacrificed."
James, director of the mayor's film and video
office in Seattle, is alarmed by the possibility
of the state office closing down. "The state office
is the marketing arm of the film industry here,"
James explained. "They are the facilitators. If
that office closed, it's going to incredibly increase
the number of phone calls we get. We're just not
prepared to handle it." James' office handles
all permits for filming in Seattle — traffic implications,
property rights, police, fire, parks, etc.
du Mas, a Seattle-based freelance production manager
and 25-year veteran of the state film industry,
had even stronger words. If the office is eliminated,
"it would be absolutely devastating for the film
industry in Washington state," he said. "They
(the film office) are critical to promoting the
state outside of the state, and once a company
has decided to film here, they're absolutely necessary
in order to tie all the different elements together.
Without that resource, the industry is blind."
noted that if the film office is closed, Washington
would become the only state in the country without
one. "It boggles the mind that in these times,
the state would want to cut one of the few departments
that actually generates income," du Mas said.
"It may not be a core industry to them, but it
provides money to fund their core programs. It's
ludicrous." Locke's proposed budget cuts will
be debated by the Legislature when it returns
to session next month. If passed, most changes
would go into effect July 1.