Over the next few weeks, just as I wrap up my internship at the Governor’s Office of Film and Television, I’ll be delivering the fruits of my labor in this four-part series on the media industry’s effects on the local economy. Since late June I’ve been interviewing Oregon businesses that work with production companies to see how the presence of the film and media industry has affected the local economy. Florists, hardware store owners – these people might seem to have little connection to the film industry. But my experience over the last few weeks has shown me that the wealth brought in from out-of-state productions creates jobs and income for Oregonians far from the glimmer of Hollywood. Here’s the first installment -look forward to more in the following weeks!
Oregon Governor’s Office of Film and Television
At 1 o’clock I get off my bicycle for an interview at Jacobsen’s Flowers, sweating like a steam pipe. I have to laugh a little because that earlier that day the Oregon Film office got a complimentary fleece lined sweater from the Hollywood Reporter. Its June 22nd, 80 degrees and I’m already wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt –office policy. The gift was a little ill-timed, but maybe they figured that we sun-starved Oregonians would still make use of it. “Give it to the intern,” the office agreed during a staff meeting.
After freshening up in the lobby restroom I go in to meet Brooke Jones, the lead designer at Jacobsen’s Flowers. Having read several studies on production incentive programs around the country, my ears are ringing with talk of multipliers and downstream economic impact from film productions, so starting in June I began meeting with Oregon businesses to see if and how film productions benefit businesses in our state. First stop? Flower shop. Jacobsen’s regularly sells gift baskets to producers, most recently those of Leverage which is currently shooting its 3rd season in the Portland area. They sell up to 40 gift baskets at a time when collecting orders for the whole crew, and regularly arrange smaller orders of 5-7 baskets for the major stars. At around $100 per basket, that can mean $4000 for just one crew order.
During the recent economic downturn, Brooke confesses that her business suffered like many others. “We had to sell our front show room,” she says, “and bring our advertising down to a minimum.” Nonetheless, they made it through the worst of times, and Brooke says things have been looking up in the last few months. She says that doing business with production produces a noticeable increase in revenue, and that producers will often refer Jacobsen’s to their Hollywood cohorts, adding to Jacobsen’s growing list of film industry clients. Patricia, the owner of the company, chimes in here adding that working with producers can be an exciting break from the average day’s work. Brooke agrees, and gets a little starry-eyed as she remembers meeting Morgan Freeman after Feast of Love was released in 2007.
So once the grip trucks roll away and the stars fly off to Los Angeles, can we say that any one in Oregon has benefited from a film or TV production? Besides the already large and still growing pool of talented professionals that gain consistent employment, and besides the companies immediately connected to the film industry, ordinary businesses like Jacobsen’s also get a taste of the money that the film industry brings to Oregon. “Bring more productions!” yells Brooke as I walk toward the door. “It’s a beautiful day out there,” I say, not having much else to add. “Oh really?” Brooke laughs, looking around the chilly, windowless grow-room she and Patricia spend their working hours in, “I guess we wouldn’t know.” Maybe I should leave the free sweater with them.