Location, location, location! My dad used to exclaim this to me when it came to new businesses popping up in our town. He liked to predict their success or failure based off of their chosen location. My dad is entrepreneur and has taught me more about business than anything I’ve learned in higher education. He made my sister and I account for food costs when it came to lemonade stands…not even kidding. But, the good news? The lesson(s) stuck. Thanks dad.
It’s weird, because that location thing is sorta true, even in the film industry. Where you make your film is going to dictate a lot about the look and the logistics. It is one of the reasons I am a proud Oregon and LA based Producer. Both offer the best when it comes to certain aspects of filmmaking, but to me nothing beats the natural beauty and diversity of landscapes that the Pacific Northwest offers. I’ve made films in the fern covered forest, dark coastal caves, open air desert and more. Yes, those are all found in Oregon.
The Food Pyramid of Oregon Film Locations
Remember that food pyramid thing that went the way of Pluto? I do. And well, it was cute. So, I’ve revived it in shape only to showcase the different landscapes filmmakers will find in the great state of Oregon.
These portions represent Alyssa Roehrenbeck’s best idea of the makeup of Oregon’s landscapes. It is entirely inaccurate and no algorithms were used or harmed in the making of this chart.
Also, that doesn’t do much to help you understand what it all looks like, so let me paint a little more of the picture.
Fern Gully-Like Forests
When my cousin Jennefer came to hang with me in Oregon, she described a good portion of the area just outside Portland best with; “You live in Fern Gully!”. I laughed out loud, but she is right. The forest floor is carpeted in lush, green ferns and moss lines almost everything you see. This photo is from a short film I produced, The Force and The Fury filmed in Scappoose, Oregon.
Dangerous Beauty on the Coast
“Dangerous Beauty” is how Director Sam Zalutsky describes the Oregon coast as the backdrop to the thriller, Seaside, we made there not too long ago. Steep, rocky cliffs meet ruckus waves, wind blown trees and driftwood lines the shores. Wildlife surrounds, and you never know, you may even see a whale (Did you know they filmed Free Willy here?!). The southern Oregon coast is a sea of sand dunes ripe for all terrain fun.
Desert of Possibilities
There’s nothing quite like the high desert in Oregon. Vast, expansive and prehistoric are the words I can use to best describe the miles and miles of open air where there are likely to be more tumbleweeds than people. Fossils, rock formations and sage fill the geography. This picture is from the award-winning short film, Gage, I co-produced in Shaniko, Oregon.
The border between Oregon and Washington is forged by the Columbia River Gorge. Driving east from Portland you’ll find the original Oregon highway where loads of car commercials have filmed, several picturesque waterfalls, then Hood River, the windsurfing capital, followed by a distinct transition into desert. The gorge provides panoramic views that will remind you why so many made the journey west.
When I moved to Oregon, I could never get over how Mt. Hood flawlessly matches every child’s crayon interpretation of a mountain. It’s so pointy! Truth be told, I still feel that way. But Mt. Hood isn’t the only majestic mountain you’ll find here. The Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor and more are quite the sight to see. Or, if you also enjoy former mountains, Crater Lake’s crystal blue waters form the deepest lake in the U.S. and perhaps the most pristine.
Hipster Paradise Portland
Everything urban and hip is in Portland. Coffee shops, breweries, vegan strip clubs, crazy-ass doughnuts and some of the nation’s best insight into art and culture. But filming in Portland proper is a whole article in itself – more on that later.
But wait, there’s budget reasons to film here too!
One of my next articles is going to go more in depth about Oregon’s tax incentives for film, but for now, there’s a particular aspect that directly applies to everything wonderfully beautiful in Oregon and 30 miles outside Portland. The state will give you money to film there! This is not a joke, a scam or filthy lie. New rules make filming anywhere outside Portland a Producers dream. It’s called rOPIF (“Regional” Oregon Production Investment Fund).
Here are the basics:
There are two aspects to the program that offer a further incentive to those already in line for a tax rebate in the state.
- Up to $200 per person per day for films that are based in Portland but have distant location days based at least 30 miles outside Portland. There’s a limit of $10,000 per day and $50,000 per production. The incentive only applies to distant location days. Other restrictions apply.
- For projects that are entirely based 30 miles or more outside of Portland – add 10% to your overall tax rebate. For example, if you are already expecting to receive $50,000 in tax rebate money, you can up that to $55,000 and do a little jig to celebrate.
Yes, rOPIF is a great deal to film in any of the rad rural locations you’ll find in Oregon. To learn more please, please reach out to the Oregon Film Office, which is full of nice, helpful folks you’ll you’ll love working with.
Want to make an film in Oregon? Yep, I do too. 100% all day, every day. Come here. Enjoy the beauty, the beer, and the big burly beards. You won’t regret it on screen or in budget.