There are a lot of reasons that so many successful indie films have shot in Portland. In addition to things I’ve covered previously like the tax incentives and impressive locations, there’s also something that just makes it feel right. Let’s call it the “it” factor – if a city were to have that sort of thing. Which it does. Just saying.
Gus Van Sant opened the door for indie film in the area and since, Portland has become a mecca for many highly regarded independent films. In the last couple years alone, films shot in Oregon like Lean on Pete, Leave No Trace, and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore all premiered at Sundance.
After all, the dream of the 90s is alive in Portland.
Here are 8 Reasons Indie Films Love Portland
- Location, location, location! Check out my previous post about why Oregon makes directors swoon in location love.
- Those gray skies illicit creativity. Let’s be honest, soggy skies for 8 months of the year can be a creative catapult. Why not spend all that time writing a script with legs or perfecting your budget and pitch? The allure of playing hookie on work for a day at the beach never leaves Southern California, while in Portland you can find the creatives lounging in coffee shops 8 months of the year, all day, with no wifi usage restrictions and plenty of space to be there as long as necessary to conjure that independent film into existence. Did you know the average Portlander drinks 4 cups of coffee a day? I know, alarming.
- Bureaucracy be gone. Things like film permits, road closures and more can be major roadblocks to making a film in a lot of places. Not so in Portland. In fact, I attended a summit earlier this year with city cops, location scouts, parks representatives, and state representatives to iron out just how everyone can work together to help bolster the film market and streamline the process for filmmakers working in the area. And my own little anecdote? While we were filming Here Awhile, there was a nearby construction site that was trying to permit the same side of a street as us. Instead of all-out war, we pleasantly negotiated a way to share based off of the most important things each of us needed. And they thought our film was pretty cool.
- The tax incentives are no joke. There are plenty of ways to save depending on your budget size, and now, new incentives for filming outside of Portland. And, on top of all of that, Oregon has no sales tax, so add the whatever 8% or so from wherever else you were going to film right back into your budget.
- The crew are the people who actually make or break your film. And our crews here are skilled, knowledgeable and the hardest working people I have ever seen. They don’t just do this because it is a job, but because they love it. The Oregon Media and Production Association puts together a list every year – check it out.
- Stars love it. Unless you have managed to find the biggest Grinch in the industry, my experience so far has been that out of town cast adore coming to Portland. Whether a foodie, beer aficionado, art lover or reader of fine books or even comics, the plethora of weird and wonderful that exists in Portland is usually a selling point to top talent. Also, generally speaking, the people of Portland are courteous and calm…so it’s possible to have a night out at a dive bar where hopefully the locals will treat you like one of the crowd.
- Wrap parties are the bomb-diggity. The 90s are back and I love it, so is it okay to use that phrase again? Because bomb-diggity definitely describes the scene in Portland when it comes to food and booze, two party necessities. There are more breweries in Portland than any other city in the world, and the city is a phat trifecta of all things alcohol: distillery row has sparked a new industry in Portland with wineries lining the Columbia River Gorge and the Willamette Valley, you have your choice of reds and whites. The entertainment isn’t slouching either, from a thriving pinball scene to live music and theater, you can have pretty much any type of party in the world without forking over too much precious cheddar. Okay, 90’s slang section over, but really, the 90s were the best.
- City spirit. Portlanders are nice. Portlanders are makers, movers and small business shakers. From start-ups turned mass corporations like Nike to the unparalleled art of perfecting the food cart business model, Portlanders are smart and capable and those who come here to make a film or otherwise would be lucky to work alongside them.
Whatever this “it” factor is, it’s also what’s made Portland the popular place for so many young people to move to. Whether it’s the Dream of the 90s or just plain goodwill, love and weirdness, Portland isn’t leaving the indie film scene anytime soon.