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Producing in Portland: Rain, Coffee, Scripts, and Willamette Writers


It rains in Portland. For most of the year. And here are a few things you should know about the city’s soggy scene.

  1. Whatever you do, leave your umbrella at home. Bring a hood or hat instead. Portlanders have perfected hat fashion and spend three days there and you’ll understand why. Umbrellas are pesky, not that great at keeping you dry anyways and make it really hard to actually get anything done. Using an umbrella is the easiest way to identify yourself as an outsider.
  2. There aren’t really downpours, just lots of gray, drizzle. For lots of days in a row. Another reason a fantastic rain jacket beats an umbrella.
  3. If you have a thing for dogs in jackets and sweaters, Portland is for you. They are plentiful in any neighborhood. Yes, this is a way for me to weasel a picture of Kelvin, my furry boy in here.
  4. The summers are the full-on opposite – 4th of July through September, and sometimes into October are beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous. It’s why people put up with misery for the other 8 months a year. Sunshine for days.

Okay, you get it – expect rain in Portland, duh!!! But long gray days fuel something really important – creativity. You’ll find makers, writers and artists in every corner of the city, enjoying their fourth cup of coffee and getting the words on the page, paint on the canvas and that design in the 3D printer. Portland is a haven for writers who love cozying up indoors with their laptop or pen and paper. And if you are a writer or a filmmaker, here’s one of Portland’s best kept secrets.

Ready for it? Willamette Writers.

What Exactly is Willamette Writers?

Whether you are a seasoned television writer or first-time novelist, Willamette Writers has connections and learning opportunities you would be remiss to miss ←- remiss to miss…how’s that good writing? 🙂

How do you say it?

“Willamette” is a difficult word – it’s not French, it’s Native American and also the name of the main waterway through downtown Portland. Here’s a little rhyme the locals use to remember how to say it. “Dammit, it’s Willamette!”

There are a few things that make Willamette Writers a super-duper organization and a group you should know. Here they are in my favorite order.


Willamette Writers devotes a lot of resources into screenwriting and not only does their yearly conference include a screenwriting track (more on that in a second), but they also host a script to screen contest every. ALL of the money from FilmLab contest entries is used to gather a professional Director, Actors, Crew and other necessities to give one deserving writer the lesson of a lifetime, the experience of what happens when you script is produced. FilmLab will produce your script and then make it the star of the annual conference with a special party and screening. They’ll also work to find other screening opportunities and get the word out about your work. Each year carries a different theme and look for rules and deadlines in the fall. I’ve volunteered for FilmLab in past years and am again this year as a final round judge as well as a Producer for the selected script. This year is especially fun with a series writing aspect, including a weekend writer’s room in Portland for the the semi-finalists and a showrunner, F.J.Pratt, along for the whole process.

The Conference

Every year, hoards of writers descend on Portland for a few days of networking, comradery and showing off their latest work. Willamette Writers brings in executives from LA, New York and more and it is a great chance to rub elbows with people who may want to buy or produce your script. There are also tons of workshops, panels and other events, as well as an entire track dedicated to screenwriting. Talk writing dialog, pitching, or writing for a certain genre or audience and more.

Ongoing Opportunities

Year round, you can find workshops, critique groups, events and trainings to help writers explore new forms, gain experience and just generally expand their skills when it comes to writing in almost any form.

I called Willamette Writers one of Portland filmmakers’ best kept secrets because I’m continually surprised by the fantastic opportunities that not enough people know about or take advantage of. I hope this post is just one mini megaphone announcing just enough of their laurels to get you to check out their website, enter a script in the next FilmLab contest, sign up for a workshop, or, think about their conference.

Alyssa Roehrenbeck

About Alyssa Roehrenbeck

Alyssa Roehrenbeck is a get-shit-done type person with a fun loving, goofy side. She believes in working hard and playing hard – at the same time. As an Actress and Producer, she began at a young age by adapting and organizing neighborhood plays based on the popular American Girls collection (yes, really). She and her pals rehearsed, constructed hodge-podge costumes and then charged parents for admission and popcorn. After graduating from studies in Theater and Business, she’s honed her skills as not only a writer and actress, but as a smart and fearless Producer. She has Produced feature films like Seaside (starring Ariana DeBose from Broadway’s, The Donna Summer Musical & Hamilton), OK KO Game Jam for Cartoon Network, Misfits (starring Paige McKenzie) for Disney’s Free Period, and loads of web series and viral content, including The Drunk Show. For more information and current projects, head over to Deep Sea Pictures.