Next time your favorite movie or TV show is set in Seattle, it might actually have been filmed locally. That’s the city’s hope after getting the green light for the new Seattle Film Commission — a body set to serve as the liaison between the Emerald City and the silver screen.
“What is at stake is the future of the creative industries and film in particular in Seattle, because film is an engine of economic growth,” said Councilwoman Sara Nelson, who supported legislation establishing the commission.
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The measure passed unanimously by Seattle City Council on Tuesday and is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Bruce Harrell in the coming days. The commission will consist of 11 individuals qualified to represent the Seattle film industry. Five members are appointed by the council, five by Mayor Bruce Harrell, and one by the commission itself.
According to Nelson, Seattle has lost its competitive edge when it comes to attracting production and is losing — not only the money those studios could bring in — but also a seat at the table.
“Other cities have many incentives. But actually it’s not about the money, it’s about the knowledge. We need industry experts in Seattle to help us formulate policies that will allow us to keep the film jobs here. I’m talking about living wage jobs and that’s why the union is so supportive of this effort,” she said.
“We don’t want to lose any more creatives; They are already being arrested outside the city. What the city needs is guidance to keep these people here,” added Nelson.
Nelson says the film community has been urging the city to do a little more to support the industry for years, and this year the stars have lined up.
“We formed a task force and they put out a report saying getting a film commission was their top priority. Part of what I do is exactly what they say, and ultimately I build on the dynamic that we have in the state and county,” Nelson said, referring to the $15 million in state funding Movie incentives passed by the Legislature this year and the opening of Harbor Island Studios in King County.
Harbor Island Studios is a 117,000 square foot soundstage that opened in King County in the former Fisher Flour Mill.
“We now have a new mayor, a new economic development director, and we are a united front. We have to build on this dynamic. The stars are aligned and now is the time to coordinate our efforts with our partners across the state and do so,” Nelson said.
Nelson touts the 200 jobs big manufacturing can bring to the region, and disputes critics who say many of the jobs are filled by crews brought in from out of town.
“Yes the production, big productions come from outside but they hire local crews. They hire local managers and truckers. It’s 200 jobs that come with a typical big film. You don’t bring all these people; They hire people locally,” she said, noting that she’d heard from local production managers who said the local creative community needed those jobs.
Local filmmaker Anthony Tackett can only agree.
“We have to look for jobs and it’s hard, it’s tiring, it wears people down,” he said at an event ahead of Tuesday’s final vote.
“Some people have left town and threatened to leave town if nothing changes. So I think this is a great opportunity for the City of Seattle to get involved,” Tackett added.
As for Nelson, she welcomes the opportunity to focus on positive change.
“This shows that Seattle is alive and well and that films are happening here. And it’s happening on our streets and in our parks, with more life on the streets. More activity is good for everyone, not just for production, but for our local businesses and residents,” Nelson said. “And so it all comes together to revitalize not just film, not just the creative industries, but the city as a whole.”
And Nelson has a vision for the city’s near future.
“In three years, if you’re looking at Seattle and you’re in a theater and you see a movie about Seattle, it’s going to be made here. I will say that. We’ll see new businesses, new actors and writers, and creatives staying here. We’re just going to see more activity in the industry. You go to your coffee shop and your neighborhood and boom, a film is being produced there. It remains to be seen how this potential that we are creating will be realised. But you know, it can only get better.” Nelson said.
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