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Wed., Sept. 26, 2007

A Spokane film production company is expected to receive about $800,000 in state incentives for three movies, state film-incentive officials said Tuesday.

That amount translates into roughly $4 million in North by Northwest Productions project costs spent in the state, most of it in the Spokane area, said Amy Dee, executive director of the fledgling nonprofit WashingtonFilmWorks, which collects and distributes incentive money.

The organization, authorized by the state Legislature last year, says it has raised roughly $6.2 million toward encouraging growth of the state’s film and video industry.WFW officials met with local civic and business leaders Tuesday afternoon in the historic Paulsen Medical and Dental Building’s 16th-floor penthouse, which is being converted to resemble a 5th Avenue New York City flat for the current North by Northwest project “The Golden Door,” a romantic comedy. Set workers tore out blue carpeting, painted and added new furniture.

“It’s all about jobs, I think,” said Rich Cowan, president of North by Northwest. “When we make a movie, we employee between 50 and 80 people on a production, and we’re doing about four films a year, so it’s providing more of that full-time employment for that many people. And they’re good jobs, they’re fun jobs.”

Spokane businesses Washington Trust Bank, Sterling Savings Bank and Avista Corp. have donated to WFW, according to the organization.

WFW will help fund as much as 20 percent, or up to $1 million, of certain in-state production costs. It’s allowed to raise $3.5 million a year.

The penthouse sat vacant after long-time resident, Helen Paulsen, died in March at age 96. The Art Deco-style office building, 421 W. Riverside Ave., carries a family name tracing to her late husband’s father, August Paulsen, an early Spokane resident.

Canadian filmmaker David Krae announced plans to shoot much of “Lady Killer,” a dark, suspense thriller about a serial killer to be produced by North by Northwest, in Spokane from late October through November. Potential incentives were “part of the lure” in drawing the approximately $2 million project here, where about 95 percent of the movie will be shot, even though it’s set in Seattle, he said.

“It’s become very important in how you get a film production off the ground,” Krae, 31, said.

“It really helps us, because we’d rather not go to Bulgaria.”

Incentives have yet to be approved for the project, Cowan said. Any rebates will be spent to enhance film quality, not finance the project, said Krae, who wrote and will direct the picture.”The Golden Door,” starring actors Joseph Cross, Sarah Roemer, rapper Snoop Dogg and Joe Pantoliano, among others, is on day 11 of 16 of shooting in Spokane, said co-writer/director Joe Smith.

The independent romantic comedy will tell the story of a poor man from Brooklyn who takes a job as doorman at a fancy building on 5th Avenue after his father dies and leaves the family in debt. The man falls in love with a girl who lives in the building’s penthouse — represented by the Paulsen penthouse.

“(Spokane) was not the first thing that came to mind when we were looking for a place to shoot New York,” Smith said. “But honestly, the first thought was the Washington state program, the incentive really was a huge incentive. It allows us to make a much bigger movie and a much better movie with the amount of money that we had to work with,” especially compared to New York or Los Angeles.

With a budget of about $1.8 million, the independent film should be done in March, when filmmakers will try to sell it, Smith said.

One “real challenge” has been shooting the ethnic diversity found in New York City in Spokane, and producers chose spots where they needed to capture it, Smith said. Filmmakers also will edit the Manhattan skyline into several exterior shots, he said.

WFW had completed two projects as of Sept. 1, offering $191,010 in assistance for productions with budgets totaling about $1.8 million, according to the organization. The projects employed 95 people from Washington and 40 from out of state.

The first production to receive incentives, North by Northwest’s “The Family Holiday,” should air on the TV channel Lifetime in December, said WFW board of directors chairwoman Becky Bogard.


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