PORTLAND – Venerable TV actors Ed Asner and David Ogden Stiers put in a pitch for Oregon as a filming location on Monday as Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill aimed at improving the state’s appeal to the film and television industry.
The Greenlight Oregon program offers tax and sales rebates to movie and TV production companies that spend more than $1 million in the state in one year.
Oregon has been the location for memorable movies such as “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Free Willy,” “Animal House” and “Drugstore Cowboy,” directed by Portland-based filmmaker Gus Van Sant.
But Stiers – who co-starred in “M*A*S*H” – said Canada has been drawing production companies away from Oregon, including a new series in Vancouver, B.C., where he begins work Tuesday.
“It seems incomprehensible to me that a state as geographically varied and beautiful and inviting and friendly as Oregon is needs additional inducements or incentives to offer on a business level to get the film business here,” said Stiers, who lives on the Oregon coast.
The governor praised lawmakers for bipartisan support for House Bill 2191, which will give producers a 10 percent discount on goods and services in Oregon, along with a 6.2 percent income tax rebate on wages paid in Oregon.
“If we’re going to compete with Canada and states from Louisiana to New Mexico, and hold on to our crews and the infrastructure of this industry here in Oregon, we had to invest,” Kulongoski said.
Asner, who won three Emmys for his work on the Mary Tyler Moore TV series, said his daughter lives in Gresham and his ex-wife lives in Gleneden Beach, so he considers Oregon a second home.
“I come up here to get away from the sun,” Asner joked to a small crowd gathered at a downtown sound stage for Euro RSCG, a TV ad agency based in Portland.
He turned serious when he spoke about preserving the film industry in America, criticizing the federal government for not doing more to help preserve it by encouraging more domestic production to keep the industry thriving in states outside California.
“You could call ‘show biz,’ filmmaking, the original arena for outsourcing because ever since I’ve been making movies, Hollywood has been threatened with outsourcing, be it Italy, be it Australia, New Zealand, and certainly, Canada,” said Asner, who has won five Golden Globe awards for his movie roles.
He noted writers and directors can easily go elsewhere, unlike actors, craftsmen and other production workers.
Asner called the Greenlight program a way to “maintain one of the brilliances of America, and that’s moviemaking. I thank you for doing this for actors, for craftsmen, and I thank you for doing it to preserve American heritage.”
Kulongoski said the incentives for the film industry will bring more jobs and tourism to Oregon, along with maintaining the base of experienced industry workers critical to providing support for production companies.
Van Sant was also at the signing ceremony.
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