City welcomes motion pictures as a financial boom with long-lasting effectsBack went the floodlights that illuminated Astoria nights, packed tightly into white trailers for the hot ride home. Costumes borrowed from the wardrobe were tucked into place. Skinny-legged directors' chairs were squished together to make room for more equipment.
People climbed in vans, dark-tinted SUVs and planes and headed 1,000 miles south, away from the clean-rainy smell of the Columbia. South to Los Angeles. South to where "The Ring II" will finish filming and put Astoria on the silver screen.
Like a firecracker, the movie burned bright and fast. It injected an estimated $500,000 to $1 million into the community in direct expenditures during its two-week stay.
Hollywood cash flowed to hotel rooms, dinners at local restaurants, rental cars, plants for landscaping, dry cleaning, supplies from lumber companies, telephone services, hangar rentals, rain gear, 70 videos from Video Horizons for set decorations - and an open tab at an ice cream shop.
But it's not over 'till it's over.
The smoke from this filming blast will linger because, according to city officials, the real impact of a major motion picture filming in a small community is the town's exposure to millions of theater-goers.
"We'll be showcased internationally," Astoria Public Works Director Mitch Mitchum said. "That has to translate into visitors."
The Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce still receives 200 inquiries a month from people wanting to know where the 20-year-old movie "The Goonies" was filmed.
"Obviously people were influenced to come here by that," Mitchum said.
Astoria is slated to be a prominent feature of "The Ring II," with footage showcasing the waterfront Trolley, the Astoria Bridge, ships steering up the river, local historic homes and downtown shops.
Rachael Keller (Naomi Watts) and son Aidan Keller's (David Dorfman) move to Astoria is a major plot point in the film.
"It's going to look like a commercial for Astoria, albeit a very scary commercial," said Alex Worman, "The Ring II" unit publicist.
Attracting filmsBecause of the positive short-term and long-term economic impacts, Astoria goes out of its way to attract productions like "The Ring II" and to make filming a positive experience.
Mike Ramsdell, a retired senior engineering technician who works on special projects for the city, is often called on to take pictures of buildings and lakes and other possible filming areas to entice productions.
For this movie he looked for a lake with mountains behind it, a flat lake like in Nebraska, a lake without alders, and a parking lot that could be converted into a frozen lake through special effects.
In addition to going out of its way to highlight good filming locations, the city tries to make filming easy and cost-effective.
Astoria doesn't charge permit fees, location fees or filming fees, only direct expenses such as the cost of extra on-duty police officers or rental of the old Safeway building.
"If we go out of our way to make things work for one movie company, the word gets around," Mitchum said. "It's not that big a business."
The city is billing DreamWorks $18,200 for direct services from the police and public works departments and use of the old Safeway building.
That total includes the price of a new swing set for the park on Eighth Street and Franklin Avenue, which the company volunteered to buy because it disrupted access to the park.
Runaway productionsSpending by film productions coming into Oregon from out of state was $16 million in 2002. But some years, spending has topped $30 million.
According to a 2002 report by ECONorthwest, which created a report on the film and video industry in Oregon for the state-sponsored Oregon Film & Video Office, out-of-state productions supported 760 jobs, $30 million in income and $44 million in economic output in Oregon in 2000.
Competition to bring film money to Oregon is stiff.
Canada has made itself highly competitive by offering a 22-percent rebate on labor and building infrastructure to support movie making.
Called "runaway productions," the Northwest has seen many movies supposedly set in Seattle or Portland filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, and other Canadian cities.
"Canadians have been doing multiple billion dollars of business, so in a sense the whole country has lost," said Bob Schmaling, project manager for the Oregon Film and Video Office.
Many movies are being shot in Uzbekistan, South Africa, Poland and the Ukraine because it's just plain cheaper.
In the mid to late '90s, Oregon saw a lot of "movie of the week" productions being filmed locally. Since then, the landscape has changed to attract mostly low-budget independent productions.
To counter that trend, the Oregon Legislature passed a Production Incentive Bill last session. It allows companies that spend a minimum of $1 million to get a 10 percent rebate on goods and services up to $250,000.
"If a show wants to shoot here, but is being swayed by the discounted Canadian rates, hopefully that will sway them this way," Schmaling said.
Before, movies could appeal to the governor and strategic reserve fund (for the governor's discretionary spending projects) for incentive money. Most of the time productions could get around $100,000 for promising to bring their movies to Oregon.
Experts agree film is an industry worth attracting. People who work in the movie industry make higher than average wages, so there is usually a big return in taxes and money spent. Plus it's a clean industry: they come, they shoot, and they leave their money.
"Don't think art, think economic development," Schmaling said.
Businesses see the long-termMany Astoria businesses were looking at the bigger picture when they saw their customer flow interrupted because of the movie.
Constantine Phillipakis, assistant manager of Andrew and Steve's, said it was enjoyable to have the cast and crew around, even though closing the streets severely limited parking and slowed business. He said the regular customers were willing to walk the extra block or two.
"It's a good thing," Phillipakis said. "It brings a little bit of publicity to Astoria."
Mick Mitchell, co-manager of the Astoria Cooperative, said with the filming going on right in front of his store the business pretty much broke even. Sales in beverages and high-end body care items were up while regular sales were down.
Mitchell said that he found the movie-making process interesting and enjoyed meeting those involved. However, he said it's important to remember that Hollywood hasn't been here for 10 years and Astoria has still been going strong.
"We need to attribute that to the quality of businesses in Astoria and the people who make up Astoria," he said. "It's not Hollywood. It's just how cool Astoria is."
Future filmsMitchum said Disney has scouted the local area for a movie involving U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers. And there is a rumor that a "Goonies 2" could be filmed in Astoria, but for now it's all conjecture.
Also, the city often plays host to commercials for beer and vehicle companies such as Jeep, Budweiser and Nissan. One production brought Clydesdale horses out to Youngs River Falls and had them tromp around.
Approximately two to three commercials come to the area every year.
"We try and go after the commercial people as hard as video," Ramsdell said. "They might be making a movie one day and remember us."
Reaction from "The Ring II" cast and crew was positive. Worman said they had a very successful shoot and that the city was highly cooperative.
"A lot of people, myself included, fell in love with the city," he said. "Our location manager, if it were up to him, he would shoot every film in Oregon."
Worman did have one suggestion for improvement:
"If you had the ability to stop the rain on command that would help," he said. "A little on-off switch would be nice."
"The Ring II," will be rated PG-13. It is expected to appear in theaters between February and April 2005.