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caption: A scene from the movie Captain Fantastic, which was set in Washington state.
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A scene from the movie Captain Fantastic, which was set in Washington state.
Credit: Bleecker Street

A case for luring movies to Washington state

You may have seen the movie Captain Fantastic.

This week, actor Viggo Mortensen got an Academy Award nomination for his work in it.

The film was shot in Washington state, with help from a state film incentive program, the Washington Motion Picture Competitiveness program. That program will end this year unless lawmakers extend it.

Supporters call it an economic driver. It offers filmmakers cash incentives if they hire local crews, or buy their supplies here. Amy Lillard directs the state film office, Washington Filmworks.

She says 43 states have similar programs — that’s how the movie business works.

“You have to have an incentive like this to get the calls and to get the interest," Lillard says. "And while it doesn’t have to be the most aggressive incentive, it has to be competitive.”

At $3.5 million, Washington state’s fund is less than one-third of Oregon's and only about one-one-hundredth of what Vancouver, B.C., has.

Lillard says if Washington can’t offer anything, filmmakers won’t even consider bringing projects like Captain Fantastic here.

She'd like to see more money in the program, but she says her first task is to keep it alive.

The funding expires in June.

State lawmakers are considering measures to extend it for ten years.

But Lillard’s not taking anything for granted:

“As we go down to Olympia to talk about this bill, everyone’s also talking about education and mental health." Lillard says. "We see the film bill as part of the solution because it does generate so much revenue and it does generate jobs for local workers. And so, we’d like them to see the bill that way.”

Film industry advocates planned to gather Friday morning for the bill's first hearing in the State House Finance Committee.