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2009_06_18 - Leverage' Brings Lights, Cameras, Paychecks to Portland - The Oregonian

2009_06_18 - Leverage' Brings Lights, Cameras, Paychecks to Portland - The Oregonian

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Faith Cathcart, The Oregonian
Season 2:
Premieres 9 p.m.July 15
Season 1 re-airs at 10p.m. Wednesdays
'Leverage' brings lights, cameras, paychecks to Portland
Kristi Turnquist, The Oregonian
June 18, 2009, 6:37AM
"Leverage" on location: Aidan Burns, 11, of Portland, playing a young student in fencingclass for an episode of the TNT series, listens to directions before a take on set in theUnited States Custom House in Northwest Portland.
With a record 12.4 percent
unemployment rate
in Oregon and about 12 percent unemployment in Portland,there's at least one bright spot on the local job horizon: Hollywood has come to town -- and been hiring.Lana Veenker has spent the past several weeks sending out e-mails like this: "URGENT CALL FOR 60 EXTRASON 'LEVERAGE.' " The pressure's been on for Veenker, who runs
her own casting company
. But she's notcomplaining. Lots of work? In this economy? Veenker and other members of Portland's filmmaking communitysay they welcome it.Between
the TNT cable series shooting in Portland since April, and the just-wrapped
"UntitledCrowley Project,"
a movie starring Harrison Ford, the metro area has buzzed with production activity allspring. Both productions set up shop on soundstages in Clackamas, which locals proceeded to nickname,"Clackawood.""If we didn't have those two projects," Veenker says, "it would be verytough right now. They're the bright spot in a bleak period."Though viewers don't always realize it, making movies and TV seriesrequires more blue-collar workers than good-looking stars. Behind thescenes, productions have hired local labor to build sets, buy props,drive trucks and provide snacks for cast and crew during 14-hourworkdays.
TNTWeb site:
Veenker says the arrival of these two projects allowed her to go fromthree full-time employees to four full-time, one part-time andfreelancers as needed. She's also given more work to her bookkeeperand accountant. And the unemployed are answering the call to beextras, she says. "We need, like, 150 extras per episode." It may beminimum wage, Veenker says, "but it's a pretty good stopgap."At
Pacific Grip & Lighting Inc.
, which rents equipment for movies and TV production, business is alsobooming. "We've hired two more full-time employees and purchased a bunch of equipment," owner Doug Bosssays. "This is the busiest we've been in probably 10 years."Rachel Lipsey, who owns Rachel's Old School Craft Services, provides snacks -- chips, candy, granola bars,sandwiches -- on the set."I usually do commercials in the summer, where I'm hired for two or three days at a time," Lipsey says. "Younever know how many days you're going to get a month. So to get hired for 'Leverage,' and working for fivemonths in a year when we're in a recession, is pretty exciting. During this five months I'll have earnedapproximately what I earned in the entire year last year."Lipsey's been doing craft services for about five years, and she says, "This is the best year I've had."Others on the "Leverage" set will have logged six months of work by the time the series finishes shooting itssecond season here in mid-September. While visiting movie productions are always welcome, local film workerssay having a TV series in town provides the steady work and benefits that make a significant difference for theunion employees who usually staff them."When larger films come here, there may be a handful of roles for actors," says Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, aPortland actress who was cast in a "Leverage" episode. "But on my episode alone, there were six co-starringroles and hundreds of extras. That's a totally different level. 'Leverage' has created a whole different buzz.""Leverage" is shooting 15 episodes in Portland, and it's the first TV series to film here since "Under Suspicion"and "Nowhere Man" in the mid-'90s.
Faith Cathcart, The Oregonian
"Leverage" stars Timothy Hutton as the leader of a group of con artists, grifters, tech whizzes and thieves whouse their skills Robin Hood-style, sticking it to the corrupt wealthy while seeking justice for deservingunderdogs. The TNT series filmed its first season in Los Angeles. When it was renewed, producers lookedelsewhere for a location.Executive producer Dean Devlin, whose production credits include the movies "Stargate" and "IndependenceDay," says the second-season move was a financial decision."We started shopping around for who had the best tax incentives and rebates," he recalls. The choices boileddown to Portland or Vancouver, B.C. "We actually had decided to go to Vancouver when I got a call." It wasGov. Ted Kulongoski, and his enthusiasm -- and the state's incentive program -- that changed Devlin's mind."With the credit crunch going on," Devlin adds, "advertisers spend less money, which means we get less moneyfor our television shows."Oregon incentive programs offer a 20percent cash rebate on production-related goods and services boughtfrom state vendors, and a 10percent cash rebate of wages paid for work in Oregon. In addition, the GreenlightOregon labor rebate offers productions that spend more than $1million in the state a cash rebate of up to6.2percent of Oregon-based payroll. That can be combined with the investment fund incentive for a16.2percent rebate on qualifying production payroll.Earlier this month Kulongoski and producers from the "Crowley" project held a news conference at OregonHealth & Science University promoting Senate Bill 621 to reauthorize and increase the incentive program. Thefunds are capped at $10million per biennium; the bill would raise the cap to $15million. Members of the Oregonfilm industry are still trying to rally legislative support, though at press time, the fate of the bill was uncertain.Film incentives, as Devlin says, "are hard to sell politically because people ask, 'Why are we sending money toHollywood when we have businesses that are struggling?'" But, he adds, that money has a ripple effect. "Forevery dollar we spend, it's usually from two to five dollars of economy boost. It's like the trickle-up theory."
In addition to employing local crew and actors, the cable series "Leverage" has broughtout-of-town talent such as Jonathan Frakes, who directed an episode, to Portland.
Portland actress DiLorenzo has been among the film workers lobbying the Legislature. "There's this

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