If the money is there, then film production will come to Washington state.
For years, Paul Mailman has been making this claim. But more than talk, he has also been busy lobbying to help make it happen. A Local 600 Director of Photography and an area steward based in Washington, Mailman would like to work in his home state more. He’d also like to have his union brothers and sisters do the same.
But for that to happen, Mailman says, the state would have to offer production tax incentives to make it competitive with other states in the region. Recent signs are encouraging. SSB 5760 and its companion bill, SHB 1914, have moved out of the House Finance Committee. If passed, these bills would boost funding for the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program from $3.5 million to $20 million per year, making the Evergreen State on par with Oregon and Montana for companies looking to shoot in the Pacific Northwest. Local 600 Members in Washington can learn about how to send their WA representatives letters urging them to vote in favor of SSB 5760 and SHB 1914 here.
“I’ve been involved with efforts to work with the state legislature for more than 10 years, and this is the most interested they have been,” added Mailman. “So, it’s fingers crossed and knocking on wood.”
Although the fight to boost the state’s incentive has been a years-long effort, there are other encouraging signs that the region is becoming more film-friendly. Mailman points to the 2021 opening of Harbor Island Stage, a 117,000 square foot former warehouse that King County converted into two sound stages in an effort to bring in more film production. Washington also has camera rental houses, grip and electric facilities and transportation.
“The program insists that you get the incentives based on the number of people you hire who are Washington state residents,” said Mailman. “There are basic conditions that need to be met so the easiest way to fulfill the incentive is to hire union people. Essentially the incentive is based around union work.”
Mailman keeps a list of Local 600 members who have residences in Washington, many of whom are forced to do most of their work in Portland or Los Angeles.
“We have some depth here, but it’s not like you can do more than two big shows at a time,” he said. However, Mailman insists, “as soon as the shows come, then people will start to show up.”
Over the years, Mailman has worked closely with Washington Filmworks, an organization that encourages economic development in the film industry. In addition to advocating for 10 (as yet unsuccessful) bills to increase the state’s motion picture incentives, the organization has provided financial support to more than 125 productions.
Washington Filmworks is also the primary agency behind the state’s annual Filmday, which is designed to boost awareness in the role that film plays in helping the region’s creative economy. One year, during the five-year run of the Sci-Fi Channel show Z Nation (which shot in Spokane), event producers turned the entranceway and steps of the state capital in Olympia into the scene of a zombie apocalypse.
“We have been very consistent as far as lobbying goes and the film community has a lot of visibility in Washington state,” said Mailman. “We just haven’t been able to shake more money out of the legislature.”
Having fought side-by-side with Mailman in the incentives-hunting trenches, Washington Filmworks Executive Director Amy Lillard, calls Mailman “a tremendous advocate who brings value to every conversation that we have.”
“Because he has been a longtime resident of Washington state, he brings such valuable perspective over a historic period of time,” said Lillard. “His career takes him all over the world so he can speak to elected officials not only about the need for more work in Washington state but what incentives and what other film industries look like in other jurisdictions.”