By Blaine Palmer of Portland, Oregon. Blaine is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, AFL-CIO.
Open on: a newspaper spinning toward the camera. Voice Over: As the Oregonian reported yesterday, the growth in Oregon's film scene depends on bringing in investment from Hollywood (like Willie Sutton said, that's where the money is).
Cut to: crowds of people lining up for work.
The very successful Oregon Production Investment Fund (OPIF) has helped attract that Hollywood money to the Beaver state. A report from the Governor's Office of Film & Television shows that out-of-state spending in Oregon increased by 117% from 2005 to 2007, representing over $41.3M in direct spending for the state. With unemployment at over 12% in the Portland area who would want to stand in the way of a proven program to create jobs?
Cut to: Representative Phil Barnhart.
SB 621, an increase to the OPIF that would help bring more productions to Oregon passed the Oregon Senate on June 9. Since stories about bi-partisanship are big box office these days, I'll mention that it picked up four Republican votes. It was immediately sent over to the House and referred to the Revenue Committee that Representative Barnhart chairs.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Since the 9th of June, nothing has happened and Representative Barnhart has still not scheduled a hearing. Why would a Democratic representative stand in the way of a bill that would create family-wage jobs (many of them union jobs) in the midst of a recession? Ask Representative Barnhart.
More production jobs are waiting in the wings. Producers of additional films and a CBS television series are considering bringing their work here, but waiting to see if Oregon is willing to make the commitment to film incentives. They have the option of taking their productions to British Columbia which offers an unlimited incentive. The economic analysis report shows that besides creating jobs, the tax revenue generated by OPIF exceeds the amount given as an incentive. Shouldn't that make this a no-brainer? Ask Representative Barnhart.
If you read the reports and are still not convinced, just look around: film production is putting people to work, and contrary to our image of the movie business, most of the jobs are blue collar jobs: drivers, caterers, lighting technicians. I have worked in the film industry in Oregon for the last eleven years and have never seen so many of my colleagues getting work.
Why shouldn't we invest in a proven method of job creation? This bill should not be killed behind closed doors. The only way it can get a fair hearing is if you Ask Representative Barnhart.
The clock is ticking. The Revenue Committee needs to schedule on hearing on SB621, and fast. The family-wage jobs of Oregonians are hanging in the balance.