Lights, Camera, Action: Small Business & The Film Industry

August 12, 2017 • 8 min read
Byron Beck

Byron Beck

PDX Correspondent

I have a theory: at some point in our lives, most of us have had a wild dream of working in the film industry. For most of us it’s a dream, but for some small business owners it becomes a reality, and a profitable one.

One reason that small business owners end up working in the film industry is because of people like Janice Shokrian. As Executive Director for Oregon Media Production Association (OMPA), Shokrian is a champion for the film, television and interactive media industry and she advocates for laws and policies that impact the industry. OMPA members consist of freelancers, production companies, agencies, small businesses, large businesses, and students. Shokrian promotes the work of OMPA members, as well as creating networking events and educational opportunities that benefit many small businesses in the region.

“[OMPA] only exists because our members are investing in OMPA so we can fulfill our mission,” says Shokrian.

Shokrian remembers the first movie she ever saw growing up in Upstate New York. “It was ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and I was four years old, sitting on the floor in my grandmother’s New York City apartment on Thanksgiving day.” As a child, she acted and was a guest on a yearly holiday television production. It wasn’t until much later that she became involved in the movie business.

film industry

“I have always been involved in non-profits for the arts,” said Shokrian. “It’s a cliche but art is a catalyst for change. Art inspires conversations that result in tangible, cultural shifts. I wanted to be a part of an industry that influences these changes in perspective.”

Shokrian is incredibly passionate about the work that OMPA does with small businesses.

“Many businesses who work in the creative industry are members of OMPA,” said Shokrian. “These businesses connect with industry professionals through OMPA’s communication channels, host networking events and advertise within SourceOregon, OMPA’s trade publication.”

The Film Industry is Vital

In 2016, the Oregon Film Office tracked 24 distinct projects, and numerous locally produced, commercial production projects through their incentive program. “We’ve seen consistent growth in the film and television sector over the last 10 years,” said Tim Williams, Executive Director for the Oregon Film Office. “The tracked in-state spending for projects coming through our modest incentive programs has grown from just over $5M in 2005 to almost $200M [in 2016].”

Businesses that become local resources for productions can see a substantial increase in their revenue. One of OMPA’s members shared that they were a staff of two, struggling to make ends meet. Then “Grimm” (the hit NBC television show that filmed in Portland, Oregon) came to town. Now they have two locations and 28 employees. This business is a preferred vendor for many productions. Shokrian believes there is a ripple effect that spreads to other businesses: “The multiplier effect takes over.”

film industry

Film Projects Are a Boon to Local Businesses

Local retail shops, restaurants, hotels, contractors, real estate agents, and rental agencies all benefit from increased business during filming. Once a production hits the market, there is a boost of tourism. The Bridge of the Gods (a scenic span between Oregon and Washington located in the Columbia Gorge) has seen an increase in tourism because of the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon.

Shokrian also shared this story about how a recent group of visitors positively impacted one business: “(They called themselves) ‘Librarians in Training,’ referring to the cable hit starring Rebecca Romjin. “They spent a week in Portland visiting the locations that were used in the filming of Electric Entertainment’s ‘The Librarians.’ They spent money in Oregon—hotels, restaurants, car rentals.”

film industry

OMPA Benefits From Small Business

Shokrian says that small businesses are integral to the work of OMPA. A common misconception is that money from productions filmed locally ends up back in Hollywood. When she learns about how small businesses are seeing tangible growth because of the film industry, she shares these stories with local legislators. A catering business that services many local productions were able to invest in several acres of land so they could build an indoor soccer arena. What Shokrian loves about this story is that the revenue from the film industry enabled this small business to reinvest into another industry that impacts families, children, communities and and our local economy.

Shokrian is contacted almost daily from production companies who are looking to work with local business owners. OMPA also fosters relationships between production companies and the communities they impact. The Portland Film Office and Oregon Film and Television are the points of contact for expectations around productions. Shokrian adds that location scouts are members of OMPA and are very sensitive to neighborhoods. They want to create a harmonious situation during what is perceived as a disruptive experience. If there is any push back when filming occurs, like most things, it is generally solved through improved communication. OMPA is part of this by fostering discussions between location scouts, production managers and small businesses.

OMPA is Unique to Oregon

Many states have a publication like SourceOregon, but not all states have a connected and trusted community that helps both production companies and local businesses. For small businesses that want to get more involved in the movie business, Shokrian encourages business owners to call organizations like OMPA. “As members of OMPA, small businesses receive a free listing in SourceOregon, discounts on advertising, industry news, and opportunities to network with professionals in the industry and the opportunity to promote their news to a statewide platform,” says Shokrian.

The Future of OMPA and The Film Industry

With the support of local legislators, the growing partnerships with state agencies, educational institutions, businesses and individual members, OMPA is poised to be the point of contact for future productions in the area.

Learn more about Oregon Media Production Association.

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