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Some Leverage

Jeff Kropf

We just last night caught up with the most current (streamed) episode of Leverage, the TNT series about a group of con artists, set in the Boston area but shot in Portland. The show is well done on its own merits, but we have fun picking out specific scenes at Portland we know. PGE Park and the city hall were two good recent examples.

It’s felt a little like an outlier, in that Vancouver B.C. tends to get a lot more TV and film work; it has been the leading film center on the west coast north of southern California. Among other things, shooting costs there may actually be a little lower than in Portland.

But Portland’s clout in the biz is picking up. Leverage is one factor, and another is the area’s intensive and cutting-edge digital video industry.

The Oregon House Sustainability and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on all this today, and the indications emerging suggest that more of this business may be coming: Not an explosive increase, but more. People working with Leverage were there, and show creator and runner Dean Devlin, who had planned to appear, delivered a statement.

One conclusion was that Oregon isn’t notably attractive on the immediate upfront numbers; other states have juicier governmental giveaways. (Michigan evidently is notorious for this.) But Oregon, and Portland especially, has other good advantages: Widely varied and easily accessible scenery, good infrastructure, a solid base of actors and crew to work with. The various sorts of commercial shooting business, from commercials and corporate videos to full-out entertainment programming, seems to be picking up as word of the advantages picks up. (One motion picture, niche-described as “faith-based horror,” was said to be in progress.)

The economic advantages were hyped too hard; no one spoke of it as an economic savior. But Representative Vic Gilliam, who played a bit part on Leverage, recalled Devlin telling him on set that about 140 people were working that day, nearly all Oregonians.

And if you’re in Oregon, keep a lookout for $2 bills. On item that emerged at the hearing: Devlin apparently paid out much of the Leverage staff per diems with $2 bills. If you see one in circulation, odds are that’s where it came from.

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