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Ashland’s Current Standing in Movie and Television

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Ashland’s Current Standing in Movie and Television

An Interview with Southern Oregon Film and Television’s Gary Kout

Ashland, Oregon recently was bestowed the honor of the #2 Top Town in the United States in which to live and work as a moviemaker by MovieMaker Magazine. With this achievement recently awarded to Ashland, we asked Southern Oregon Film and Television’s (SOFaT) founder, Gary Kout, if he would shed more light on Ashland’s place in the film and television industries. 

ITA: Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your history within the film and television industries?

Gary: I made my first film in 5th grade and the bug never left me. I made movies throughout elementary and high school, went to film school in college, and have worked in the industry ever since. I started my professional career as a lowly production assistant and worked my way up through the production department as Coordinator and Manager until finally I was the Producer. I work primarily on national broadcast commercials, high-level corporate videos, and independent feature films. I’ve been involved in over 300 productions, shot in nearly every state and several countries, and feel blessed to be working in such a creative and dynamic industry. 

ITA: I understand that you are the founder of SOFaT, why did you start the organization and what is the broader goal(s) of SOFaT?

G: I started Southern Oregon Film and Television a few years after moving to Southern Oregon in 2003. After working on three feature films (CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD in 2005, MY NAME IS BRUCE in 2006, and CALVIN MARSHALL in 2007), I realized two things: 1) that this was a great place to make movies and other content and 2) there were a lot of people doing it that didn’t know each other. In Los Angeles where I lived and worked for over 12 years, its understandable that you wouldn’t know everyone, but that didn’t make as much sense here. Plus, I know that films are not made in a vacuum. It takes a community, whether that be a crew, an actual community, or a connected industry. With a little seed money from the Oregon Film Office, enough to get our business registered and website built, we officially formed as a 501(c)6 non-profit professional association in 2008 with the goal to Support, Grow, and Promote film and media activities in Southern Oregon. We offer memberships to professionals in the industry and the opportunity to list themselves in our online directory. We also have memberships for students and local businesses, who can also put their information in our directory. And we have our Supporter membership for people who want to be a part of what is going on, who might be working towards a career in the industry themselves but are not ready to join as a professional, or just want to support our efforts. We make our membership and listing fees very affordable because we know that being in this business is often hand to mouth and we don’t want cost to be a barrier to our great benefits and all our work on behalf of our members.

ITA: Ashland was recently named as the #2 small town in which to live in the US as a movie maker, according to MovieMaker Magazine. What do you think of the ranking, and do you agree with their assessment of Ashland as a movie making destination and place to work and live?

G: To be honest, we should be #1 on the list. The town that beat us out, Asheville, NC, while a great place to live and work as a filmmaker (they shot HUNGER GAMES there, after all), is not a town. It has a metro population of half a million. We lost to a CITY!  But I think we can live with #2 in that respect. Of course I fully agree with the assessment. Having been a part of 5 movies now in Southern Oregon as Production Manager, Line Producer and Producer, and having shot all over the country and the world, I can say with total confidence and personal experience that Ashland is an incredible place to live and work as a moviemaker.

ITA: How was SOFaT involved with the MovieMaker Magazine ranking, if at all?

G: Vince Porter, who runs the Oregon Film Office and is a good friend and staunch supporter of our efforts here, was contacted by MovieMaker Magazine about Ashland, which they must have heard about through their own research. Vince reached out to me since he knew that SOFaT would best present our case. I teamed up with the very capable Anne Ashbey of the Ashland Independent Film Festival, themselves a recipient of a MovieMaker accolade, and we set about rounding up facts and figures and support from the community. We had contributing letters from Ashland Mayor John Stromberg, SOU President Mary Cullinan as well as a couple film professors, OSF Actress Catherine Coulson, several local professional filmmakers. The Ashland Chamber provided the juice on the high quality of life yet affordable cost of living of Ashland. It was a team effort to be sure. And the cherry on top was the great quotes from the one and only Bruce Campbell, Southern Oregon resident and infamous movie actor and director, who proclaimed, among other glowing comments, “Drinks are on me at the Black Sheep Pub!”

ITA: What value do you feel that SOFaT brings to its members and to the community?

G: I think the best thing of value that SOFaT brings to its members and the community is opportunity. For our professional and company members with listings in the directory, its the opportunity to get a piece of the action, an actual economic benefit from the work that is being done here and is coming in from the outside. We strive to keep our members in the loop on what is coming up, we send out job listings when they come our way, and producers and clients are constantly using our directory to find the professionals and services they need. Our Student members benefit from the opportunities to come in contact with working professionals for internships or even paid gigs, as well as invitations and discounts to our networking events, location tours, equipment demos, professional seminars and more. Our Supporter members have a great opportunity through these same social and educational events to find their way into the industry if they want, or just learn new things and have some fun. And lastly, the dollars spent during filming spread out into the community in the form of wages, purchases, rentals, and more in almost every sector – retail, food, arts and entertainment, lodging, etc. – adding to the economic strength of the community.

ITA: If you could bestow some wisdom on young folks with a desire to work within the film and television industries, what would it be?

G: When you get hired, show up, be on time, work hard, ask questions when you can, and watch and listen constantly. Keep in touch with everyone you meet. You never know where your next or best opportunity is going to come from. And always remember, working in the film industry is a privilege desired by many and achieved by few. Appreciate your work and act like it.

ITA: Is there anything you’d like to express to people within the movie or television industries about Ashland in particular?

G: One thing I like to say to producers and directors who express an interest in shooting here is that unless their project is really big, they only need to bring who they want to bring, not who they feel they have to bring. We have an unexpectedly broad array of talented and experienced crew people, and of course more amazing acting talent than any town 10 times our size. The community strongly supports filming activities, from businesses that will open their doors to background extras who show up with great enthusiasm. A film’s budget will stretch further here than just about any place I’ve ever filmed. And you can fly directly to LA in 2 hours. Sometimes, it all boils down to having a real airport.

ITA: What do you see in your crystal ball for Ashland in the future as it regards to the film and television industries?

G: If I had a crystal ball, I probably could finally get out of this crazy business. Seriously though, I see great things for Ashland. The MovieMaker award should have positive repercussions for quite some time, and our local industry and SOFaT are getting stronger by the day. I know that local filmmakers will continue to roll their cameras, that we’ll see more filmmakers check out Ashland for their projects, and Southern Oregon Film and Television will be here to make sure every project is as successful as it can be. I expect that we will be a consistent multi-million dollar industry year after year, contributing to the economic well-being of local industry members and all of Southern Oregon.

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