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Filmmakers lobby lawmakers to keep movies in Wash. state

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would give $3.5 million dollars a year in tax credits to films that shoot in the Evergreen State. A similar measure is scheduled to expire at the end of June. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - The 'action' Friday came before the lights and the camera.

The cast? Lawmakers. The starring role? Those in the movie industry, trying to convince Olympia to invest.

"It's urgent. We sunset. We go away. The state film office goes away. The incentive program goes away and then so will the filmmakers," said Amy Lillard, executive director of Washington Filmworks. "They'll be forced to go other places and I don't want to see that."

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would give $3.5 million dollars a year in tax credits to films that shoot in the Evergreen State. A similar measure is scheduled to expire at the end of June.

Lillard, who recently worked to get the Oscar-nominated Viggo Mortensen film "Captain Fantastic" to shoot much of the film in the North Cascades, argues that small tax credits pay off with millions in wages for crew and in income for local businesses -- along with showing off Washington to the world.

"To take these pieces of Washington and have them around the globe is a pretty exciting prospect," she added. "It's really one of the strongest exports this country has."

Neighboring areas currently offer additional tax breaks for movie houses. Oregon -- home to "Portlandia," recent indie film "Green Room," and others -- recently upped its annual tax credit to $14 million.

Vancouver and British Columbia have about $250 million in tax credits available.

"A lot of us tend to now be driving down to Portland where a lot of the work is -- and we don't like that," said Jeff McKracken, a professional stunt person. "[My family] -- we love Seattle and we love the Northwest and we don't want to leave it but the work is not here."

McKracken worked on "Captain Fantastic" fixing the rope lines for a rock climbing scene that was shot in Index.

"When a film comes in, it's not just a couple people. It is an army of people," he continued. "They have to stay in hotels. They spend money at restaurants. Movies also have a legacy. Everybody knows "Lord of the Rings." They visit New Zealand because they want to see where those things were shot."

Lillard is hoping this year's bill will pass. Similar bills in 2015 and 2016 never made it out of committee.

This bill also includes a one-time $3 million dollar tax credit for a blockbuster movie that picks Washington as its home base.

"I'd love to see something like "Boys in the Boat" get filmed here, or take "Where'd you go Bernadette?"" she said, referring to bestselling books that take place in Seattle. "It's so important to the health and livelihood to the creative community here. Without it, we suffer."

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