I’m standing on the expansive green lawn of a romantic château high on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, imagining that I’m about to make out with a vampire.
Specifically, I am about to make out with Edward Cullen, the smoldering undead teenage hero of Stephenie Meyer’s blockbuster Twilight novel series and, of course, the new movie. Thirty-one years old and married, I’m embarrassed to admit that I read all four of the five-hundred-plus-page books for young adults in less than a month, and that I’ve seen the movie—twice. And now, on this misty December morning, I’m here at the historic View Point Inn to walk in Edward’s footsteps. “This is exactly the spot in the movie where Edward and Bella danced at their prom,” Roman Moreno, one of the inn’s sales managers, is telling me.
Flocks of fans like me (“Twilighters,” as we’re now known) have come to the View Point Inn, in Corbett, ever since scenes for the movie were filmed here last April. The shoot turned the Portland-area inn into a destination not unlike those found on celebrity-centric tours in Los Angeles or New York. Twilighters come from Canada, Europe, and all over the United States to dine on Bella’s Mushroom Ravioli or Eternal Love Chocolate Cake (its raspberry center bleeds when you cut it); to participate in themed slumber parties; and to snap up Twilight swag like T-shirts, key chains, and scarves made from the actual curtains visible in the surprise final scene. Interest in the inn has doubled since the film’s November release, says office manager Jennifer Coulson, who recently fielded calls from tourists from as far away as Australia and South Korea. To meet fans’ growing bloodlust for all things Twilight, the inn now offers a $250 tour of nine recognizable Portland-area locations from the movie. It stops at such sites as the Carver Café and Multnomah Falls, but also includes hidden locales like the parking lot where Edward saves Bella from a pack of would-be rapists.
The boost in business, in addition to the sizable location fee they received, has View Point owners Geoff Thompson and Angelo Simione loving Hollywood, and they aren’t the only Oregonians who feel that way. “ Twilight saved our butts,” says Beth Melnick, a Portland-based freelance location manager who worked on the film. “It was the first winter I didn’t have to go to Los Angeles to work.”
Instead, Los Angeles came to her. Which is vaguely contradictory. We Portlanders love our movies—the city hosts nearly two dozen annual film festivals that celebrate cinematic achievements in everything from animation to soundtracks to adaptations of the works of gothic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft—but in a town that prides itself on keeping it real and keeping it weird, the more DIY, alternative, and experimental a film is, the better. The city’s status as an independent filmmaker’s playground is what helped secure Portland’s place as one of MovieMaker magazine’s 2008 “top ten movie cities.” Famed independent filmmakers who live or have lived here give Portland street cred in the indie world: current resident Gus Van Sant (whose most recent creation is the critically acclaimed Milk, an Oscar hopeful); transplant Todd Haynes, director of I’m Not There and Far from Heaven; notable experimental and documentary filmmakers such as Matt McCormick and Vanessa Renwick; and the writer-director Miranda July.
And lately, Portland also has lured more mainstream Hollywood productions. Bigger-budget flicks recently shot in Oregon—and thus paying Oregon business fees and taxes and purchasing Oregon goods and services—include The Burning Plain (Kim Basinger, Charlize Theron); Management (Jennifer Aniston, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn); the Oscar-nominated Into the Wild; Untraceable (Diane Lane); Without a Paddle: Nature’s Calling (NFL star Jerry Rice); The Road (Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall, Theron again); and, of course, Twilight. Between 2005 and 2008, the Governor’s Office of Film & Television recorded thirty-six feature film productions, fifteen of which had an average budget of $8 million—compared to seventeen similar productions between 2001 and 2004 that had an average budget of $2.1 million.
Of course, Hollywood doesn’t just decide to head north for nothing. Knowledgeable local crews and the state’s diverse landscape and architecture play a part, but the area’s recent luck with the silver screen really comes down to dollars and a bit of legislated good sense. The Oregon Production Investment Fund, Governor Ted Kulongoski’s film-industry incentive package, anchors Oregon’s bid to book more large productions. The fund offers qualifying film companies—those located here as well as those from out of state—a 20 percent cash rebate on production-related goods and services purchased in Oregon, plus a 10 percent cash rebate on wages paid to Oregon-based crews. To qualify, a production company must be registered to do business in the state and must spend at least $750,000 here. And film companies that spend more than $1 million can cash in on an extra 6.2 percent payroll rebate under the Greenlight Oregon program. Perhaps best of all, the incentives process puts cash in a production company’s hands within two to three weeks of filing the postproduction paperwork.
The Oregon Legislature passed the first incentives measures in 2003; the first rebates were issued in 2005. “In the last three years, we’ve exhausted the fund within the first six to eight months of each year—the demand far outweighs the supply,” says Vince Porter, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Film & Television, which coordinates the incentives program. Initially capped at $1 million in available rebates, the fund was increased to $5 million in 2007, but Porter and the film office plan to lobby the Legislature for another increase early this year.