Western Washington has been hit with a flurry of bad news in terms of attracting outside film productions here. After a couple years without a big Hollywood film coming to town, "acting" Governor Christine Gregoire has decided to take the extreme step of shutting down the Washington State Film Office. This, of course, will make it even more difficult for films to come to our state by taking away the office that production companies go to in order to find out about filming here. We still hold out hope that the office can survive, though Gregoire's focus seems to be more on short-term fixes to the state budget.

This comes shortly after the city film office was changed to the Mayor's Film and Music Office--with an emphasis on music--though they'll still be able to handle all appropriate film-permitting issues. Then there's the issue of our local representative from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). For years, Joan Kalhorn has been here to explain the ins and outs of the SAG contracts to visiting and local filmmakers alike, not to mention promoting the benefits of using actors who are trained to work with a camera. Well, a friend of mine recently tried to call her, and she was forwarded to a rep in L.A. who said, "Joan has moved on to bigger and better things." Joan, is this true? Please drop me a line and give me a happy ending to what seems like another sad blow to the local film infrastructure.

At a time when states like New Mexico are being written up by Variety because of their new tax incentives, we seem to be moving backwards. I have heard talk of new tax incentives for Washington geared to lure big movies back here, but without a film office to field inquiries, it's hard to know how effective they'll be. So right now the best way to keep our most talented "below the line" grip and camera folk from that slow but steady emigration to California is through local productions, and a hope that they get enough industrial and commercial work to pay the bills.

It's not all bleak. It was just brought to my attention that two locally produced films are currently playing in Seattle's "corporate" theaters: Living Life and Voices in Wartime. Other films are having success on the festival circuit; Police Beat just played Sundance and has a good shot at getting into both Cannes and the Seattle International Film Festival. Meanwhile, filmmakers like Sue Corcoran (Gory, Gory Hallelujah) and Andy McAllister (Shag Carpet Sunset) have had success with video distribution. And the Film Company over at the Northwest Film Forum keeps churning out movies, with the Guy Maddin feature The Brand Upon the Brain! a likely candidate for this fall's Toronto International Film Festival.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, April 24th, Artist Trust will be having their 2nd Annual Reel Big Deal at the Northwest Film Forum, where they will present movies that they supported. At 2:00 p.m. there's a program of shorts; 3:30 has Wave Babes, set in the world of surfer girls; 5:00 has Buffalo Bill's Defunct (returning from a triumphant screening at the Smithsonian in the other Washington); and at 8:00 p.m. there's a screening of Web Crowell's ambitious, partially animated sci-fi epic, Borrowing Time.

It's easy to look back on the success of films that have been made, but I hold out hope for those that have yet to be made. If you know of a feature film that plans on shooting here, local or otherwise, drop me a line and I'll wrangle it a little free publicity. Thanks.