It’s no secret that we live in a gorgeous part of the world here in Washington. The diverse and scenic terrain of our region helps attract films, commercials, and television productions to film here.
Indie hit Captain Fantastic is a recent example of a production that benefited from – and draws attention to – our local landscapes.
The film last year took home SIFF’s Golden Space Needle Award for Best Film (pictured below) and received a 10-minute standing ovation at Cannes. The accolades have continued to roll in, with the film’s star Viggo Mortensen up for Best Actor at this weekend’s Academy Awards.
As we head into Oscars weekend, we turn to Captain Fantastic location scout and manager, Dave Drummond, to learn more about the production and what it means for our local film industry.
OFM: How did you get your start in film, and how has your career evolved?
DD: After working in the corporate world for several years, I left to pursue a career in the film & video business. I started out working in a variety of roles, but over time determined that location scouting & management were a good fit for my skills. After initially working on short films and small industrial videos, I was fortunate to mentor under a longtime location manager, who gave me the opportunity to work on Grey’s Anatomy. From there I began working on larger and more complex projects, including several different films and television shows that have shot in Washington.
OFM: How did Captain Fantastic come to be filmed in Washington?
DD: The story was written with the forests of the Pacific Northwest in mind, but we had to prove to the filmmakers that Washington was the best fit for the project. I met with the director and producers very early in the process, showing them various wilderness areas in the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. They were thrilled with the possibilities, but it was the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program that solidified their willingness to shoot here. Without the film incentive, they would have taken the project to Oregon or Northern California.
OFM: Captain Fantastic filmed in more than 25 different locations in Washington. How does that compare to other films you’ve worked on?
DD: Captain Fantastic was one of the most challenging projects I’ve worked on and included locations in several different parts of the state, including the Olympic Peninsula, the North Cascades, and eastern Washington. The nature of the story required many of our locations to feel wild and remote. One of our primary sets required the building of a new road in order to reach it. We also worked with the US Forest Service and the Department of Natural Resources to film in wilderness areas that had not been seen before on film.
OFM: What was your favorite part or a noteworthy memory of working on this production?
DD: One of many highlights was the filming of a climactic scene at Deception Pass State Park, overlooking the Rosario Strait. It was a spectacular location, but one that often experiences low-flying aircraft from the nearby Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island. The Navy was kind enough to provide us with an air traffic control officer, who spent the day with us on set. He coordinated directly with the control tower to minimize flights directly over our filming location.
OFM: What’s your take on the economic impact that Captain Fantastic and other films have on Seattle and Washington state?
DD: As the location manager on films like Captain Fantastic, I see the economic impact these projects have firsthand. Just one project like this injects hundreds of thousands of dollars into local economies. Much of that money goes to businesses and support services that are not specifically part of the film industry. In the location department alone we typically spend money on things like motels, restaurants, facility rentals, contractors, wilderness guides, off-duty police officers and security services. On Captain Fantastic we also made donations to a number of non-profit organizations that supported our efforts, including Camp Korey, the Washington Climbers Coalition and The Mountaineers.
OFM: What are your hopes for the local film community? For our region as a place where films are made?
DD: Washington State is poised to become a much larger player in the nationwide film industry, but only if the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program is renewed and increased. The industry talent and services we have developed locally, as well as the diversity of locations the state offers, can compete with anyone in the U.S. or Canada. But without a strong film incentive, producers in today’s competitive market will look elsewhere to make their films.
Dave Drummond is a film location scout and manager based out of Seattle. See what he’s been up to at drummondmedia.com.
On Sunday, February 26 (before the Oscars), Dave will be giving a presentation at the SIFF Film Center, featuring clips from over 25 different movies that have filmed in Seattle and other parts of Washington State. Dave will share some of his experiences working as a location scout and manager, revealing some of the unique and memorable locations featured in the history of Seattle films. For more information or to purchase tickets visit siff.net/education/film4all/made-in-seattle.