Photo courtesy of the Digital Cinema Program
Ashland does it again: MovieMaker magazine added Southern Oregon University’s hometown to its 2021 list of Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker. This designation marks the eighth consecutive year that the national magazine has singled out Ashland for recognition.
The MovieMaker honor also highlights the strong partnerships among SOU’s Digital Cinema program, the Southern Oregon Digital Media Center, the Ashland Independent Film Festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film & Television, and industry trade partners Film Southern Oregon and the Oregon Media Production Association.
What makes Ashland so attractive as a movie-making location?
“The number one thing I always say makes Ashland special is that you can point your camera anywhere and get a great shot,” said Gary Kout, an Ashland-based film & video producer and co-founder of Film Southern Oregon. “The town, the surroundings, the whole area is just so beautiful and photogenic.”
Kout also praised the regional acting community, anchored by OSF and other regional and local theatre groups that provide on-camera talent for local productions.
“No other place this size and in the middle of nowhere can provide that,” Kout said. Meanwhile, many business owners, homeowners and other community members are “film-friendly” as Kout puts it, and excited to see their properties or businesses on the big screen.
The Ashland Independent Film Festival also fosters rich connections between local filmmakers and the global film commmunity, which in turn exposes students and the community to the best in cinema, according to AIFF Artistic Director Richard Herskowitz.
“What impresses me is that there are many accomplished film artists and producers who choose to reside in the area, including director Peter Bratt, cinematographer Sean Porter, director Gary Lundgren, producer Annie Lundgren, producer Gary Kout, and director Alex Cox, as well as talented emerging artists,” said Herskowitz. “There is a great deal of camaraderie and mutual support.”
SOU Associate Professor Andrew Gay hopes that the MovieMaker designation will help more people in the region see the benefits of promoting Southern Oregon as a production destination.
“I think people get stuck on ‘oh it’s Southern Oregon’, so there’s wine, weed and doctors and that’s our industry,” Gay said. “But I keep hoping that more imaginative people will begin investing in Ashland’s film industry. We have a lot of resources that could contribute to a really great media sector.”
For Gay, the goal isn’t to stay on MovieMaker’s list every year, but to support the film industry here through teaching and outreach. That’s where SOU’s new degree program in Digital Cinema can help students learn skills and develop their creativity to help them work with professionals in the area and succeed in the film industry.