Filed in Movies

On the ‘Crowley’ set: Boredom, action and a bit of politics

If you’ve been in downtown Portland during the last couple of months, you’ve probably seen the blocks of parking lots filled with trucks from two different productions that have been filming here: the TNT drama “Leverage,” which stars Timothy Hutton, and an as-yet-unnamed motion picture, working under the name “Untitled Crowley Project,” starring Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell.
On Monday, members of the media were invited to spend a day on the “Crowley Project” set while they filmed scenes inside the Portland VA Medical Center and Oregon Health Sciences University.

Visiting a film set sounds thrilling, but the reality is long stretches of tedium while equipment is set up and camera angles are nailed down, interrupted by quick bursts of excitement when someone shouts “action” and the filming actually begins. The scenes on Monday involved Fraser and Russell, who play parents of children with a rare genetic disorder, racing down hospital corridors accompanying a bed holding one of their daughters.

At the end of the day, director Tom Vaughan and his crew had shot what likely would be no more than a couple of minutes of the completed feature. And that explains why movies are painstaking — and expensive — to create. It takes months to nail down all the footage, and budgets can run into the tens of millions.

That’s one of the reasons that film companies find the tax credits from the Oregon Production Investment Fund so attractive. During the 2007-08 and 2008-09 fiscal years, film companies saved $10 million filming movies like “Twilight,” “Untraceable” and “Management” here, and the producers of the “Crowley” film said the tax credits were the main reason the film was being shot here instead of Boston.

There’s a payoff in those tax breaks: during those same two years, film companies spent more than $92 million. And that number could go up if a pending bill in the Oregon Senate passes, making even more tax credits available.

To highlight this, Gov. Ted Kulongoski dropped by the “Crowley” set late in the day to chat up the film’s director and stars, as well as John and Aileen Crowley, whose experiences inspired the story. The Governor’s entourage cramped the hallways, pushing an already warm set into “Dante’s Inferno” territory.

“I’m a little, uh, sweaty,” Fraser was overheard saying while the politicos pressed the flesh.

All the hubbub created one of the day’s funnier moments, bringing Fraser and the real-life Crowley side-by-side. Crowley stands just a bit over 5-feet in height, while Fraser stands a strapping 6-feet-3-inches.

“We’re kind of separated at birth,” Crowley said to the governor, while slapping Fraser on the back.

The “Crowley” film, whatever it ends up being called, is scheduled for release in April, 2010.