The Eras of Oregon Film

Oregon’s place in the film industry goes all the way back to the silent film era with such films as “The Fisherman’s Bride” (produced in Astoria). Oregon went on to host several silent film studios ahead of Southern California.

In 1926, Buster Keaton arrived in Cottage Grove to make his seminal film, “The General.” F.W. Murnau chose the environs of the small town of Athena in Eastern Oregon in 1929 to make “City Girl.”

From the 1940s through the next few decades, numerous westerns were shot in the central high desert and scenic areas of eastern Oregon – John Wayne in “Rooster Cogburn,” Jimmy Stewart in “Bend of the River” and Kirk Douglas in “The Way West” and the musical “Paint Your Wagon” with Clint Eastwood.

During the 1970s the mid-Willamette Valley and the Central Oregon Coast saw a resurgence of independent filmmakers making dramatic films like “Five Easy Pieces,” “Sometimes a Great Notion” and “Drive, He Said” and they created a whole new sub-genre of filmmaking. While in Portland auteurs like Gus Van Sant created films like “Mala Noche,” “Drugstore Cowboy” and “My Own Private Idaho.”

Studio projects have always been central to Oregon’s production landscape, especially in the 1980s, and films like “The Goonies,” “Animal House” and “Stand by Me” still bring many set-jetting tourists into the state. “Kindergarten Cop” and “Short Circuit” further established Astoria as a popular backdrop for a wide variety of films.

More recently, Oregon has played host to several filmmakers who have utilized the state as something of a residency – both literally and figuratively. This includes Gus Van Sant and films like “Drugstore Cowboy,” “My Own Private Idaho” and “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” and Kelly Reichardt and her collaboration with Portland-based writer Jonathan Raymond on films like “Showing Up,” “Meek’s Cut Off” and “First Cow,” as well as other vanguard filmmakers that call the state home – Todd Haynes and James Ivory.

Oregon’s animation industry found its roots circa 1975 with an Oscar win for the animated short film “Closed Mondays” by Bob Gardiner and Will Vinton. This was the beginning of a homegrown industry that created award-winning features like “Coraline,” “Kubo & The Two Strings” and “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.”

Portland has been home to several larger and popular television series such as “Grimm,” “The Librarians,” “Shrill” and the always self-effacing and eponymous “Portlandia.”

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