King County Executive Dow Constantine unveiled a new film production facility at the former Fisher Flour Mill on Harbor Island. The 117,000 square-foot sound stage is King County’s first major public investment to bring back a once-thriving film industry and hundreds of family wage, creative economy jobs as the region rebounds post-pandemic.
StoryIn the hulk of a massive waterfront warehouse, King County transformed an underused industrial space into two sound stages that will boost local film production and make the region competitive for future projects.
King County crews and contractors re-wired and built interior sound-proof walls in the former Fisher Flour Mill, purchased by King County 18 years ago to potentially ship solid waste. The work, which cost about $1.5 million, has already attracted a creative economy tenant.
A Hollywood episodic production is preparing to use the space as a sound stage, hiring hundreds of local crew members with family-wage jobs.
As part of his 2019 Creative Economy Initiative, Executive Constantine called for supporting the regional film industry by reducing film permit fees and timelines on King County property, and seeking new ways to promote regional productions.
Executive Constantine convened his Film Advisory Board to work with industry veterans to craft the best strategies. The Advisory board quickly identified the need for a regional sound stage to compete with Portland, Vancouver, B.C., and other cities and states.
Attention turned to the former Fisher Flour Mill on Harbor Island.
Film production is classified light industrial for zoning, and a production facility is best suited to be in a commercial or industrial area. Harbor Island’s location is ideal – close to the urban center, but relatively isolated.
The condition of the Fisher Flour Mill warehouse, the height of the ceilings, and the integrity of the structure all make it perfect for long-term film production use.
The production currently using the sound stage wishes to remain anonymous. The film industry typically seeks to downplay its presence in a community for a variety of reasons, including security and marketing.
The goal of King County Harbor Island Studios is to create the infrastructure needed to land a wide variety of projects – from feature films to commercials – which pay union wages to carpenters, electricians, prop masters, costume designers, and other trades.
“We transformed this vast warehouse into a creative space with stages, sets, and shops to put hundreds of people to work in good, union jobs making films right here in King County,” said Executive Constantine. “This is about making a smart public investment to help this creative industry grow and thrive here in King County. We don't want Vancouver or Portland - or Atlanta - to keep serving as Seattle’s stand-in. We’re ready to spotlight the amazing talent of our region."
King County was once a thriving hub for the film industry. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the region was highly competitive, with many feature films shot here, including “Sleepless In Seattle,” “Assassins,” “Fabulous Baker Boys,” “Say Anything,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “The Vanishing,” “My Own Private Idaho,” “Singles,” and many more. “Captain Fantastic” was shot in 2016.
The Seattle Times reported on April 1 that Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh will be filming his next project, a thriller called “KIMI,” here in May.
The last major episodic television production in Washington was Northern Exposure. This production set up shop in a warehouse in Redmond and produced six seasons starting in 1990. After generating more than $50 million in in-state revenue for each season, Northern Exposure wrapped in 1995, and this region has not seen an episodic production of that scale since.
Executive Constantine’s Film Advisory Board:
Peter Barnes, Operations Director, Formosa Interactive Seattle
Tony Becerra, Director, DGA
Vicky Berglund-Davenport, Location Manager/Producer, LMGI
Buzzy Cancilla, Commercial Producer
Cheo Hodari Coker, Producer/Showrunner/Writer
Cynthia Geary, Actor
Megan Griffiths, Director
Susan LaSalle, Director/Producer, DGA
Lacey Leavitt, Producer/Director
Eddie Rehfeldt, Producer/Location Manager/Studio Developer
Nasib ‘CB’ Shamah, Producer/Director
Dow Constantine, King County Executive
Kate Becker, King County Creative Economy & Recovery Director
Tony Wright, Director of King County Facilities Management
Shannon Braddock, King County Executive Deputy Chief of Staff
Kelli Carroll, Director of Special Projects, Office of the Executive
Mark Zandberg, King County Real Estate Film Liaison
Bryan Hague, King County Director of Real Estate
Ashton Allison, King County Economic Development/Economic Recovery Director
Aaron Bert, King County Deputy Director Facilities Management
Shireen Hayre, Facilities Dispatch & Customer Service
We transformed this vast warehouse into a creative space with stages, sets, and shops to put hundreds of people to work in good, union jobs making films right here in King County. This is about making a smart public investment to help this creative industry grow and thrive here in King County. We don't want Vancouver or Portland - or Atlanta - to keep serving as Seattle’s stand-in. We’re ready to spotlight the amazing talent of our region.
Dow Constantine, King County Executive
I am very excited that Harbor Island Studios is opening as it is a critical step in reinvigorating the film industry in King County and our region. Harbor Island Studios will create hundreds of environmentally-friendly union jobs, plus will kickstart our tourism and hospitality sectors as we recover economically from the impacts of COVID. I have championed film industry development for many years while in the State Senate and here at the Council and I look forward to continuing to support local actors, filmmakers, crew members and support services as our film sector continues to grow. I envision that the next productions set in Seattle, King County and the state are actually shot here, too, and Harbor Island Studios opens that curtain.
A large-scale soundstage is something that has been on the wishlist of those in our local film industry for decades. It will allow for year-round, union jobs, along with the cultural benefits and significant economic impact that an active production hub provides. I am incredibly grateful that Dow Constantine and King County have made it a priority.
As a writer/producer who hopes to be able to film shows in Seattle, as well as complete post production, this new film production stage is a huge step in the right direction. Seattle has so much potential as the next production hub outside of Los Angeles, and should be in the same conversation that Atlanta, GA, New Orleans, LA, and Alberquerque New Mexico are now. Hopefully one day it will be.
If King County succeeds in making Harbor Island Warehouse Into a production facility/sound stage, I will bring plenty of my movies and a series here.
For more information, contact:
Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966