Suzy Kellett

Suzy Kellett • Written May 2009

Suzy Kellett

Suzy Kellett is a Certified Co-Active Coach and the single mother of 28 year-old quadruplets. As a parent of multiples she and her children have worked with the neonatology and parent education departments of hospitals in Chicago and Seattle to help new families understand what parenting multiples involves.

Trying to maneuver through a university system with one of her children in crisis made her realize how uninformed she was about the college experience today. This led to her interest in educating other parents about "learning college." She wrote a Transitions Program for a high school north of Chicago and presented the first Parent Panel at the FYE (First Year Experience) Conference at the University of South Carolina. She is currently living in Seattle and collaborating with LifeBound in Denver to develop programs and material for parents of college bound high school students.

Suzy is also the director of the Washington State Film Office responsible for facilitating motion picture, television and commercial production that comes into the state to film. She is a Rotarian, member of Coachville, The International Coach Federation and serves on the leadership team of the Virtual Community, Region 2. She is a gardener, loves the outdoors, and unabashedly admires her children (Luke, Gwen, Abby and Tyler) and the lives they are creating for themselves. She and her family have been written up in People Magazine, Time Magazine, Redbook, Good Housekeeping and The Wall Street Journal.

I arrived at the Washington State Film Office in 1996 on the heels of the heyday of Washington State filmmaking. I took over from Christine Lewis who had been the Film Office director for 9 years. Under her guidance Northern Exposure, Sleepless in Seattle, Harry and the Hendersons, Twin Peaks, Free Willy and a sea of other productions had put Washington State on the location filming map. These productions had told Hollywood that Washington State was open for business and that it had built a professional Washington based production industry of vendors, actors and production professionals.

I also arrived as Vancouver was beginning to rear its head. Like a sleeping giant, the area was quietly building a production infrastructure to support the projects that would begin pouring over the border to take advantage of Vancouver’s aggressive production incentives. Dianne Neufeld was at the helm of the BC Film Commission as Vancouver took off. At one point things got so busy up there that Dianne would ask producers if they had their money and if their project was greenlit – and – if the answer was “No,” she would send them to the back of the line. I did not need to hear this.

As Canada’s influence grew, leaders in the local Seattle film industry including: Conrad Denke (Victory Studios), John Forsen (Magic Hour), Marty Oppenheimer (Oppenheimer Camera), Steve Lawson (Bad Animals), Donna James (Seattle Film Office) Joel Youngerman (IATSE), Rich Woltjer (Media Inc) and I would meet as the Washington Motion Picture Council and discuss how we could stem the tide of runaway production headed north over the border.

The l980’s was the launch of hundreds of film commissions around the world all competing for the same Hollywood motion picture and television production. In the late l990’s Vancouver took the lead in the evolving incentive wars. For years producers had based their filming decisions on places with the best locations. Suddenly producers were shopping cost versus locations and the game changed.

Much as Cathy Sander, Kristina Erickson and I scoured the landscape for perfect locations, the office could not compete when it came to incentive dollars. And since Vancouver looked just like Seattle we would watch helplessly as we became a “fly-over” to Vancouver.

Then in 2001, out of the blue, in came Stephen King’s ABC 6 hour miniseries “Rose Red.” Produced by Tom Brodek and staffed with local cast and crew, the show was in the state for almost a year and left $17 million in production spending. At the same time Bellingham’s Bob Goodwin brought in WB television’s remake of “The Fugitive.” During the year actors and crew worked steadily. But these two shows were the last Hollywood productions to come in under my tenure.

Starting in 2002 there was an explosion of countries and states offering film incentives. Louisiana was the first state to wade in with New Mexico not far behind. By 2008 there were 40 states offering film incentives and the incentives war was in full swing.

In 2005 the Washington State Legislature passed a Washington incentive whose impact could be best utilized by national commercials and $1 – $20 million independent productions. Ironically, the company who has made the most of the incentive is Rich Cowan’s North by Northwest in Spokane. A small production company that had been quietly doing commercials and lower budget films….with the incentive they could ratchet up to do three to four shows a year and they started churning them out. Home of the Brave by Millenium Films starring Samuel Jackson, Jessica Biel and Christina Ricci; The End Game, Mozart and the Whale and The Basket are just a few.

I feel my role was to keep the film office afloat and functioning through ten years of rough seas of change. Changes that were brought about by international incentive wars, the move internally to digital everything, attempts by both Governor Locke and Governor Gregoire to shut the office down during budget cutting exercises, and a precipitous (70%) drop in Washington State production levels which hit the local industry very hard. Had the office closed most of the pre productions services that companies rely on would have vanished.

Today, in mid 2008, the Washington State Film Office is under the new leadership of Mary Trimarco, who is exploring expanding the role of the film office to include new media development across multiple disciplines. Amy Dee is Executive Director of Washington Film Works, the new 501 C6 that manages the state’s film incentive, and dynamic James Keblas is heading up the Seattle Film and Music Office. This tireless triumvirate is focused on rebuilding Washington’s entertainment industry as a new hybrid of music, film and new media. No state is better positioned to take on this challenge.