On The Set
Oregon's film and television industry contemplates a post-Kesey breakout
October 1 2011By Lucy Burningham
In the colorful landscape of Oregon's film industry, a place connected with such names as Gus Van Sant and Carrie Brownstein, Martin Vavra struggles for recognition. Portland-based Vavra does film and video production through his company, Galaxy Sailor Productions, which came to life after the 40-year-old lost his middle school science teaching job in 2008.
From the outside, Vavra's new gig appears successful. His website is posted with accomplishments. He has directed, edited and shot short films, produced commercials and shot music videos. He directed Patrick’s Story, a short documentary film about one man struggling for same-sex couples’ rights that won Best Short Documentary at the 2011 Breckenridge Film Festival. In some circles, Vavra is best known for writing, directing and producing "The Last Stand," an online post-apocalyptic zombie series knotted with suspense and oozing with blood—a project he calls, “a whim that went further than I imagined.” Still creating ripples in the small pond of Oregon’s film industry has its perks, he admits. “I’m not part of an assembly line,” he says. “I learn at my own rate.”
Even though paying projects are hard fought in a state known more for logging and salmon, the fledgling film and TV industry that began on sets graced by Ken Kesey adaptations and Jack Nicholson performances is expected to jump to a $110 million enterprise by the end of this year with hundreds of locals on its payroll.