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'Eden' film being shot in Ellensburg

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Posted: Thursday, August 18, 2011 9:15 am

ELLENSBURG - A Seattle film crew clapped and cheered at Bowers Field after capturing the landing of a Cessna Citation executive jet at the airport north of Ellensburg.

Ron Mitchell, owner-operator of Midstate Aviation, was just doing his job.

After dropping customers off at Sun Valley, Idaho, Mitchell brought the aircraft to Ellensburg for maintenance instead of returning it to Seattle.

It was an extra bit of unscripted action the film crew wasn't expecting, and they were momentarily jubilant when they caught it.

Later in the day they planned to use the parked jet as only a prop for an action scene.

"That's great," said Colin Plank, one of the film's two producers from Seattle.

Monday was the first day of shooting an independently financed film that dramatizes the true story of Chong Kim who survived human trafficking and sexual slavery in the United States.

The Ellensburg area was chosen for some of the filming sites because rural areas farther east in the county resemble, in the director's mind, New Mexico and Nevada where the events take place.

The movie features Beau Bridges, who was seen eating meals at Michael's on the Lake in Moses Lake last week.

"Human trafficking is high right now in the public's mind and is a global problem we're facing," Plank said. "We've seen several documentaries, but this film dramatizes a true story. This is different; it puts the audience into her life in a condensed, two-year period."

The film makes it clear that sex slavery also is happening in the United States, not only in overseas countries, he said. "This film will reach a much wider audience that a documentary may not reach."

Having near-Seattle rural settings east of Ellensburg that could pass for America's Southwest also was a big plus, he said.

Plank, who is part of Eden Productions, said going ahead with the production also was spurred on by a state program that offers a cash-rebate totalling 30-percent of a crew's expenses when they shoot a film entirely in Washington.

The program is administered by the nonprofit Washington Filmworks based in Seattle that helps support film and television productions to come to the state, along with their employment and spending that helps the economy.

Amy Lillard, Filmworks executive director, said the cash back program is the best tool the state has to attract films crews.

"'Eden' is another excellent example of how motion picture production can positively affect a local economy," Lillard said.

Productions partner with local businesses, she said. Crew are staying in local hotels and spending per diem money at local restaurants and shops.

In addition, the production company hires local caterers to feed cast and crew, she said, and money is spent on locations.

"The economic impact of local film production is both diverse and lucrative," Lillard added.

A state bill to renew the Motion Picture Competitiveness program through Washington Filmworks died during the last legislative session because it never made it to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.

"While we were confident that there were sufficient votes to pass the legislation on the floor of the House, it was blocked when Speaker Frank Chopp linked the production incentive program to a House bill related to housing and homelessness that needed to be passed in the Senate," Lillard said. "Since the Senate did not have sufficient votes to pass the housing bill, the bill to renew the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program was never brought to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote."

Filmworks has successfully raised its own funds to keep the program going into 2012, and will return to the Legislature next year to renew state funding and support.

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