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TNT's hit TV series spreads big bucks around town
by:  courtesy of Turner Broadcasting System, “Leverage,” filmed in Portland, stars Timothy Hutton (center) in a drama about a team of misfits battling corrupt corporate types.

When the television series 'Leverage' starts filming again in Portland next month, Executive Producer Dean Devlin is going to pay per diem and petty cash with a whole lot of $2 bills.

It's part of Devlin's experiment to show what kind of impact the show has on the local economy.

'I want people to understand how much money flows around in production,' says Devlin, whose Electric Entertainment produces the TNT show. 'When you start seeing $2 show up, you'll know where they came from.'

Devlin, and actors such as star Timothy Hutton, love Portland. In fact, Devlin, who has produced several made-for-TV and big-screen movies, would like to bring more projects to Portland. But, the state, which has been aggressive in trying to land entertainment business, only earmarks a few million each budget to attract it. If the state can increase its incentive program, based on percentage cost of production, Devlin says more of Hollywood could be seen in the Rose City.

'I really believe Portland is poised to take over from Vancouver (British Columbia) as the film spot in the Northwest,' he says. 'The problem is they have to lift those caps up. You'd see the industry growing.'

Vince Porter, executive director of Oregon's Film and Video Office, says that 'Leverage' gets about $3 million of state incentive money, but that another $5 million could be available in the current budget for the right project.

'After 'Leverage' and another movie, we've tapped the entire incentive program,' Devlin says. 'We're trying to say to the Legislature, 'It's exciting to bring $38 million into the state (in economic impact), and if we're able to make $100 million to $200 million movies, I'd like them to bring them there.'

'Some states are really aggressive - Michigan, Louisiana. In Louisiana, there is no cap, and we just shot our 19th production there.'

'Leverage' films its scenes from March to August; the sound stage is in Clackamas and crews routinely use different locales around Portland, which is easily portrayed as the Boston area, where 'Leverage' is set.

The second season ended on TV this week. 'Leverage' stars Timothy Hutton, an Academy Award-winning actor who plays 'Nate Ford,' a reformed con man whose awakening has been battling alcohol and the corporate big wigs who he blamed for his child's death. He leads a team of con artists, grifters, hackers and thieves as they work to derail corrupt corporate types.

Photobucket

Courtesy of Turner Broadcasting System • 'Leverage' executive producer Dean Devlin looks forward to the third season, and the show's local convention, "CON-Con," in March.

Local talent benefits

The fan following has been strong and the first 'Leverage' convention, the 'CON-Con,' has been scheduled for March 19 to 21 at Portland's Governor Hotel (tickets $40 to $300, go to www.conthecon.com for info).

'There has fandom that has sprung up around 'Leverage,' and we've been shocked by it,' Devlin says. 'We were thinking there'd be a small turnout, but as soon as we put it on the Web, there was so much traffic it crashed the server.'

Porter says that 'Leverage' employed 397 full- and part-time people from around the state for the second season, which resulted in 140,000 hours of work. And, Electric Entertainment used 280 Oregon vendors.

'What's not to like about Portland?' says Devlin, whose resume includes producing the blockbuster 'Independence Day.'