Portland’s independent filmmaking began during the very first days of cinema, when local cameramen, seeing an unfilled market niche, began shooting silent newsreel footage to sell to local theaters. Some entrepreneurs went on to larger projects. Lewis Moomaw made a number of feature length silent films here, some with imported Hollywood talent. However the introduction of sound, with its much higher production costs, severely curtailed Portland independent filmmaking.
Until Penny Allen.
Working with a micro budget, Penny Allen used CETA (Concentrated Employment Training Assistance, a federal job program) funding to employ first time cinematographer Eric Edwards and first time sound man Gus Van Sant on her first feature, Property. Allen was not Portland’s first independent filmmaker, but she is the first to have launched Hollywood careers for two of her crew.
Allen continued her collaboration with Eric Edwards on Paydirt.
Here’s a description from the NW Film Center’s website:
Portland filmmaker Penny Allen’s second feature, like PROPERTY, her first, is a time capsule of the Northwest. Set in the lush hills of Newberg, PAYDIRT tells the story of Nancy (Lola Desmond), the great-granddaughter of an Oregon pioneer, who reclaims the family land to start a vineyard and winery. The dirty little secret is that her back-to-the-land fantasy is only possible if she grows a crop that actually generates cash: marijuana. When local thugs show up to steal the sinsemilla, Nancy and her friends turn to their fellow vintners for help (Eyrie winemaker David Lett has a cameo), but in the end only old-fashioned self-reliance will protect the fruits of their labor. Allen’s modern urban-vs.-rural “Western,” strikingly shot by cinematographer Eric Edwards, is “a down-to-earth morality tale…full of looming ironies, crisp wit and poignant humor.”United States Film Festival (the precursor to Sundance). (90 min)