Vancouver, B.C., gets a lot more action because of its similar appearance and lower production costs. However, the “Grey’s Anatomy” cast reportedly loved being here this summer, and its fire station-based spinoff may film part of its pilot locally. Stay tuned.
Seattle is a hot setting for TV shows this fall with no fewer than three prime-time series, in addition to ABC mainstay “Grey’s Anatomy,” set locally.
But other than “Grey’s,” which returned for the first time in years to film some scenes in Seattle for the show’s upcoming 14th season, and its potential spinoff, none of the shows is expected to film significant scenes locally.
ABC’s long-running “Once Upon a Time” (8 p.m. Oct. 6) reboots its story this season, moving the action from Storybrooke, Maine, to Seattle, but production remains in Vancouver, B.C., the most frequent production center to double as the Emerald City.
“It looks the closest to Vancouver and truthfully New York just felt done to us,” said Edward Kitsis, “Once Upon a Time” executive producer alongside Adam Horowitz.
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“Once” saw some of its characters — Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) — depart at the end of the sixth season in May. The new season begins with a grown-up Henry Mills (Andrew J. West) embarking on a new adventure in a new location.
“After six years in a small town that was kind of cut off from the world, we wanted to do a different approach, be in a big city where it’s not just fairy-tale characters but real-world people as well,” Horowitz said.
Kitsis said “Once” will rely mostly on Seattle stock footage, including of the Fremont Troll.
The sophomore run of Fox’s “The Exorcist” (9 p.m. Sept. 29) packs up its exorcising priests and moves them from Chicago, where Season 1 was filmed, to an island off the Washington coast, which will be played by Vancouver.
“It doubles pretty well for Seattle and we’re not spending much time in Seattle proper,” said “Exorcist” executive producer Jeremy Slater. “The vast majority of the season is set on this island off the coast of Seattle in this creepy old house in the middle of the forest.”
The show’s two lead exorcist priests will come to the aid of a widower (John Cho) who runs a foster home for troubled youth. One of the kids gets targeted by a demonic entity.
“When we do need to go into the city, areas of Vancouver double for [Seattle] fairly nicely, but our goal is to keep the action centered on this family as much as possible,” Slater said. (The CW’s “iZombie,” also set in Seattle and filmed in Vancouver, is set to return at midseason.)
AT&T’s Audience Network will introduce Seattle-set comedy “Loudermilk” (10:30 p.m. Oct. 17) about Sam Loudermilk (Ron Livingston, “Band of Brothers”), a recovering alcoholic and former music critic for a Rolling Stone-type publication.
“We wanted to put it in a place a music critic would possibly live,” said executive producer Peter Farrelly (“There’s Something About Mary”). “And we’re shooting in Vancouver, so it’s similar.”
Farrelly said “Loudermilk” was slated for a Vancouver shoot before the Seattle setting was chosen.
“It was a DirecTV/AT&T decision,” he said. “The dollar was, like, 72 cents up there. I’ve run into that all time. We almost always go to Atlanta now for the same reason, for tax incentives. Believe it or not, I’ve never shot a movie in L.A.”
Though “Loudermilk’s” cast will work north of the border, Farrelly said a second filming unit visited Seattle to take some simple establishing shots. He hired Jason Mann, winner of the most recent season of “Project Greenlight,” to direct those.
“They cut him to look like a real [jerk on ‘Project Greenlight’] but he’s an awesome guy and he’s an amazing filmmaker,” said Farrelly, who also appeared on that season of “Greenlight.” “I voted for someone else but I liked him and admired him and was impressed with his work.”
Farrelly said Mann (“The Leisure Class”) was in Seattle for a week of filming.
“We gave him a list of stuff. It doesn’t have to be just the Space Needle,” Farrelly said. “We wanted what was not traditionally shown. I didn’t want the fish market or the Space Needle, although you will see that, but we wanted just a normal street but it’s in Seattle. We told him to find shots that are not typical of Seattle. And we have a lot of nice shots as the season goes on.”
And then there’s ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff, set at a Seattle fire station and expected to air sometime during the 2017-18 TV season. In August, ABC Studios president Patrick Moran said filming some of the pilot in Seattle is a possibility but production will be based in Los Angeles.
“I’d like to go to Seattle to shoot some of it,” Moran said. “I don’t know how much or how often. It’s still early days.”
At that time, Moran said the spinoff would begin as a planted episode of “Grey’s” but now that has changed and there won’t be an episode of “Grey’s” that serves as a backdoor pilot.
Kate Becker, director of the city of Seattle’s Office of Film + Music, would not comment on the likelihood of the “Grey’s” spinoff filming locally except to say she hopes it will.
“That is what we really aspire to: Keeping our film-production crew here and employed,” she said. “We love the long-term, stable work. Also, we have a lot of commercial work, high-wage work that keeps those production crews here.”
Becker said Seattle goes the extra mile to make on-location filming easy for productions that come to town, including $25 film-permit fees (film permits jumped to $660 in Los Angeles in 2016). But the challenge is to lure in production when other states have more robust film tax-credit programs.
Earlier this year, Washington legislators reauthorized a state film-tax-incentive program for 10 years, but it’s capped at $3.5 million annually. Other states have higher limits. Oregon has a $14 million cap, Pennsylvania has a $65 million cap, Louisiana has a $180 million per year cap and Georgia’s program has no cap.
“We are really at the bottom of the list with the amount of incentive dollars we have statewide,” Becker acknowledged.
Showtime’s recently concluded “Twin Peaks: The Return” filmed some scenes outside Seattle in 2015, but only Syfy’s “Z Nation” films all its episodes in Washington, generating $8.2 million in direct spending to local businesses over three seasons of production in Spokane, according to Washington Filmworks.
Becker said ABC’s “Grey’s” (8 p.m. Sept. 28) shot for two days in Seattle in August, including scenes filmed at Gas Works Park, Kerry Park, Bell Harbor and the Fremont Bridge.
“I’ll go back to Seattle any day of the week,” said actor Jason George, who was among the “Grey’s” cast members who traveled to film scenes locally. “It was a great way to start off the season. It was a little bit like camp: You’re working but it doesn’t feel like working because you’re out of your normal situation.”
George, who will transfer to the “Grey’s” spinoff, said fans showed up to watch the production and he got to throw out the first pitch at a Mariners game with co-stars Jesse Williams, Kevin McKidd and Justin Chambers.
“I can’t wait to go back,” George said. “I think everybody got addicted, so I think we’ll be back in the winter after the new year.”
Prior to this year, “Grey’s” last visit to shoot on public property was in January 2007 for three days of filming in Seattle and a shorter period in the environs around Seattle.
Moran attributed the “Grey’s” return to Seattle to executive producer Krista Vernoff, who worked on the series from 2005-11 and recently returned as co-showrunner, almost two years after the death of the show’s Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey).
“Seattle has always been an important character in ‘Greys Anatomy,’” Vernoff said. “In rejoining the show this year, one of my goals was to bring back the light, visually and in the storytelling. Since Derek’s death, the show had become — necessarily — darker. I wanted to signal a tonal shift out of grieving and back into joy. Getting outside in Seattle — the light, the nature, the beauty of the city — was a great visual way to signal that shift.”