One example, says local producer Kim Schwarzkopf, is Station 19a Grey’s Anatomy spin-off set in Seattle but filmed (mostly) in Los Angeles. Schwarzkopf helped film some of the show’s local sets. Maybe with Harbor Island, a Seattle series like this could be filmed here in its entirety, she says. “You could shoot [both] the exterior stuff and the interior stuff here…. There is no need to split production into multiple cities,” she says. “Makes it much easier.”
Television productions also tend to require a lot of space to build and hold sets that anchor a series (like Monica and Rachel’s living room in Friends, to say). At 117,000 square feet, Harbor Island Studios could be a good fit for this type of work, Griffiths says. “It has all the qualities I’ve seen in other converted stage spaces in cities like Austin and New Orleans,” she adds. “He has huge potential.”
That was also the message Kate Becker, director of creative economy and recovery for the King County Executive Office, was promoting during an industry tour in February at Harbor Island Studios. The building, part of a former flour mill complex, sits on Seattle Harbor Island, a man-made island in the Duwamish River nestled between Seattle’s Industrial District, West Seattle and Elliott Bay.
On a sunny winter day, a group of local producers, filmmakers, videographers and other industry insiders had gathered near the concrete loading dock of an inconspicuous building dwarfed by the concrete silos giants of the old flour mill. A gigantic container ship plodded along the Duwamish. In the distance, the West Seattle and Spokane Street bridges cut across the view of Mount Rainier like concrete power lines. White shipyard cranes and multicolored Rubik’s cubes of stacked shipping containers stood out against the blue sky.
The Fisher Flour Mill grain elevator and milling complex was among the first structures to be built here after Harbor Island was established in the early 1900s. A warehouse was added in the 1980s. King purchased the complex nearly two decades ago, the property has remained largely vacant and has become a graffiti- and steampunk-covered “ghost town” – until 2020.
That’s when King County’s Kate Becker learned that Three busy Debras, a Warner Bros/Adult Swim television series produced by Amy Poehler, needed a place to shoot indoors. “How can we say no to this?” Becker said to the group gathered at Harbor Island. King County had been monitoring the location for some time, but the pandemic had highlighted the need to employ local crews. “So we rushed to get this place ready for big teams here,” she said.