By Douglas Scott
Looming large to the east of Aberdeen, two huge, twin cooling towers sit empty at the site of the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant. Never activated, nor finished, the 1,800 acre nuclear power plant, now a facility of the Port of Grays Harbor, is home to more than 30 businesses. Offering 600 acres of developed areas, as well as being surrounded by 1,200 acres of managed forestland, Satsop has become a thriving area, despite its underfunded and abandoned past.
Construction on the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant began in 1977, but halted in 1983 when the plant was $61 million dollars behind schedule. While many around Grays Harbor see the Satsop Cooling Towers as an eyesore and example of poor planning by the Washington Public Power Supply System, known locally as “Whoops”, the region is actually becoming increasingly popular for both independent and Hollywood movie makers.
In October of 2013, Satsop was the film location for a few scenes in Transformers: Age of Extinction, the latest installment of the Transformers movies. From Hollywood A-Lister Mark Wahlberg to the countless numbers of crew, extras and producers, the entire region around Satsop received a jolt of electricity from a long since abandoned power plant. As the trucks packed up the props and greens screens used in the movie, many wondered if this visit by the movie industry would be a one-time deal.
Fast-forward to July of 2014, and the hustle and bustle of busy life on a movie set returned to Satsop for an independent movie based on an upcoming video game. For nearly six weeks, 30 people worked 12-14 hour days in the buildings of Satsop and ended their days in two rented homes in Aberdeen. The crew ate in the city, bought supplies at our stores and frequented our establishments each and every day, generating extra revenue for a region still trying to find its niche.
Tacoma native Cassy Suratos, a make-up and special effects artist with movies and music videos on her resume, worked on the movie and visited the Satsop region for the first time while on this film. Working with a local make-up and special effects company, Cassy got to see the cities and towns of Grays Harbor in a whole new light.
“The location was cool. I had been through the area before, but had never spent any time in the county,” Cassy explained. “There is a lot of production value due to the structures that exist in Satsop. The crew really seemed to enjoy the experience of filming at Satsop, as well as frequenting coffee shops, restaurants and other establishments in Grays Harbor.”
While details about the film have been kept under wraps, we do know a few things. The game, called Soma is set to be released in 2015 for PS4 and PC. The movie, scheduled to be released on June 1, 2015, is titled Depth and takes place underground in a dystopian future.
If the growing trend of filming movies continues in Grays Harbor, especially at Satsop, the region could see an influx in jobs, cash and a sense of local pride that has long been missing in the region since they closed down the lumber mills. The film industry shouldn’t be viewed as a golden parachute for the region, but it could become a steady source of revenue for the Port of Grays Harbor and the neighboring communities.
Don’t believe Grays Harbor is on the map for filmmakers? Marvel Comics recently relocated Iron Man Tony Starks’s office to Aberdeen. Will this mean Robert Downey Jr will soon be filming in Grays Harbor? Only time will tell.
For now, we can look at Satsop as hopefully the beginning to a growing film industry not only in Washington State, but also for the residents of Grays Harbor County.