Faces of Film: John Lavin

Welcome to the Keep Film in WA Series – The Faces of Film!

This series aims to shine a spotlight on the people behind the films of Washington State, using portraits of them at work to remind the public and legislators the lives (and livelihoods) that are at stake if the incentive program disappears on June 30. Along with each portrait, the cast or crew member will share in their own words the important role that the incentive has had in creating their career and why it is important to have a vibrant film industry in Washington State. We hope that these photographs serve as inspiration, and that you share your story with us (info@keepfilminwa.com) and social media (#keepfilminwa)—and most importantly with the elected officials that represent you in Olympia!

Name: John Lavin

City: Seattle

Legislative District: 46

Job title: Production designer working in film, commercials, music videos and photography.

Years in the industry: I’ve been doing this kind of work for 20 years, but I first worked on a feature film about 8 years ago.

Describe your work

I am in charge of the sets and props, and creating the look and feel of a shoot. In simplest terms, I’m in charge of all the stuff you see on screen that isn’t the actor. In a large production, I’m the one that puts together and heads the crews for Art Department and Props. That can include builders, buyers, painters, greens people, prop makers, graphic artists, and more. In some projects, it’s ten or twelve people. In others, it’s just me. I design and build sets, make props, paint, and move a lot of furniture.

What do you enjoy most about the work that you do? About being on set?

I am lucky to get the chance to be creative for a living. I work in a collaborative business with a lot of interesting, talented people. I like working on a set because it brings such a range of people together with varied and complimentary expertise. A film set is a team, made up of people with really diverse expertise, who bring their skills to bear toward a shared goal. Besides the director and the actors, there are camera people, electricians, technicians, artists, hair and makeup people, wardrobe people, accountants, truck drivers, lighting experts, sound recording experts… the list goes on and on. It’s impressive and inspiring to be around skilled and creative working people.

How has the incentive program played a part in your career growth?

I have been the production designer for many film and commercial projects that were supported by the film incentive over the years, including Laggies, Lucky Them, Touchy Feely, 4 Minute Mile and others. By bringing projects to the area, the incentive program helps to keep crew members at work here in the Northwest. These are people who would otherwise leave the state to follow the work. 

What would you like legislators to know about the incentive renewal? 

When a project is supported by the incentive, the money goes to support middle class, often union, workers from Washington State. A good portion of any Art Department budget always goes to buying materials and supplies, so that’s money that ends up directly in the local economy. When we recently shot a film in Granite Falls, we were at the local hardware store nearly every day. Crews need to be fed and housed; props are purchased; trucks are rented. The knock-on effect of money spent on film production is truly felt by the community, and production happens all over the state. Support for the film incentive is direct support for middle class jobs and communities in Washington.