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THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS: A PALETTE OF EMOTION & VARIETY BY BARBARA MARRETT Communications Manager and Film Liaison, San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

Sea lions at Cattle Point, San Juan Islands.

lpacas and orca whales. A weathered beach cabin. A float plane with no logo. Secret spots. Haunted hotels. A seaside village that resembles Ireland. “Please keep our reporter out of the sun.” What do these items have in common? All are requests from visiting location scouts, or film crews. All are requests fulfilled on location in the San Juan Islands. In my role as film liaison, I love the challenge of working collaboratively with creative, talented people to make their work easier. The reward: having a small part in showing the multi-faceted appeal of the islands through ever-changing lenses and, at the same time, discovering hidden histories, reclusive artists, and the beauty of the islands’ natural environment. The archipelago’s appeal for film work?


Moody landscapes: From the unbridled wildness of sweeping sky and shoreline vistas, to moist, green fern forests, to golden prairies— any mood or hue in the filmmaker’s vision can be found in the islands. Silvery metallic grays, deep marine or foggy blues, lingering sunset oranges and pinks—make for a palette of surprising emotion and variety. The recent award-winning documentary film, Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen, interweaves footage of the composer’s muse—life in the San Juan Islands— with scenes of performances of his transcendent choral music to mesmerizing effect. Architectural allure: Quaint artists’ enclave or frontier town with vernacular centuryold storefronts, lovely lighthouses, historic resorts, log cabins and ultra-modern waterfront homes make an eclectic menu for visiting filmmakers. Whatever floats your boat: The islands’ historic harbors—lined with wooden schooners, sleek fiberglass yachts, kayaks, canoes and all manner of watercraft—may add nautical ambience to any production.

Orcas Island waterfall. MARK GARDNER

More than a location; it’s a state of mind: We understand the pressure filmmakers are under to quickly capture shots, scenes and fleeting golden light. While filmmaking here to help pre-scout and navigate permitting needs. We know the cast of characters— can involve long hours and stress, by the time most crews have left the islands, they are from whom to call for an old farmhouse location versus a cliff-perched, Architectural Digest relaxed—having been able to focus and accomplish their creative goals easily within “island home, to who creates the best catering menu on location. time.” Close and convenient: The Islands, located about 80 miles northwest of SeatEasy to navigate: Orcas and San Juan, the largest islands in the archipelago, are only approx- tle, are easily accessible by car ferries and by air with frequent connections to SeaTac imately 57 square miles and can be circumnavigated by car or fast boat in a few hours. We are Airport or downtown Seattle. In the heart of the Salish Sea, the Islands are also close to Vancouver, B.C. Because the islands receive about half the rainfall of the Seattle area and twice the amount of sunshine, outdoor filming is less challenging than other locaAn orca off the coast. JIM MAYA tions in the Pacific Northwest. The town of Friday Harbor is the largest commercial area in the county with over 300 guest rooms. Recently designated a “Distinctive Destination” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Friday Harbor exudes waterfront charm with many well preserved territorial-era buildings. Despite its small stature, the town offers modern services and connectivity. Orcas Island and Lopez Island are also able to accommodate a variety of lodging and service needs in resorts or small village centers. We’re here to help filmmakers capture the ‘reel’ side of island life, and discover why the San Juan Islands have become an inspiring location for commercials, documentaries, travel spots and feature-length films. WF For more information go to, or contact:, 360-378-6822, ext 6.



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