Spokane Journal of Business

What’s Happening With: Moviemaker Rich Cowan

With TV series, feature film recently wrapped, prospects look bright for productions here

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-—Mike McLean
Rich Cowan operates Northwest Package LLC in the 36,000-square-foot facility on the West Plains that houses two sound stages.

Rich Cowan sees a bright future for TV and movie production in Spokane, after recently wrapping up on-set work for a drama series and a feature-length science fiction project through The Northwest Package LLC, the scripted-entertainment spinoff of Spokane-based video production company North by Northwest Inc.

When the Journal last reported on North by Northwest in the spring of 2019, after a five year-run of the horror television series Z Nation for the Syfy network, company leaders were excited about new production plans in the works for 2020.

Then COVID brought everything to a halt, says Cowan.

Production companies started to reopen in the fall of 2021. That’s about the time Northwest Package was incorporated, with its leadership team including director Jared Briley and Cowan’s accountant son Casey.

Even then, productions had tight security, and crew members had to be vaccinated and masked.

The last of the COVID protocols were just lifted earlier this month.

“It was tough that first 1 1/2 years,” Cowan says.

Northwest Package is based at 11424 W. 21st, in Airway Heights, where it is the main tenant in a 36,000-square-foot building named Studio A that houses two sound stages.

“We just needed more space to build sets and a place for a 50- to 60-person crew to park,” he says. “We’re quite happy out here.”

Northwest Package is in post-production for the recently wrapped feature-length film “Tim Travers & the Time Traveler’s Paradox” and the second season of the Pure Flix streaming service series “Going Home.”

“Tim Travers & the Time Traveler’s Paradox” is a science-fiction comedy with principal characters played by Joel McHale and Danny Trejo.

“Going Home” is a one-hour drama series starring Cynthia Geary who plays the leading role of a nurse in a team that assists hospice patients.

Post-production, which includes audio and visual editing and adding effects, for “Going Home” and “Tim Travers & the Time Traveler’s Paradox” is expected to be completed in the fall. Cowan says both projects made it into post-production before the current writers’ strike and aren’t affected by it.

He notes, however, that contracts with the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America expire at the end of June, although he adds that negotiations are underway or scheduled for both unions.

Assuming negotiations go smoothly, Northwest Package has two or three other projects lined up, and business will be close to pre-pandemic levels, Cowan says.

“We’re trying to be optimistic that negotiations will be resolved. We’re in a little bit of a holding pattern,” he says of future projects.

Cowan declines to disclose the company’s revenue or the production budgets—or even whether individual project budgets are trending higher than when the Journal previously reported that five movie budgets in one year ranged from $2 million to $8 million.

“The selling point is to try to do things less expensively,” he says.

Cowan says the company is called Northwest Package, because it supplies and arranges everything needed to make a movie or TV series.

Northwest Package provides all production services from initial location scouting to final product delivery. “We can do it all here,” he says. “It makes it easy and cost effective.”

In most other cities, it would take several vendors to supply all the services and equipment that Northwest Package can supply, he contends.

It takes a core group of 50 people to handle the work needed to produce a movie or television series, Cowan says. Only a few such crew members are permanent employees of Northwest Package, as most are freelance workers attached to individual projects.

“It’s similar to a construction site,” he says of a TV or movie set. “You need a lot of people doing specific tasks well.”

Cowan, who has been involved in the making of more than 40 major films, says he’s been building up a client base since making his first movie in 1994.

He says he’s confident Northwest Package has a strong future in Spokane.

Meantime, North by Northwest, which he co-founded in 1990, is doing well, Cowan says, although he’s not involved in its daily operations.

North By Northwest, now often stylized as NXNW, handles commercial, corporate, and instructional video productions, and is based at 2614 N. Monroe. 

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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