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Oklahoma: Homegrown Movies

Rebate incentives help Hollywood filmmakers determine the location where a movie will be shot.
Oklahoma: Homegrown Movies

Oklahoma: Homegrown Movies

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August: Osage County

Show Details

Show 1404: Oklahoma: Homegrown Movies
Air Date: January 26, 2014




Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well it’s been a big year for Oklahoma-shot films; several are now under release, but one in particular is garnering some national attention and Oscar nominations. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play by Tulsa native, Tracy Letts, “August: Osage County” is a darkly comic film that explores family ties during a crisis when three daughters return to the Oklahoma house they grew up in and their dysfunctional mother, played by Meryl Streep.

[Movie Excerpt: I have an Indian in my house. They’re called Native Americans, Mom. They aren’t any more native than me. In fact, they are].

Let’s call the dinosaurs native Americans while we’re at it [laughs].

Rob McClendon: An Oklahoma tale that was shot in late 2012 near the small town of Pawhuska in north central Oklahoma, a location that wasn’t by accident. Joining me now to talk more about the business of how Hollywood chooses where it shoots its movies is our Andy Barth.

Andy Barth: Well, Rob, the movie industry is just that. It’s an industry that’s very competitive, especially when it comes to shoot locations. Titanic director, James Cameron, announced he will shoot the sequels to his movie Avatar in New Zealand, not for the scenery, but because that country is offering him a 25 percent rebate on production costs once his company spends at least 413 million dollars in New Zealand making those films. And while that’s the largest rebate offer to date, such incentives have become commonplace across the U.S. in an effort to attract Hollywood dollars into town.

There’s something to be said for Oklahoma’s scenic backdrops that help paint a pretty picture for the big screen.

[NATS: Cut! Action!].

Andy: But it’s Oklahoma’s film incentives that give filmmakers a rebate that gets films to the state.

Jill Simpson: I track what’s going on in L.A. all of the time. And they’re desperate to get a bigger film incentive program. Because what we’ve seen happen, since about 2000, is that the films are going where the incentives are.

Andy: Jill Simpson is the director of the Oklahoma Film Commission and says film incentives are growing nationwide.

Jill Simpson: What started out as a handful of states offering the financial incentives are now 44, 46 states.

Andy: And Oklahoma one of them.

Julia Roberts: I think being in Oklahoma was a huge help in really understanding the history of the Plains and that mentality.

Andy: And for actor Julia Roberts the authenticity of shooting on location helps her get into her role. But for Hollywood studios, it’s often more about the bottom line.

Jill Simpson: Many of the studios have an edict. If the state doesn’t offer something, we’re not going there. And that was never truer than in the case of “August: Osage County,” which filmed here in 2012. And we didn’t have the best incentives, but we had something.

Andy: Attracting not only big names and big cameras, but big money as well. In 2012, movies and television produced in Oklahoma impacted our economy by more than $65 million. While the movie “August: Osage County” alone added more than $38 million to the economy.

Simpson: They wanted to make the house look as intrinsically Oklahoman as possible. So they shopped all of our antique stores, second-hand stores, the Frankoma Pottery, everything you see is local.

Andy: And to shoot on location, housing had to be purchased for everyone, from the talent, to the crew.

John Wells and Chris Cooper: We all lived in and around Bartlesville, which is about 40 minutes from the house. And shot around Pawhuska and Bartlesville. They found newly finished condominiums and everybody was living right next to each other and running into each other, you know, throughout the day when they weren’t working.

[NATS: Dear Lord we ask that you watch over this family].

Jill Simpson: This is an industry. It’s not just a hobby or a pastime. It’s an industry that diversifies our economy.


Andy: Now according to the Oklahoma film and music office, since 2005 we have seen more than 500 percent increase in impact dollars from films being shot in the state.

Rob: So what exactly are these movie crews, what are they spending their money on when they come into the state?

Andy: Well, Rob, the crew was in northeast Oklahoma for quite some time, and they spent money on things like permits, food, equipment rentals and then also production costs and design costs as well. And all of that was purchased in the Bartlesville-Pawhuska area. So it had a big economic impact on the community, plus it was really fun for locals to see their community filled with Hollywood stars.

Rob: Yeah, absolutely, certainly an interesting industry. Thank you so much, Andy.

Andy: You’re welcome.