Exciting show biz headlines keep popping up this summer.
Brendan Fraser joins the cast of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming fact-based epic “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
The Native American cast and crew of the new FX on Hulu series “Reservation Dogs” walks the “green carpet” at the premiere.
Saban Films picks up the North American and U.K. rights to release “Ida Red,” a gritty crime thriller starring Oscar winner Melissa Leo, Josh Hartnett and Frank Grillo that will make its world premiere Aug. 11 at Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival.
But these headlines aren’t talking about projects made in Hollywood: These projects all were made in or are now filming in Oklahoma, where the already burgeoning movie and television industry is about to get big boost.
“We are just getting started. Oklahoma is going to be for huge productions in the next five years,” said Rachel Cannon, co-founder and co-CEO with Matt Payne of Oklahoma City’s Prairie Surf Media.
To go along with the ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 608, which created the “Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021,” Gov. Kevin Stitt issued a proclamation Aug. 3 declaring it “Film Day” in the Sooner State.
But Oklahoma will really get into its next phase of cinematic action Aug. 10, when film and television projects can begin applying for production tax incentives through the new $30 million program designed to create a more robust entertainment industry for the state. The application portal will available on the Oklahoma Film + Music Office website, https://okfilmmusic.org.
“We look forward to ushering in a new era with the creation of the ‘Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021’ as well as welcoming new business to the state in the weeks ahead as we begin processing applications with the opening of this new incentive program,” said Oklahoma Film + Music Office Director Tava Maloy Sofsky in a statement.
What is changing?
Passed by the state legislature and signed by Stitt in May, the Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021 increases the state’s total film incentive cap and eligibility threshold to host major motion pictures and television series.
Through the former Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program, prequalified productions received a 35% rebate on qualified labor, goods and services, and those that spent at least $20,000 on Oklahoma music could get a 37% rebate.
Also known as the “Compete with Canada Film Act,” the previous rebate program will continue until its scheduled sunset date of July 1, 2027, to allow projects in that program to finish out their claims. But no new applications for that program will be accepted.
Instead, production teams will apply under the new Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021, which creates a new rebate program of $30 million per fiscal year for 10 years, a significant boost that proponents of Oklahoma’s film and television industry say will bring in more productions, which means more jobs and economic activity for the state.
“I am optimistic that the success of our thriving film and music industries will continue to flourish through this incentive program,” Stitt said in a statement. “These rebates will attract productions that lead to a diversified workforce, high quality jobs and increased revenue for ancillary services. Film and music provide opportunities for Oklahomans, and I look forward to the continued expansion of these valuable industries.”
How does the new incentive work?
Film productions will have to spend more than $50,000 to be considered for the new rebate.
Of the $30 million available under the new incentive, $7.5 million is set aside for projects with total expenditures of less than $7.5 million.
The remaining $22.5 million is designated for productions with total expenditures of $7.5 million or more.
Authored by Sen. Chuck Hall, R-Perry, and Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, the new act creates a tiered structure for the incentive. Film and TV productions can qualify for a base 20% rebate on qualified Oklahoma expenditures and then gain additional incentive amounts for meeting certain qualifications.
“I developed the automotive engineering tax credit, I’ve worked on the aerospace engineering tax credit … so I work a lot in this space,” Fetgatter said. “My goals were Oklahoma workforce driven. That’s real high priority to me as it pertains to any industry.”
Productions can add to their rebate percentage by filming in rural parts of the state, by creating TV series or multiple movies in Oklahoma and by lensing on Sooner State soundstages like the five at downtown OKC’s Prairie Surf Studios.
“The multi-picture deal and the TV series (uptick) really is about keeping people here because it creates more of a consistent ecosystem for film. So, if you’re incentivizing for TV, then you create the ecosystem that makes it easier for all films to be able to exist here — and that is big films, little films. It creates consistent jobs, and it gives us something that we haven’t previously had because we’ve been more of a location-driven industry,” said Cannon, who is also an actor and has appeared on TV series including “Mad Men,” “Fresh off the Boat” and “Two and a Half Men.”
“TV does not happen unless you have soundstages. There are so many opportunities that are created because you have stages here available now. Marvel movies are never filmed all on location; you’re never going to get the big, big, big projects if you don’t have stages.”
How will the incentive help Oklahoma?
Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development Scott Mueller said the opening of the new incentive program will continue the momentum of the state’s film and TV industry, resulting in more high-quality jobs for Oklahomans and further diversifying Oklahoma’s economy.
“I am thrilled to celebrate Oklahoma’s vibrant film and music industries and this historic milestone,” he said in a statement.
Once news of the state’s new film incentive was reported by industry trade publications, Cannon said it quickly spread worldwide.
“Once it hit Deadline, it hit over 100 different publications. It just went everywhere. We were getting notifications that it was (reported) in Rome and all over the world, talking about a new studio in Oklahoma and a new incentive. It’s a big deal. There is global interest,” she said.
“We’re talking to all the studios. Since this incentive passed in May, that’s all Matt and I have been doing is talking to studios and production companies and all of our contacts in the industry to just say, ‘Here’s the new incentive, here’s when it goes into effect, what are your productions, what are your needs? Let us help.’ … The response has been tremendous.”
Cannon praised the legislature for creating an incentive program that will be good for Oklahoma, not just one that grabbed the entertainment industry’s attention,
“The amount of business that we’re trying to bring to Oklahoma, we think it’s a wonderful start,” she said.
“We want it to be good for Oklahoma. … There are brilliant filmmakers that come out of Oklahoma every year — and a lot of them leave. So, we are trying to change that story so that they stay here.”
Over the last decade, the state’s film and television industry has generated positive economic impact in 125 cities statewide and created more than 20,000 local career opportunities, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office reports.
In the 2021 fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, the state film office projects that the 33 film and television productions that qualified for the previous rebate will have a direct impact of $161.7 million.
“Reservation Dogs,” “Ida Red” and the ongoing “Killers of the Flower Moon” are among dozens of projects to be produced recently in Oklahoma, along with the new Matt Damon movie “Stillwater,” the upcoming biopics “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story” and “Reagan” and the Academy Award-winning drama “Minari.”
“We have a lot to offer,” Cannon said. “We’re excited to share that with the rest of the world.”
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Oklahoma’s new film and TV production incentive begins taking applications