Hollywood Comes To Oklahoma
Movie making can be a cut-throat business. But more filmmakers are finding less frayed nerves and more smiles in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma filmmakers and state officials are back from Utah after making their best pitches at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
Sundance is the nation's largest independent film festival.
"We changed the story to fit Oklahoma," says "To the Stars" Director Martha Stephens, who premiered the film at Sundance.
Stephens took advantage of Oklahoma's film rebate and shot part of her movie in Enid.
"All states have small towns, but it seems like Oklahoma's small towns are more thriving," adds Stephens about her experience.
The Oklahoma Film and Music Commission is at Sundance looking to lure in a big catch. The bait is the state's $4 million annual film incentive, which is relatively small compared to other states.
"It's very attractive to filmmakers, its 35% to 37% cash rebate on whatever they are spending in state," says The Ok. Film and Music Commission Executive Director Tava Maloy Sofsky.
In the last four years, nearly $100 million has been spent on projects in Oklahoma. Sofsky supports current legislation to restore 20% of the annual rebate taken away during years of budget shortfalls and increase the cap to attract major motion pictures and TV series.
"It's called the movie business for a reason," says Sofsky. "It's growing small businesses."
The rebate's biggest success story is the 2018 film "I Can Only Imagine." Of the films $7 million budget, $4 million was spent in Oklahoma. The film, about the best-selling Christian song of all time, grossed $85 million at the box office.
Since "To the Stars," the film's producer has shot another movie in Oklahoma that will be released later this year. TV shows like the Pioneer Woman and Sweet Home: Oklahoma have utilized the state's rebate program.
Sofsky says HBO and Amazon are currently looking at Oklahoma for a TV series.
"People want to hear about hospitality and customer service because you don't get that everywhere," says Sofsky about Oklahoma's movie making draw.