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Business and Economy

Oklahoma Holds Film Conference, Invests In Recruiting Projects

Oklahoma Film and Music Office Director Tava Sofsky, left, leads a discussion Thursday with film producer Jonathan King during the opening session of the inaugural Oklahoma Film and Music Conference.  (Photo by Steve Metzer)
(Photo by Steve Metzer)
Oklahoma Film and Music Office Director Tava Sofsky, left, leads a discussion Thursday with film producer Jonathan King during the opening session of the inaugural Oklahoma Film and Music Conference.

Last week, hundreds of entertainment industry professionals attended Oklahoma's first-ever Film and Music Conference. The event's goal was to help the state's talent further develop industry skills and knowledge, as well as to encourage companies to produce projects in Oklahoma. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses how the state incentivizes production companies to film in Oklahoma and what officials are saying about Oklahoma's potential for attracting movies.

Full transcript: 

Drew Hutchinson: You’re listening to the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I’m Drew Hutchinson, and joining me is Russell Ray, editor of the Journal Record. This week, I’d like to talk about how and why Oklahoma’s entertainment industry is growing. Journal Record reporter Steve Metzer recently wrote an article about the state’s first-ever Film and Music conference. This event was held in Oklahoma City last week, and its goal was to help the state’s industry professionals deepen their skills and knowledge, so that when projects come to, there will be plenty of talented Oklahomans ready to step up. Russell, could you tell us a little bit about the significance of the film industry to Oklahoma and a little bit about the conference?

Ray: Well in 2019 alone, more than 30 movies and TV shows have been filmed in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Film and Music Conference was the result of a joined effort by Tava Sofsky, who is director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, and other people like Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and Jennifer Loren, who played a key role in creating a new Cherokee Nation Film Office.At the conference, several  breakout sessions were held on topics ranging from screenwriting to scoring symphonies.

Hutchinson: As you said, 2019 has been a pretty good year for entertainment in Oklahoma -- and so has the last decade. We’ve seen some pretty notable projects roll in. And state government is partly to thank. The Business Intelligence Report has previously discussed a program called the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program. As the name suggests, the program gives rebates to production companies that develop their projects in Oklahoma. And Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed a bill that authorized $8 million per year for the next eight years for the program. That sounds like a lot of money, but it’s worth mentioning that neighboring states like New Mexico and Texas have annual incentives capped at $50 million and $25 million respectively. But what else should we know about what Oklahoma’s program is doing? 

Ray: Well the rebate program offers qualifying projects a cash return starting at 35 percent. One of the latest to come to Oklahoma is a movie starring Matt Damon that hasn’t yet been titled. And perhaps the biggest entertainment project to come to Oklahoma over the last decade was the 2013 movie August: Osage County, which starred Meryl Streep. Authenticity is important to movie makers. And that’s why August: Osage County was filmed here in the state. But cost still matters, so it also has to be cost effective as well.


Hutchinson: That’s right. August: Osage County was filmed in Pawhuska, and the movie brought in about $74 million worldwide. It was huge, but like you said, some say that Oklahoma’s 35 percent return rate was key in landing project of that size. And with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to increase the yearly cap on the program through 2027, the state could be headed in the right direction to maybe attract more of these large scale deals. 

Ray: And Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said the entertainment industry has never been stronger, and Oklahoma has gained tens of millions of dollars from film and TV projects. And with events like last week’s Film and Music Conference, the state’s entertainment executives say they’re laying the groundwork to establish a strong arts community -- and retain Oklahoma’s talent.

Hutchinson: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. Thank you for your time today, Russell.

Ray: My pleasure Drew, thank you.


Hutchinson: KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @KGOUnews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, KGOU.org. While you're there, you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Drew Hutchinson.

The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

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