OKC VeloCity | Film Industry’s broad growth promises bright future for state

Film Industry’s broad growth promises bright future for state

By Chamber Staff / Economy / November 17, 2020

Eager to get the cameras rolling again, Oklahoma film industry leaders are returning to work and poised to broaden the industry’s reach as one of Oklahoma’s economic leaders, according to the discussion at the recently completed Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s October Forum.

Just in the last 10 months, Oklahoma has seen exciting signs of momentum including the creation of Green Pasture Film Studios, the Oklahoma Film Academy and the announcement of Prairie Surf Media locating the largest soundstage in the Midwest in the Cox Convention Center.

Panelists included Amy Janes, co-founder of Green Pastures Studio; Jesse Liddell, executive vice president and general counsel for Prairie Surf Media and Studios; Tava Maloy Sofsky, Director of the Oklahoma Film + Music Office; and Lance McDaniel, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker. All spoke about workforce availability, community support and infrastructure development that their industry enjoys.

The discussion began about the incentive rebate for the Oklahoma Film and Music Commission as the state now rebates up to 37% cashback for films shot here and encourages production crews to keep the talent and music local.

Sofsky, who oversees the rebate program, spoke about the jobs and revenue generated by the rebate program.

“Since Gov. Stitt designated film and media production as an essential business in May, Oklahoma has welcomed 20 film projects, with 11 more productions scheduled to launch between now and March 2021,” Sofsky said. “Film industry spending for the most recent fiscal year was $17 million in direct dollars.”

Janes led the discussion about workforce readiness for the industry.

“The film industry uses a wildly diverse workforce, from make-up artists and chefs to electricians and construction workers,” Janes said. “Oklahoma Film Television Academy helps bridge the gap between career experience and the jobs that can best use those skills on a movie set. OFTA also offers on-set training on professional film productions, giving students the hands-on experience they need to get directly to work. We are going to nurture thousands of jobs that are already in the cue. We are playing our part to make sure those positions are filled.”

Liddell, who recently joined co-CEO’s Rachel Cannon and Matt Payne as an executive and general counsel for Prairie Surf Media and Studios, spoke about the impact of bringing bigger productions to Oklahoma. The new Prairie Surf Studios being built inside the former Cox Convention center will open Oklahoma up to larger movies, longer-running television shows, and higher-paying careers in entertainment than are currently available here.

“The opportunity with the new convention center here being built and the Cox Center becoming available was perfect timing,” Liddell said. “We were already trying look for places to house our idea of large soundstages and when Oklahoma City became available we jumped on it. Everybody thinks of New Mexico when they watch Breaking Bad. Our goal is to bring in a new film or television series where everyone recognizes and identifies it with Oklahoma City.”

 McDaniel returned to Oklahoma in 2005 after working in California. His leadership in the deadCenter film festival has led to many positives and the development of filmmakers from this state.

 “The growth of film festivals has been very important for the growth of local filmmakers. We are now getting distribution on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon on the national and international level.” McDaniel said. “With all the investment by Green Pastures, Prairie Surf and legislature backing us has led to this point where we now can make a play for even larger movies like Batman and films like that.”

 The forum concluded with the panelists speaking about the endless opportunities for local businesses and vendors, location owners, community liaisons and private sector to join the action in Oklahoma’s entertainment industry.

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