Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed new legislation on May 24, 2021, designed to attract higher impact film and television productions to the state. SB 608 establishes the ‘Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021’ further increasing the state’s film incentive cap and eligibility threshold to host major motion pictures and television series with additional mechanisms in place to further grow local workforce and infrastructure as well as stimulate economic impact in Oklahoma’s rural communities.
“It is my privilege to serve the greater community of Oklahoma, as well as work alongside our state’s thriving film industry, which creates local jobs and stimulate positive economic impact throughout the state,” said Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell. “The passage of this new film program is on par to carry forward the record-breaking trajectory we’ve seen in recent years, and will bring expanded, positive impact while continuing to add value to Oklahoma’s overall state image.”
Authored by Senator Chuck Hall and Representative Scott Fetgatter, the ‘Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021’ replaces the state’s film incentive program known as the ‘Compete with Canada Act’, which established the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program. Under this new legislation, the ‘Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021’ offers a base rebate of 20% to qualified film and television productions working in Oklahoma with additional uplifts for filming in rural municipalities/counties, qualified soundstages, post-production and television pilots/seasons. Eligible productions must have a minimum budget of at least $50,000 to qualify. While the former Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program had an annual funding cap of $8 million, the ‘Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021’ increases the state’s annual funding cap to $30 million with a sunset date of June 30, 2031.
“I have watched many people work very hard over the years to bring this to fruition and am honored to help lead Oklahoma into a new era of opportunity – one which will not only benefit urban areas, but rural communities as well,” said Chairman Roger Thompson of the Senate Budget Appropriations Committee who previously helped enhance the former film program in 2019. “The more I learn about the film and music industries’ ability to diversify our state’s economy, the more excited I get about championing further growth.”
The revised incentives created by the ‘Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021’ allow the state’s industry to successfully retain its current independent film production clientele, many of whom are repeat customers or local filmmakers, while simultaneously working to attract higher impact studio productions to the state. Despite the lingering effects of the pandemic, Oklahoma has been and remains open for business with Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt declaring the motion picture and sound recording industries essential businesses last June. Since that time, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office (OF+MO), which administers the program, has successfully increased production activity from major film and television studios with the recruitment of projects from Lionsgate, which recently wrapped photography on two back-to-back to films, “The Unbreakable Boy” and “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story”. Additionally, Oklahoma is currently hosting the production of its first full-season, scripted television series for the FX Network’s “Reservation Dogs”, as well as its largest feature film to date, Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”, an Apple Studios production.
“We have seen a significant increase in interest from companies in the film industry looking to get out of California, and the passing of this bill will put Oklahoma at the top of the list not only as a film location, but also for production studios and other businesses in the industry,” said Executive Director of Commerce Brent Kisling. “The film rebate program is another tool for us to use in our economic development efforts, helping us to diversify our state’s economy and bring more jobs and investment to the state.”
Oklahoma first began offering film incentives in 2001 with ‘The Compete with Canada Act’, becoming one of the first states in the nation to establish a local film incentive as a method of dissuading productions from taking their business and associated revenue to Canada. The initial offerings of Oklahoma’s film program advanced the way for others in the United States to follow suit. Now, with more than 38 states and numerous countries offering film incentives, the ‘Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021’ establishes the state’s most competitive film and television recruitment to date while also providing the most return in benefits to the state through targeted focuses on growing the local film industry workforce, infrastructure, education and community.
The last few years have seen record-breaking success for Oklahoma’s film and television industry. In Fiscal Year 20 (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020), the Oklahoma Film + Music Office (OF+MO) recruited 34 film and television productions that utilized the state’s film incentive program, employing thousands of Oklahomans and contributing a direct fiscal impact of more than $32.8 million to the state’s economy. Presently, in Fiscal Year 21 (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021), OF+MO estimates the 33 film and television productions qualified for the state’s incentive will create more local jobs with a direct fiscal impact of $161.7 million. Among the dozens of films to be produced in Oklahoma throughout these fiscal years, recent successes include the forthcoming releases “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story”, “The Unbreakable Boy”, “Reagan”, “Stillwater”, “Wild Indian”, “Asking For It”, “Agnes”, “Unplugging”, “Ida Red”, “Out of Exile” and “God’s Not Dead 4”, as well as the newly released films “Golden Arm”, “Infamous”, “The Girl Who Believes in Miracles”, and this year’s Academy Award-winning film “Minari” from A24.
“The passage of the new film bill was only possible because of the determination by countless individuals, including past and present statewide leaders, film and music industry professionals, our innovative small businesses and amazing community partners who dedicated themselves to finding win/win solutions,” said OF+MO Director Tava Maloy Sofsky. “The newly retooled film program will not only boost economic activity in both rural and urban communities, but it will propel Oklahoma towards a Top Ten state as a production hub for film, television and music.”
As a result of increased production, multiple private and public partnerships have been formed with local businesses and organizations investing in vital infrastructure and education programs, including soundstages, to further support the growing film, music, and entertainment industries in Oklahoma. The central region of Oklahoma is currently home to Oklahoma City’s Prairie Surf Media, boasting the largest clearspan soundstages in the Midwest, as well as Green Pastures Studio, home of the Oklahoma Film and TV Academy. Additional infrastructure developments throughout Oklahoma are soon to be announced, including the forthcoming Red Clay Studios in the Northeast region. Furthermore, Oklahoma’s heartland hospitality continues to shine through with Movie Maker Magazine ranking Oklahoma City at #15 on its list of “The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2021: Big Cities”, while Tulsa landed at #7 on the “Small Cities/Towns” list. More localized support is now available through established local film commissions, including the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts and Culture, the Cherokee Nation Film Office and the El Reno TV and Film Commission, and additional communities are honing their resources with their participation in OF+MO’s Oklahoma Film Friendly Community Program, which seeks to offer film friendly certification to cities and towns throughout all the state’s 77 counties.
Created in 1979, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office (OF+MO) promotes the state as a viable hub for film and television production, showcasing Oklahoma’s top-rate crews, growing infrastructure and diverse landscapes to the global film industry. Previously a division of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, OF+MO will officially join the Oklahoma Department of Commerce on July 1, 2021, bringing new industries to the agency’s strategy.
For more information on Oklahoma’s film infrastructure, workforce and other resources, visit okfilmmusic.org.
About Oklahoma Film + Music Office
Created in 1979, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office (OF+MO) strives to share all that Oklahoma has to offer by welcoming filmmakers and music professionals to the state and by creating a network of support to develop Oklahoma’s film and music industries. For more information about the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program or the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, visit okfilmmusic.org.
ABOVE IMAGE: Behind the scenes of “Reagan”; credit Matthew Little/MJM Group.