Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt Signs High-Impact Film and Television Bill

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed new legislation on May 7, 2019, designed to attract higher-impact film and television productions to the state. SB 200 increases the state’s film incentive cap and eligibility threshold to host major motion pictures and television series.

“SB 200 will aid in the efforts to recruit film and television productions to the great state of Oklahoma,” said Governor Stitt. “I look forward to seeing how this legislation helps grow and diversify Oklahoma’s economy.”

This new legislation offers two incentives packages for productions of all sizes filming in Oklahoma, which will retain local productions in-state but also attract new and larger productions to the state.

Oklahoma’s established incentive, the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program administered by the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, will continue offering 35 to 37% cash rebate through 2027 with an increased fiscal year cap of $8 million. Eligible projects must have a minimum budget of $50,000 and a minimum of $25,000 spent on qualifying labor, goods and services in Oklahoma.

In addition to the established incentive, Oklahoma now opens its doors even wider with an expanded rebate program, authored by Senator Roger Thompson, R-Okemah. “SB 200 is the most impactful piece of legislation I have worked on,” said Senator Roger Thompson. “It will serve as a catalyst for recruitment and retention of jobs and set the stage for immediate as well as long-term economic investment in our state.”

The new incentive targets higher-impact productions, such as major motion pictures or television series, in which total expenditures or production costs are equal to or exceed $50 million. The same 35 to 37% cash rebate applies and eligible projects will access funds within the Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund for payments.

“Passing SB 200 this year was invigorating,” said Representative Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City. “To see so many leaders prioritizing the arts while simultaneously seeking to diversify the state’s economy should send a strong signal to anyone wanting to bring business to Oklahoma. I look forward to working on more with all those involved as we build for a better future.”

More than 38 states and numerous countries now offer film incentives. The Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program, which was created in 2001, is now in its most competitive form to recruit more film and television productions to the state, setting the tone for longevity and sustainability. The film industry offers the state an excellent economic boost through direct and indirect spending and tax-revenue generation and job creation.

“The passage of SB 200 demonstrates that Oklahoma is open for business to the film industry,” said Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, who also serves as Secretary of Tourism and Branding. “I am proud that this bipartisan legislation will provide the film industry the best opportunity to succeed in Oklahoma. With our unique and diverse geography, and experienced crew, talent, and support services, Oklahoma is poised to be a cornerstone of the film industry for years to come.”

The Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program acquired a ten-year extension in 2014 and immediately saw a significant increase in direct production spending in the first two years from $2.6 million to $33.4 million. To date, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office has estimated $78.2 million in direct spending since the program’s renewal and 75 productions accounted for 90% of the job growth rate, while more than 90 communities in 46 counties were economically impacted. As a result, multiple private and public partnerships have been formed to invest in developing more strategic educational academy-like programs to enhance Oklahoma’s film crew base, as well as a creative center where sound stages, tech companies, and creatives can support the growing film, music, and entertainment industries in Oklahoma.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our state leadership who championed SB 200 this year as we continue to invite creatives and creators from around the world to Oklahoma to access our expanded 35 to 37% cash film rebate program and other appealing resources,” said Tava Maloy Sofsky, Director of the Oklahoma Film + Music Office. “Top that with the true key to our success — our people. Why not Oklahoma?”

The Oklahoma Film + Music Office celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The office, which became an official film commission in 1979, is poised and ready to point even more production companies to Oklahoma’s top-rate crews, diverse landscapes and locations and developing infrastructure – all centrally located in the heartland. Additionally, Movie Maker Magazine ranked Oklahoma City at No. 13 in its list of “The Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2019: Big Cities.”

Recent successes include Lionsgate’s theatrical hit “I Can Only Imagine,” directed by the Erwin Brothers and starring Dennis Quaid, Cloris Leachman and Trace Adkins, along with the Sundance selection “Rudderless,” directed by William H. Macy, starring Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin, Selena Gomez and Laurence Fishburne. Both of these films displayed the unique synergy between film and music in Oklahoma, as they scored their film and recorded music in Oklahoma, thus qualifying for the bonus (2%) rebate. Other successful films include “Jurassic Games,” directed by Oklahoma’s own Ryan Bellgardt and starring Ryan Merriman, Perrey Reeves, Adam Hampton, Katie Burgess, and the Sundance selection “Wildlife,” which was directed by Paul Dano and starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan, along with many other independent films distributed domestically and internationally.

The state’s history proves the value of Oklahoma’s investment and long-time establishment as a partner in the film and music industries hosting features such as Oscar-winning film “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Daughter of the Dawn,” “Twister,” “Rainman,” “The Outsiders,” “Tex,” “Rumblefish,” “Elizabethtown,” “The Killer Inside Me,” “August Osage County,” “Rudderless,” “Mekko,” “Te Ata,” “Chickasaw Rancher,” “I Can Only Imagine,” “Wildlife,” “To The Stars,” “Jurassic Games” and “Christmas in the Heartland” among many others.

Many television productions are also choosing Oklahoma, in part due to the certainty and longevity of the film rebate program, including “Pioneer Woman” (Food Network), “American Ninja Warrior” (NBC), “Sweet Home Oklahoma” (Bravo), “Trolls: Stop Motion Series” (Dreamworks), “The Beverlys” (Pureflix) and “Safe Schools Series” (Impact Productions), all of which utilized the rebate. Starz showcased some of the state’s most surprising locations in its hit series “American Gods,” which is a testament to the fact that these movies and series can become a visual postcard for any state, as they are seen on millions of screens globally.

In an effort to help tell this expanding story, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office created a video to share with the public as well as business leaders, industry partners, legislators and their constituents to spotlight the people benefitting from this burgeoning industry in Oklahoma.

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About the Oklahoma Film + Music Office:
Created in 1979, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office 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 please visit okfilmmusic.org.

Photo credit: Zachary Burns

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