Oklahoma putting itself on the film industry map

Film office has worked tirelessly to gain incentives and provide locations for Hollywood

By: Steve Mathie
Staff Writer
Filming Locations

July 7th, 2009

Oklahoma City, Okla. – At the turn of the century, Oklahoma was a trailblazer for implementing tax incentives for production in the film industry. Other states followed, and Oklahoma’s 15% credit became non-competitive.

When Oklahoma Film & Music Office Director Jill Simpson entered the picture in 2004, one of the first things she did was have an economic impact study done to quantify for every dollar spent in Oklahoma, how much money came back into the state’s economy.

Five years later, a probable blockbuster movie is filming at homes and other unique locations in Oklahoma. Sounds like it happened in a flash doesn’t it? Jill Simpson will be the first to tell you that it did not.

“Our challenge was that the incentive was only 15%, and it didn’t happen overnight, but now we are at 35-37%,” says Simpson. “There are a lot of people who have been instrumental in getting more projects here in Oklahoma, but we have been at this for 4 ½ to 5 years.”

The big buzz in Oklahoma right now is the filming of The Killer Inside Me, starring Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone), Jessica Alba (Sin City), Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) and Elias Koteas (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Affleck plays a sheriff from Texas who turns into a psychotic killer. The film is slated to be released sometime in 2010.

Having these big name celebrities and large production crews filming The Killer Inside Me in Oklahoma has been a culture shock for many of the communities, in an exciting way.

“The filming of this movie has been tremendous for Oklahoma, it’s really our first big success story,” says Simpson. “When we got them here to scout locations in September, we knew full well we didn’t have the full rebate to compete with some of the other states, so we endeavored to give them the best customer service we could. What was going to be a few days of filming in Oklahoma turned into 6 weeks, they have been incredible to work with. We are doing it in a sustainable and fiscally responsible way, my job is to make sure that I help the economy in Oklahoma with the best approach possible.”

Oklahoma’s 35-37% rebate is one of the most competitive incentives in the country, giving Oklahoma a greater chance to attract projects with the great locations for Hollywood that they can provide.

“There are so many distinctive interior filming locations in Oklahoma that are opulent and beautiful that it has worked great for all types of filming,” says Simpson. “What you also get in Oklahoma is architecture that is really well preserved.”

Simpson also added that there has been a flurry of interest and that there are several projects in the pipeline right now.

The Oklahoma Film & Music Office reported $20.8 million in impact for the 2008 fiscal year, up more than $3 million from 2007, and nearly $10 million more than in 2005. Last year’s production resume included 8 feature films, 2 reality shows, 15 television programs, 124 documentaries/industrials and 231 commercials.

As for The Killer Inside Me, filming in Oklahoma wrapped in early July, and Oklahoma will be sad to see the cast and crew go.

“Casey Affleck has been a dream,” says Simpson. “The governor was on the set and Casey could not have been more generous of his time. At one point Casey called the governor from the set to ask him a question about what an Oklahoman would have worn for a particular scene, just to educate himself and get that additional feedback.”

Simpson has been in the film industry for 20 years, and praises Indion Enterterinment member Chad Burris for spearheading the drive to get the incentives, stating that without him The Killer Inside Me may not have filmed in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Film & Music Office has had huge casting calls and great turnouts. During the filming of The Killer Inside Me they conducted VIP set visits to show lawmakers the amount of jobs its creates for local Oklahomans.

“Everyone likes working here because of the great filming locations and the people are so friendly it makes it easy for them,” says Simpson. “Michael Winterbottom is an amazing British filmmaker doing a quintessential American story with a great cast, it’s very unique and we feel very fortunate.”

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