Oklahoma City's film scene takes center stage with lucrative rebates
Oklahoma City’s film industry is booming, thanks in large part to a film incentive program the city created last year to help lure filmmakers to Oklahoma City.
The program is the result of a partnership between the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the City of Oklahoma City and the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City. It provides filmmakers rebates between 5% and 10% of qualified expenses for production and post-production activities.
Feature films that spend between $500,000 and $5 million in qualified expenses in Oklahoma City can receive up to 5% in rebates. Projects that spend more than $5 million can earn up to 10% back in rebates. Television series, TV pilots and reality TV shows can earn up to 5% in rebates if they spend between $100,000 and $500,000 in qualified expenses; up to 10% if spending is more than $500,000.
The rebate program also stipulates that production companies must spend at least 50% of filming days within OKC’s city limits, among other requirements, to be eligible for the incentives. In return for the rebate, production companies must display a logo provided by the Oklahoma City Film & Creative Industries Office at the end of the film’s credits. The logo acknowledges the project was shot in Oklahoma City in conjunction with the city’s film office.
Jill Simpson, who runs the city’s film office at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said the local industry is “going to the next level” because of the incentive program. Two film projects have already been pre-qualified for the rebates, and another is currently under consideration, she said. But due to nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements, she must refer to them by their code names: Project Dirt Road, Project Dino and Project Urban.
Produced by Universal Studios, Project Dirt Road is expected to be a summer 2024 blockbuster. It began shooting on May 8 all across the OKC metro; however, because of the recent Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild strikes, the studio was forced to temporarily halt production Aug. 4.
“This film, because it’s such a big project, will have an opportunity for global marketing of Oklahoma City, much like we had with 'Tulsa King.' When something like that is out there and it gets picked up, you get all kinds of ancillary publicity you hadn’t even planned on,” Simpson said.
All told, the three projects are projected to generate a combined $261 million in economic impact for Oklahoma City. Films shot in Oklahoma City could also qualify for up to an additional 30% rebate from the state’s own film incentive program.
“I’ll tell you, in the case of the Universal film, were it not for Oklahoma City sweetening the pot, they would not have come to Oklahoma at all. I look at the city program as a deal closer or a deal sweetener, and it really made the difference,” she said.
During its three-month-long shoot, Project Dirt Road used 10 Oklahoma City hotels for cast and crew lodging, hired 500 different local vendors, and 100% of their extras were from Oklahoma City.
Project Dino is a film by Oklahoma City-based Boiling Point Media. Its high-tech LED virtual production studio is a game changer for moviemakers.
“They have clients from all over the world and are doing work for companies in Asia. They are on the map within the digital animation and visual effects sector,” Simpson said.
Project Urban is a small-budget, local independent film shot in June. The writer, producer and director all hail from Oklahoma City.
“It’s important to support these three filmmakers at the beginning of their careers. They are homegrown talent, so we hope they will stay here but then move on to bigger projects,” Simpson said.