Oklahoma is drawing in A-list projects with a new incentive scheme

Martin Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon among big projects attracted by the US state's new incentive programme

By John Hazelton 24 Sep 2021

Oklahoma is drawing in A-list projects with a new incentive scheme
Scorsese and Di Caprio. Credit: Tribeca Film Festival

 Oklahoma’s push to bring more film and TV production — particularly of big-budget features — to the state received a major boost this year when legislators approved a new incentive programme with funding of $30m a year for the next decade.

The new Filmed In Oklahoma Program offers a 20% cash rebate — which can increase to as much as 38% with add-ons — and three-quarters of its annual funding is reserved for projects spending $7.5m or more in the state.

The new programme came into effect at the start of July 2021. The state’s existing Film Enhancement Rebate Program will keep processing already-qualified applications for the next six years. Projects will not be able to use both schemes.

The new scheme should help Oklahoma, which has impressive prairie, mountain and mesa locations but a limited film infrastructure, become more competitive with Canada and other south central and western US production centres.

Projects that have shot in the state over the past couple of years include Oscar winner Minari, indie genre films Body Brokers and Guardians Of Time, Taika Waititi-produced FX comedy TV series Reservation Dogs and Focus Features’ thriller Stillwater starring Matt Damon.

In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, an estimated 33 productions used the state’s incentive programme from mid-2020 to mid-2021, according to the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, compared with 34 during the previous year.

The state’s biggest production yet, Martin Scorsese’s feature Killers Of The Flower Moon for Apple TV+, recently began filming after its start was delayed by more than a year due to the pandemic. The drama — starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro and based on the real-life murders of Osage Nation citizens in 1920s Oklahoma — is set to receive a 37% rebate under the Film Enhancement programme.

Infrastructure and crews

The local industry has a crew depth of four, though the local commission can also provide a list of expatriate natives currently working elsewhere in the industry whose wages can qualify for the state’s rebate programmes.

Studio space can be hard to come by, but two recently opened facilities have increased the availability of stages and other amenities. Nine miles outside Oklahoma City, Green Pastures Studios and the OK Film & Television Academy have two soundstages, production offices and a backlot. And in the downtown area, Prairie Surf Studios is now the region’s largest facility, with five soundstages on a 1.3 million square feet site.

This feature is a condensed form of our profile in the latest issue of World of Locations.

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