After traveling to over 20 countries, and visiting the forty-eight contingent states, Luke Helms decided that the best home was the one he grew up in. He works in Oklahoma as a Location Scout and Manager with recent credits that include “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Tulsa King,” “Reagan” and “American Underdog.” When Helms isn’t on set, he is either teaching a class on Location Management, writing in a dark room or hiking with his dog, Zuko.
How did you get started in the film industry?
I first started working with cameras and the technology at my local church when I was 12, and volunteered for their media department. Since then, I took classes at the University of Oklahoma (OU) and Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC), but the foot in the door was through Ty Dickson when he offered me a spot on a feature film working locations.
Did you have any formal education or training related to the film industry before starting?
I had taken many classes in film and worked commercial gigs as well, but the location department was a new field entirely that I first learned from Ty Dickson through the boots on the ground “running and gunning Okiewood” method.
Did you have any formal education or training related to your specific department on-set?
No formal education, though it would have helped! To try and do my part in giving back to the community and Oklahoma, I have taught a location class with Francis Tuttle and also taught Location Management through the Film Education Institute of Oklahoma’s (FEIO) Workshops.
What are some of your most recent successes (credits or accolades) related to your career in the industry?
Working on “Killers of the Flower Moon” is pretty high up there—working with Mike Fantasia (Creator of the LMGI and Location Manager for films like “Top Gun,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “Memoirs of a Geisha”) and an all-star crew was a dream, and being in my own back yard made it even better. It was like going home for Christmas, but you were already there.
What has your career in the state’s film industry taught you?
To never give up. It’s our state motto: Labor Conquers All, as well as one of my favorite verses (Proverbs 14:23 – In all labor, there is profit). Twenty years ago, no one would have believed Oklahoma could have a film here. Now, we have Academy Award winners producing movies and shows in our state. As long as there are people willing to give back and keep fighting, we have the ability to one day rival Atlanta or L.A.
What is the highlight of your career thus far?
Seeing some of my students working in the film industry. Knowing that I was able to help others, as I was helped, is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s helping make dreams come true—what could be better?
What is your favorite aspect of working in Oklahoma’s film and television industry?
It would have to be a two-part split:
First, it would be the people who I am blessed to meet and help. This summer, thanks to our rebate program and the shows it brought in, I was able to not only introduce entire communities to the world of film, but I was able to help individuals as well. Being told that our funds helped keep small businesses afloat and enabled families to pay bills is something in which I truly feel honored.
Second, probably sounds like sarcasm to most, but I promise it isn’t – it’s the weather. One of the reasons I love film is that every day is a new day full of changes and new adventures. Oklahoma weather feeds my sense of exploration with the constant winds and shifting horizons.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for someone starting their career in Oklahoma’s film industry?
Look toward the light. On every film set, you will see a myriad of people and personalities, but the real souls worth knowing are never hard to find. I would have never made it in film if it weren’t for the beautiful people willing to take time out of their busy days to help—whether that be a word of encouragement or a kick when I needed it. I’ll never forget my first ride with Mitchell Jarrett, phone calls from Dylan Brodie, or freezing in the rain with Sabriel Rivera-Alvarado. There are countless others, as well, and to you all, I thank you!
How does someone in your field/department best promote/market themselves to those hiring in your industry?
Word of mouth. I know that’s never the answer someone wants to hear, but the last two years, every job I had, came from word of mouth. Aside from that, I recommend creating a solid resume and portfolio—create a pitch packet that sells you and your special talents. If you want to be a Location Scout, start scouting now! You don’t need to be on a film to do so.
Are there any local film organizations, resources or events that have been beneficial to you in your career?
The Oklahoma Film + Music Office is obviously a great resource for everyone. Aside from that, I think the Film Education Institute of Oklahoma (FEIO), Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) and Francis Tuttle and Oklahoma CareerTechs are doing great. Most of my hired crew on “Tulsa King” came from FEIO and OCCC, all of which had great beginner knowledge that gave them a great step up from the competition.
What’s the one item you can’t live without on-set, and why?
Just one? I don’t know if I could choose one item. I often tell people that you can tell the Location Department by their vehicles because they look like a doomsday prepper and soccer mom share a car.
Would your career be impacted without the state’s film incentive program? If so, how?
Oh absolutely. I’d probably have to move. Don’t make me move.
Where do you see yourself – AND – Oklahoma’s film industry in the next five years?
Myself? Either retired from set life and teaching in a classroom or running around producing something about the diverse ecosystems of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma? Thriving. I see a nonstop machine churning out multiple shows and movies every year.
What are you working on now or next?
Currently, I’m working with FEIO on another of their great workshops. What comes next, I’m afraid is a secret…
Each featured individual or business is given the provided questions to answer in their own voice. Other than formatting and grammar, the answers are personal to each featured voice, and are not provided by the Oklahoma Film + Music Office.