More large-budget film and TV productions may be coming to Oklahoma City, thanks to a new film incentive program that the Oklahoma City Council approved March 15.
Crafted by a partnership between the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the City of Oklahoma City and the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, a new incentive has been launched to boost the city’s film industry and generate more sales tax revenues for the city. The Oklahoma City Film Incentive Program provides filmmakers rebates between 5% and 10% of qualified expenses for production and post-production activities. Hotel stays, catering, set construction, editing and photography are just some of the activities that could be deemed as qualified expenses under the incentive program.
Only feature films, television series, including certain types of streaming series, TV pilots and reality TV programs are eligible for the rebates.
“There is a tremendous opportunity right now for growing the film industry in Oklahoma City. The combination of new studios and soundstages, and the state’s expanded film incentive program, have positioned our community for growth. Filmmakers and production studios are seeing an increasing value for filming in Oklahoma City,” said Chamber president and CEO Roy Williams. “This incentive program gives us an essential tool to make Oklahoma City a destination for the industry.”
Under the new incentive program, feature films that spend between $500,000 and $5 million in qualified expenses in Oklahoma City can receive up to 5% in rebates, while those 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 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.
Jeff Seymour, the Chamber’s executive vice president of economic development, said filmmakers have an opportunity to earn the highest incentives by hiring locally and using locally owned and minority-owned small businesses. A pool of $3 million has been set aside to pay for the program, he said, with the hope of one day increasing that amount.
“The $3 million is a good place to start. We don’t have unlimited resources, but we want to send a signal to the market that we are serious about what we want to try and build here,” Seymour said. “We want a tool that is big enough to be meaningful, but we also have to make sure we stretch our public dollars really well across not only film opportunities but other traditional economic development projects as well.”
The number of films and TV series being produced in Oklahoma has steadily grown in recent years, with many of those productions shooting in Oklahoma City. That growth is not going unnoticed.
MovieMaker Magazine recently ranked Oklahoma City number 13 in its annual list of “Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2022,” up two spots from their 2021 ranking. The magazine specifically noted Oklahoma’s passage of the Filmed in Oklahoma Act of 2021 that raised the cap on the state’s film rebate program from $8 million to $30 million and created a new tiered structure for filmmakers to qualify for the incentive. The legislation was aimed at encouraging more filming in the Sooner State. But now that Oklahoma City has its own film incentive program in place, more productions like “Reagan,” “God’s Not Dead: We the People” and “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story,” feature films that were shot in and around the Oklahoma City metro last year, may be heading Oklahoma City’s way.
Rachel Cannon, founder and co-CEO of Prairie Surf Media, which operates Prairie Surf Studios, a 1.3-million-square-foot production facility located in downtown Oklahoma City, which has already benefitted from the state’s film rebate program, said Oklahoma City’s new incentive program is an extraordinary step forward for Oklahoma City, establishing it as the state’s premier production hub, complete with soundstages, production services and a rapidly expanding crew base.
“We are so grateful that our city’s visionary leadership sees the value of doubling down on film to grow an unshakeable foundation for this industry to build upon for generations to come,” Cannon said. “Production is at an all-time high with an anticipated $180 billion spend on original content by 2024. If Oklahoma City wants to be a true industry player, incentives are the only way to grab a studio’s attention. This incentive will help recruit the right partners to Oklahoma City to create desirable jobs for our residents, revenue for local businesses and shine a new light on Oklahoma City for the world to see.”
Seymour said development of an Oklahoma City film office is also in the works to help spur the growth of the city’s film industry. Adding such an office will help new film projects get off the ground, provide assistance in obtaining permits, serve as a hub for workforce development activities, creating networking opportunities in the industry, as well as tell Oklahoma City’s story outside the market, leading to more growth in the city’s film industry.
“When you think about our traditional economic development role, first and foremost we want to support who’s already here. That should be what we wake up and think about every day. But it’s also important for us to take Oklahoma City on the road and tell our stories so we can be attractive to other investment,” he said.
For more information about the Oklahoma City Film Incentive Program or to schedule an interview with Roy Williams or Jeff Seymour, please contact Harve Allen, the Chamber’s public relation manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 405-297-8971.
About the Oklahoma Film + Music Office:
Under the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office (OF+MO) works to promote the state as a viable hub for film, television and music production as well as further develop opportunities for workforce, business and community growth within these sectors. For more information on the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, including the state’s film incentives and additional resources, visit okfilmmusic.org.