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The Film Industry in Oklahoma

Movie camera filming in Oklahoma

The Film Industry in Oklahoma

June 23, 2021

When talking about the film industry, the first places that come to mind are typically Hollywood, New York City and more recently, Atlanta. But did you know that Oklahoma has a long history in the filmmaking industry? Dozens of movies—blockbusters, documentaries and indie films—were fully or partially shot in the Sooner State. There’s been a recent resurgence in filmmaking around the state, including an Apple Films production starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by ten-time Oscar nominee Martin Scorsese. Shooting in Pawhuska, the major motion picture is just one example of the film industry’s attraction to Oklahoma. Homes by Taber is here to help explain why filmmakers are flocking here and what it means for the Oklahoma economy. 


Why are filmmakers drawn to OK?

Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa were featured in MovieMaker Magazine’s list of Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2021. Tulsa was listed seventh in the top 10 small cities and towns, while OKC came in at 15th among the top 25 big cities. But what exactly draws the industry to work on projects here? 

Various rebate programs have been available to filmmakers in recent years, saving them money on qualified labor, goods and services when filming a movie or television show in Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, 34 film and television projects in the 2020 fiscal year and 33 productions in the 2021 fiscal year took advantage of the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program. This past May, the legislature passed an act to improve upon existing incentives, attracting even more productions to the state in the coming years. This update to the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program offers a base rebate of 20 percent to qualified productions, with additional benefits for those filming in rural municipalities or counties. 

During a recent panel on the benefits of filming in Oklahoma at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Cherokee Nation Film Office director Jennifer Loren discussed why the state is so great for production. Her reasons included the low cost of living, robust financial incentives, a large crew base and diverse backdrops from the various ecoregions throughout Oklahoma. 

Just like the many homeowners who have become repeat buyers for Homes by Taber, the movie industry is also prone to repeat business. If a show is picked up after shooting the pilot episode in OK, more often than not, the production team will return to shoot the remaining episodes. Same with movies and their sequels. Additionally, once filmmakers shoot one movie in the state, they often return for even more projects. In October 2020, California-based producer Kevin Downes filmed a movie in the Oklahoma City metro area. His team then decided to film their next project immediately after, bringing more than $20 million of economic impact to the state. 


What movies were filmed in the state? 

More movies and documentaries have been filmed in Oklahoma than you probably know about—featuring some of the industry’s biggest stars and most memorable stories. We’ve highlighted a few of the blockbusters below. 

Perhaps most famously known for being shot in Oklahoma is none other than “Twister”, the 1996 movie depicting the adventures of Oklahoma storm chasers. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, “Twister” was the second-highest-grossing film of 1996. 

A 1974 movie adaptation of the beloved children’s novel, “Where the Red Fern Grows”, was filmed in various locations throughout Oklahoma—the book was also written by Oklahoma native Wilson Rawls. 

Another famous Oklahoma-authored book adaptation was “The Outsiders”, released in 1993. Directed by Hollywood legend Francis Ford Coppola, the story that’s spanned across generations was filmed in Tulsa, Owasso and Skiatook. Fans can still visit filming locations at The Outsiders House Museum and Admiral Twin Drive-In, both in Tulsa, to relive their favorite movie. 

August: Osage County'', the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, was filmed in Bartlesville and Pawhuska and became a major motion picture in 2013. The movie starred household names Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch and Abigail Breslin. 

Filmed in Guthrie and other locations throughout the state, “Rain Man'' starred Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. This legendary movie won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay at the 1989 Academy Awards and was the highest-grossing film of 1988. 

2010 thriller “The Killer Inside Me”, starring Jessica Alba, Casey Affleck and Kate Hudson, was filmed in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Enid and Guthrie. It also featured Cattleman’s Steakhouse, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in OKC, as a major backdrop in the movie. 

Most recently, the comedy-drama film “Minari” was filmed in Tulsa in the summer of 2019. Released in 2020, Minari was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. 


How does this industry impact the OK economy? 

Hosting production for major motion pictures, small films, documentaries and television shows grow local workforces and infrastructure, and brings welcomed economic impact to the big cities, suburban towns and rural communities where they’re filmed. 

The 34 productions brought to the state by the Oklahoma Film + Music Office in 2020 employed almost 4,000 Oklahomans, and contributed a direct fiscal impact of more than $32.8 million to the state’s economy. The incentive program is projected to create 10,218 local jobs and a direct fiscal impact of over $160 million in the 2021 fiscal year.  

A bustling film industry in Oklahoma is a dream come true for creatives who were born and raised here. Oklahomans can now pursue a career in the film or television industry without leaving their home state, having a home-grown impact on the economy. Additionally, industry professionals are moving from California and other high-cost-of-living states to further their filmmaking careers in Oklahoma. 


Living close to the lights, camera, action  

If you’re a filmmaker looking to plant roots near-endless opportunities, Homes by Taber can help you along the way. Whether you’re a born-and-raised Oklahoman or work has only just brought you here, having a place to call home can make a huge difference in your life (and career). Homes by Taber has been building thoughtfully designed homes and neighborhoods in the most desirable locations throughout the state since 2000, and our focus on quality, safety, value and design has earned us the title of Oklahoma’s Favorite Builder. Our transparency and trusted processes mean buyers can rest assured that their home is being built by the experts—so they can focus on their creative work and projects during construction. 

Check out our current inventory of homes and communities or discover Homes by Taber projects on the horizon in 2021. To learn more about living in the industry’s “Next ‘It’ State”, give us a call at (405) 984-1185 or fill out an online form

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