Building All the Towers Simultaneously - 405 Magazine

Building All the Towers Simultaneously

Workforce development is a topic on every production company’s mind, and they’re vocal about the promise and the need.

Workforce development is a topic on every production company’s mind, and they’re vocal about the promise and the need.

We need more crew and talent here in the heart of Oklahoma City,” Boiling Point’s Taylor said. “We are stabilizing a fruitful and growing industry that incorporates over 100 types of different jobs and backgrounds. From electrical work to post-production animation, Oklahoma is emerging, innovative and endearing. Boiling Point Media went from four employees dedicated to the film side of the business in 2021 to 12 by the end of 2022, tripling our size and project scopes.”

Payne has done a masterful job of bringing groups together to start the process of workforce development, especially the career techs. Their classes at Francis Tuttle fill quickly. The small team at Prairie Surf came from the Film Education Institute of Oklahoma, an organization that Payne is quick to credit for doing excellent work via their workshops and intensives. 

In August 2022, Payne contributed to a piece on workforce development in this magazine, and for that story, he said, “The career tech schools have created pathways for high school students to get into the film industry, and they’ve helped with adult education as well. Some skills transfer readily to film, like design and construction, and so the schools have been offering classes in construction, painting, set decoration, food styling, etc., and the classes fill up immediately. The demand for labor is there, and it seems the desire to be involved in film is there too.”

That remains true, as does the importance of Oklahoma City Community College in the future of the state’s film industry. Matt Payne chronicles Gray Frederickson’s contributions to Oklahoma film via OCCC (pg. 44), and the school’s new president, Dr. Mautra Jones, Ed.D., is aware of the legacy she shepherds, as well as the demands of building programs to help develop the state’s film industry into the future.

“As an educator and a pragmatist, I understand that community colleges play an integral role in workforce development,” she said. “Students come to us for various needs, not just degrees. We provide opportunities for professional development, and it’s important to have different pathways no matter what their career trajectory is, including micro-credentials and training to be work ready.” 

A recent set construction intensive funded by donors filled up quickly, and Jones was pleased to see that participants came from diverse backgrounds. (Payne points out that one of the first questions out-of-state producers ask is what is Oklahoma’s diversity quotient.) 

“We want to provide opportunities and resources for people from all walks of life,” Jones said. “Our task is to be responsive to data and what’s coming, so we want to be prepared with data-driven decisions.”

Cannon explains the need for workforce to grow along with incentives and other pieces of the industry as a tower metaphor at a recent roundtable conversation with film professionals. The voices in the room agreed on a few important points, none more frequently than the necessity of workforce development in a state that is looking to capitalize on the new Hollywood’s quest to find studio space, different locations, diverse pools of talent, better relationships with state and municipal governments, including a business-friendly approach to filmmaking, and enough content to fill all the available “channels.”

“We have to build all the towers simultaneously,” Cannon said. 

That is the most sober assessment of the state’s film industry heard from all the parties. Oklahomans are vocally proud of projects like “Reservation Dogs” and “Tulsa King,” and the prospect of high-paying, recession-proof jobs for people from all walks of life is certainly appealing. But obstacles are obstacles, and they have to be overcome for the state to move forward. Listening to the professionals at the forefront of the industry, the conclusions are pretty clear: The rebate program is critical, and so is workforce development, and Rep. Brian Hill gets the last word:

“We set the rebate at $30 million because the industry wasn’t ready for more yet,” he said. “Workforce wasn’t ready. The industry needed time to grow. We constantly ask, ‘What’s the ROI for Oklahomans?’ Are people staying in the hotels, eating in the restaurants? Are we putting Oklahomans to work? When all those answers are yes, you’ll see a willingness to invest more.”

*The Filmed in Oklahoma Rebate Program White Paper, December 16, 2022, Mike Mazzei, CFP, MPAS