Film production in Oklahoma, once a novelty cottage industry, has fast become a mainstream business – and a major player in the state’s economy.
Consider this: the industry grew threefold in five short years, from 2005-10. Factor in the projected unofficial numbers for 2011 and the growth approaches 350 percent. In 2005, the direct economic impact of the industry on Oklahoma’s economy was $6.5 million, with $11 million in overall impact, including such ancillary sectors as lodging, restaurants and transportation. Skip ahead to 2011. According to the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, the projected figures are $20.7 direct, and $35.6 million in overall impact in the state.
Film is no longer just about Hollywood, as more and more producers discover the advantages of stepping outside the California box to create quality bodies of work. Oklahoma’s overall economy, comparatively stable when viewed in a national context, is attractive to filmmakers, as are the lower production costs, labor market and abundant incentives. Such categories as reality TV and “new media” have added both creative and commercial possibilities that were unknown even a few years ago.
“There is tremendous growth and momentum right now with Oklahoma’s film industry,” says Jill Simpson, director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office. “Our film rebate is being utilized to its maximum capacity for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013. The program has become so popular with independent film producers that we currently have more applicants than we have rebate funds. As production in the state has increased, so has our pool of skilled production personnel and support services, both good indicators of progress.”
The numbers tracking growth in categories of production, as well as across-the-board increases, are impressive:
Feature films: 8
Reality TV show: 1
Recorded TV programs: 23
Documentary/industrial productions: 186
Totals: 772 productions, $11 million direct impact, $18.9 million total impact
Feature films: 15
Live TV/I-MAG/Industrials/New Media: 540
Recorded TV programs: 55
Totals: 1,813 productions, $17.7 direct impact, $30 million total impact
Figures courtesy of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office.
Public Policy and the Oklahoma Film Industry
The Oklahoma Film and Music Office’s rebate program currently allows filmmakers to receive up to 35 percent of their production costs as a tax incentive for filming in the state. However, pending legislation would cut, and eventually eliminate, the program as part of a package that cuts state income tax rates. Senate Bill 1623 would reduce the program’s budget by 50 percent for the period July 1, 2012 through December 31, 2013, and eliminate the credit beginning with tax year 2014. SB 1623 has passed the state Senate, has been approved by the House Appropriations and Budget committee, and as of press time, is before the full House. When contacted by Slice, the Oklahoma Film and Music Office had no statement regarding the possible impending cuts.