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Made in Shawnee Film, “Neon Cactus,” Free Screening

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Into my email inbox Thursday was the subject line: RELEASE: Made in Shawnee Film, “Neon Cactus,” Free Screening. Wouldn’t you read it too? A movie filmed not too far from home and we can see it for free? Initially, I planned to do a quick cut and paste of the release but ended up having a fantastic email chat with the writer, producer, and director Chris Zuhdi. How cool is that?

Free screening of “Neon Cactus”
Wednesday, January 25
Cinema Centre 8 Theatres, 3031 N Harrison, Shawnee.
Reserve your tickets here.

Chris is from Shawnee, got a film degree from the University of Oklahoma, and has a film production company in Austin, Texas. He wrote, directed, produced, and appears in “Neon Cactus,” his fourth film.

“Coming home to film has been a tremendous blessing. The support I’ve received from the community has been amazing. It’s like things are coming full circle, and that’s a great feeling,” Chris said.

He had high praise for the city of Shawnee and Stacy Moore, director of Shawnee’s Tourism & Film and Music Office, who included The Luther Register on her news release distribution list.

“Stacy Moore with the Shawnee Film Office helped with everything from finding crew, permitting, tracking down business owners, and even helping to arrange the screening for the community. In addition, every business I spoke with did all they could to support the film, and I’m very grateful. Also, the Ronny Jones family was very gracious in supporting this special screening of the film.”

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His comment gives insight into what it takes to host a production – a movie, tv show, or any other entertainment effort that feeds the public’s unquenchable thirst for entertainment. The industry gives a lot of people opportunities to work and local economies opportunities to boost business, and credibility, and attract visitors. Did you see he also mentioned permits? So many. He did not mention the complainers; that was nice of him. But still, even in Luther, when “Tulsa King” shot a scene last summer in the old Sugar Shaker restaurant space, a few folks complained about the road being shut off intermittently for one afternoon. Being inconvenienced, however, is a choice. There’s almost always a way around it.

Speaking of, did you see that episode of “Tulsa King?” I loved the shots filmed from behind the counter looking out at the parking lot where actors playing dirty cops were being bullied by the bad guys. And I loved seeing the Luther Feed Mill in the background and the really bad motorcycle gang dude in the foreground. Just weeks after the filming, the vacant building opened as the new Mexican restaurant, Cocina Doña Ceci. As an observer, it was wild to see the action, including painting a building, bringing in a large crew and equipment, and shooting a bunch of takes, just for one scene. Our town looked good!

Back to the conversation with Chris. “Shawnee has been a great host. From Stacy at the film office to local businesses and even friends I went to high school with who now are managers at various local businesses, everyone has helped enormously in getting the film completed.”

It’s a hard road, but don’t give up and be kind to everyone you meet on the journey, and most of them will be kind back and support you as you develop.

Chris Zuhdi

“Neon Cactus,” set in Texas and filmed in Oklahoma, is described on IMBD this way: “As Stanley Cooper’s marriage to Maureen is on the rocks. Both approach Faustian character Johnny Rocket, owner of the Neon Cactus bar, to murder the other. Murder, romance, and unexpected comedy ensue in this fresh take on Crime Fiction.”

Paul T. Taylor, Courtney Herbst, Manny Greenfield, Alexis King, Justina England, Adah Hagen, Hugo Christian, Megan Grace, and Chris Zuhdi star in “Neon Cactus.”

Chris says Oklahomans will recognize some of the scenery in the film. “Be on the lookout for the classic Ritz sign, various downtown cityscapes, the vintage lobby of the Aldridge, and quite a few more landmarks I think locals will notice and enjoy.”

With a lot of buzz around the film industry in Oklahoma, especially Prairie Surf Media which brought Tulsa King (and Sly!) to our state, Chris offers advice to anyone who wants to get into the business.

Chris Zuhdi. Photo from IMBD.

“This has proven to be a successful path for me, but it’s taken many years, prayer, as well as tremendous blessing and support from a lot of people to be successful, and I’ve still got a long way to go. It’s a hard road, but don’t give up and be kind to everyone you meet on the journey, and most of them will be kind back and support you as you develop. Also, though it’s very difficult, learn to accept criticism and rejection as a natural part of the process and as fuel for growth.”

The “Neon Cactus” screening is free on January 25, but you are asked to reserve your tickets on Eventbrite. The generosity of the Ronny Jones Family and Cinema Center 8 Theatres, 3031 N Harrison, makes the screening possible. There will be a Q&A after the film with Zuhdi. The official streaming release date is February 14, on Tubi TV and other streaming platforms.

Slideshow featuring the cast of “Neon Cactus.”

Chris said his distributor is taking the film to Cannes in France for a film market in May, separate from the famed festival. It will be an opportunity for international sales and for Shawnee to be seen worldwide.

See you at the screening.

Kimberly K MIller – Attorney
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