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Hollywood in Oklahoma? Some say bring it.

Bison Blinds

Luther, June 25, 2020—What’s the deal with negative ads on certain candidates about the film industry and Harvey Weinstein in Oklahoma? A couple of candidates have been singled out in our area for their support of a cash rebate program for those who spend money to make movies in Oklahoma.

Whatever those ads are trying to do, groups like Club for Growth in Washington DC, are sending out mailers and running commercials against State Sen. Stephanie Bice who is running for Congress. Other ads from the Oklahoma Federation for Children have attacked State Sen. Ron Sharp for the film rebate program. The ads even drew the attention of the Pottawatomie County District Attorney.

Helping Eastern Oklahoma County

In Eastern Oklahoma County, the rebate program has given real money to Oklahoma business owners and land owners, even during the coronavirus crisis.

In late May, a movie targeted for Lifetime or The Hallmark Channel filmed right here in Jones, Oklahoma, at a beautiful vineyard belonging to Harley and Cynthia Duncan who are leaders in the Oklahoma viticulture community.

“The filming of ‘Harvest of the Heart’ started at our vineyard in Jones the end of May and the experience was amazing! The actors and movie crew were exceptional people that we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. Many of them live right here in Oklahoma! We never imagined that Oklahoman’s were involved in movie making!! This is just another indication of how much Oklahoma is evolving! Imagine that! Who’s proud to be an Okie!”

Cynthia Duncan, Eastern Oklahoma County vineyard owner.

Here’s an article about the movie from Variety, calling the successful experience in Oklahoma as being one of the first projects to be filmed since the coronavirus crisis began.

Kind & Respectful

Earlier this year, two movies were filmed near Luther. One of them was at JT and Brandy Langston’s place north of town. “They were very kind and respectful of our land and people in the community that were curious,” Brandy said.

She also said the crew from California was inquisitive about their country lifestyle and living in Oklahoma in general.

“It was a great experience. We learned lots about the ‘behind the scenes’ movie-making process. The big takeaway … it takes a lot of people to produce a movie! So many people with specific jobs to ensure the process goes smoothly and quickly,” she said.

Not only does the movie business help property owners, other businesses like catering, coffee shops, hardware stores, lodging such as Airbnb rentals, gas stations and others saw sales boosts from having film crews in the area.

Diversifying Oklahoma’s economy

For Ben Hvalaty, who helps lead the digital cinema program at EOC Tech and is the founder of the Clean Shorts Film Festival, the negative mailers prompted a rebuke on his social media.

“I want to thank the Oklahoma Federation for Children for changing my mind on the primary. I’m not the biggest Ron Sharp fan, but after your mailings, I will definitely vote for him. As a Digital Cinema instructor in the Oklahoma Career Tech System, I am preparing my students to work in the burgeoning Oklahoma Film Industry. The Oklahoma Federation for Children apparently wants to dismantle it and continue to pump millions of dollars into the wasteful oil industry. They do not want to diversify the states investments, and they want to kill jobs in Oklahoma. And they care less about my students, or any other students wanting to work in the film industry.Trying to link Ron Sharp, or anyone in the Oklahoma Film Industry to Harvey Weinstein is pathetic.

Ben Hlavaty, film maker and instructor of advanced digital cinema.

Broadcast of Mitchell Talks & Luther Register’s discussion about the controversy.

“Oklahoma’s film incentives have successfully made Oklahoma a hub of film production. This year, the film industry employs nearly 8,000 Oklahomans and will pay nearly $45 million in wages,” said Oklahoma Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell. The Oklahoma landscape has been featured in productions including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon), America Gods (STARZ), Watchmen (HBO) and the award-winning faith-based production, I Can Only Imagine.

Earlier this week, Bice, a front-runner in the Republican primary battle for the US House District 5, responded to the negative television and print ads from the Club for Growth.

“That these out-of-state Never-Trumpers would attempt to tie me to a criminal like Harvey Weinstein is disgusting. Harvey Weinstein preyed on women and abused his power to seduce and assault women for decades. This attack is an insult to me and to every woman in the state of Oklahoma.

To my fellow Oklahoma Republicans, I have worked with you, I have fought with you – to reform Oklahoma state government, to cut spending, to protect the sanctity of life, to defend the 2nd Amendment, to give teachers a much deserved pay raise and to end the budget crisis madness of 2018 that caused Oklahoma schools to be made the laughing stock of the nation.”

Stepanie Bice statement.

Meanwhile, in the State Senate race for District 17, the ads against Sharp led the incumbent to tell News 9’s Aaron Brilbeck, “… they want me out under any circumstances.”

Shane Jett addressed the issue at the Luther Register’s Candidate Forum earlier this week. The Republican candidate for state senate said the ads were over the top.

“I don’t approve of misleading attacks and dirty tactics and certainly don’t want to be associated with those who do,” said Jett. 

Jett and fellow candidate Brandon Baumgarten say they will continue running a positive race.

Observers say that the conservative groups sending out the attack ads do not support tax dollars going for subsidies. Other subsidies exist in the state that support industries like agriculture and energy.

What is the film industry rebate?

The Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program offers a cash rebate of 35-37% on qualifying Oklahoma expenditures to film and television productions filming in the state. The rebate is extended to film, television and commercial productions. The rebate currently has a $8 million rolling cap per fiscal year (July 1-June 30) and has been renewed through 2027. There is no per-project cap, but each production must have a minimum budget of $50,000 and spend $25,000 in qualified Oklahoma spend. Rebate funds are pre-qualified for eligible applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. The rebate offers a base percentage of 35% on qualified Oklahoma expenditures. If a minimum of $20,000 is spent on music that has been recorded in Oklahoma by an Oklahoman or on Oklahoma music production costs, an additional 2% is added to the total rebate on qualified Oklahoma expenditures, for a total of 37%. The Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program statute is found in Oklahoma Statute Title 68 Section 3621 through 3626link.

Check out a list of productions that are currently filming in Oklahoma.

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