(Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately reflected the final vote for the film and creative services office.)
Oklahoma City government is getting into the movie business, or at least it hopes to.
During its meeting Tuesday, the OKC City Council approved a professional services agreement between the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust and the Oklahoma City Economic Development Foundation to establish a film and creative services office with the aim of developing film, music and television production in the city at a cost up to $250,000 per year.
The agreement would run through July 2025. The Oklahoma City Economic Development Foundation is an arm of the OKC Chamber of Commerce.
Today at City Council we completed one of the final steps in establishing our community’s first-ever Oklahoma City Film & Creative Industries Office. This office will support our city’s incredibly fast-growing film industry. More than ever, OKC is open for the film business!
— Mayor David Holt (@davidfholt) September 13, 2022
Assistant City Manager Aubrey McDermid talked to the council about the office’s goals for its first year, including hiring a staff, carrying out community outreach, identifying workforce development and partnership opportunities, communicating with local filmmakers, creating a portal for incentive applications and developing of a marketing plan.
“In terms of economic development, it’s really important for us to invest in our local economy. We have such talent in our local workforce. We really want to feed the pipeline of education toward this industry,” McDermid said.
Some council members question plan
Several councilors expressed concern about the plan. Ward 7 councilperson Nikki Nice said the OKC Chamber of Commerce, where the office will be housed, isn’t diverse enough.
“I have a deep concern of where this office will be housed and the reason I have said that numerous times is because of the lack of diversity this office has,” Nice said. “I have no qualms against people who are going to run this office, but I have a deep concern about the lack of in-house diversity of where this office will be located. There is an effort and should be a concerted effort for that to be at the forefront of those conversations.”
Ward 5 councilperson David Greenwell wondered whether there is a need for the office, given that the state already invests money in luring film and TV projects to Oklahoma.
“I am concerned this is redundant in terms of expenditures,” Greenwell said. “If we don’t feel like we’re being represented by the state film office, then we need to talk with that office as well as elected leaders at the state level.”
Greenwell also questioned why the film industry is getting incentives when other industries don’t.
“Like an oil and gas company, when they drill a new well, don’t they have to incur trucking costs? Aren’t there electricians who come out and pull electricity to the well site? We’re talking about the same thing, but we don’t provide incentives to those industries,” Greenwell said.
City Manager Craig Freeman argued that the resulting economic development will be worth the expense of establishing the office.
“It’s not like when a horse show comes and you have people here for a week or two weeks,” Freeman said. “This is for several months like you see with a lot of these films. It’s more about growing an industry and economic development than it is about tourism.”
In the end the council voted to adopt the concurrence docket item. Nice and Ward 3’s Barbara Young abstained. Greenwell voted against the measure.
Industry is taking off
Oklahoma has seen a growth in its film and TV industry. Most recently, Sylvester Stallone completed production on Tulsa King, a crime drama set in Tulsa, though much of it was shot in Oklahoma City. The series is set to make its debut on Paramount+ later this year.
Reservation Dogs, a show that chronicles the lives of Indigenous teens, has been a runaway hit for Hulu since its first season premiered last year. That series is filmed in Oklahoma.
Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, a $200 million Apple+ production, completed filming last year and is expected to be released in May.