“Killers of the Flower Moon,” the movie about the murders of Osage Nation citizens for their oil money in the 1920s, is set to begin filming in March where it happened — in the Osage Nation and Osage County.
Evidence of that shoot, in the form of preproduction activities, will become more apparent starting next week, as crew members for the Martin Scorsese-directed, Leonardo DiCaprio-starring movie begin turning up for a variety of jobs.
For example, those living in the Pawhuska area will see an old mill turned into a kind of movie soundstage; an abandoned hotel will become a setting for scenes; and a downtown street will take on a look more in line with what it looked like a century ago.
The production is scheduled to spend more than half of 2020 in the area, and that means new jobs, new money in the community and new tourism in one of the state’s most popular small towns for visitors.
“They are going to put a lot of money into this community,” City Manager Dave Neely said, “and we welcome that — and them.”
Among the largest expenditures likely will be the Paramount Pictures film’s rental of the city’s “old carpet mill,” the name the community has long applied to the dormant, giant building on the quarter-mile property of the local industrial park.
“The information I have is that they will do some filming there, that they are going to build some sets” inside, he said.
“They want to build some showers and bathroom facilities for those who will be working, and they’ve told us they’re going to put in hundreds of lights, new bright lights” for filming purposes.
Neely said the production is renting the building from a private individual who owns it, “and these people are making so many improvements that I figure it will be worth more in the future after they leave.”
Another spot for some interior location shooting is the long-abandoned Duncan Hotel in downtown Pawhuska, which was a place where oilmen stayed a century ago but which was damaged in a 1981 fire.
“It’s got that old tile floor and old lobby with the desk and little bitty rooms like you had back then, and apparently (the production team) really liked some of those things, like the old staircase, too,” Neely said.
Pawhuska’s downtown has experienced a boom in business and tourism since the opening of the Pioneer Woman Mercantile, as the restaurant-bakery-retail store attracts thousands of people each week.
Some of the businesses around the Mercantile will, at some point, take on a new/old look so that the production can film storefronts that more closely resemble those of the 1920s, Neely said.
“(Producers) are working with local businesses to maybe use their facades or even put a false front on a business, and this is for about a two-block stretch of Kihekah Avenue,” he said without naming any potential businesses involved.
In addition, Neely said plans have been discussed for film shoots involving the more-than-century-old Constantine Theatre; multiple large local homes from “the oil days”; the Elks Lodge, with its large open areas and stage; and some vacant downtown buildings “that they are cleaning up to look closer to original” period appearance.
“And we have some old-fashioned original street lights downtown that they like, but they want our electrical crew to leave the largest ones and take out the smallest ones, and they’re going to compensate us for all of that work,” Neely said.
He added that the production team has asked about hiring municipal employees for after-hours and weekend jobs, “and we’ve encouraged our employees to work for them if they want. (The film) is going to put a lot of money into this community.”
The production has also worked to hire Osage Nation citizens for a variety of artisan/crafts jobs and to appear in the movie by holding casting calls this fall.
While other locations for filming are still being determined, Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said he has heard that “the old First National Bank building” (owned by the tribe and housing offices for the Osage Nation Legislature) appears to be a potential filming location.
He said he does not know what the plans are to film on tribal lands, but he emphasized his understanding that, in choosing locations, “the subject matter is not only the Osage people, but it’s also the FBI and also human greed and what it does to people.”
The film, based on David Grann’s best-selling book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” is also expected to star Robert De Niro, with more cast members to be announced.
Those starring will spend multiple months in the area, and crew members will spend even longer.
According to a Facebook post this week by the native-owned Ah Tha Tse “We Eat” Catering, “We have been booked for the next ten months … to cook for the production team of ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.’ ”
The excitement for the production’s arrival in the area — and the jolt to the local economy — is growing, said Joni Nash, executive director of the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce.
“Everyone’s excited, and what’s nice is that the production team (that has visited in recent months) has expressed how welcomed they have felt and that it’s not always that way,” Nash said.
“And it’s my understanding that local people want to know how they can help, and they want to embrace them.
“They’re bringing jobs, too — temporary but good jobs for the time that they are here.”
Locals embraced Scorsese when he strolled through downtown looking at buildings in December, Neely said.
“He was walking the street, and he was giving people autographs and posing for selfies and being very kind,” Neely said. “People stopped him in the street, and he was nothing but cordial.”