Seeing a crew of people lugging cameras and lighting equipment and setting up a filming location isn’t as rare a sight in the Tulsa area as was once the case.

And not just for the making of commercials, or student films or amateur efforts.

April alone has seen the filming of a television series, a feature film for family audiences and a documentary shooting in the city, said Abby Kurin, who is the director of the Tulsa Office of Film, Music Arts & Culture.

“In 2017, we (worked) with 11 projects for films, commercials, reality TV and more,” she said. “In 2018, it was 22 projects, and that included a Facebook Watch series, the film ‘Run With the Hunted,’ documentaries and virtual reality projects.

“The fact that we’re in April, and we’re on track to exceed that number, well, that’s pretty exciting.”

The state has seen an increase in filmmaking ever since the institution of the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program years ago, which allows filmmakers to receive as much as 37 percent back on the money they spend in the state.

But in Tulsa, Kurin said fewer than a half-dozen of those 22 productions last year utilized the rebate.

She points to the upward trend in filming as being at least partially a product of Tulsa’s being the only city in the state with its own film commission, which became a full-time division of the Tulsa Regional Chamber five years ago.

“We’ve been working with the film community, helping with everything from lodging assistance to film location assistance, so we’re excited to see those numbers climb,” said Kurin, who has been the TFMAC director since its inception.

“I hope it’s a testament to not only what we offer as far as resources but also our hospitality. Like having an office to connect the dots, we make it as accessible (for filmmakers) as possible, whether that’s obtaining filming permits or simply connecting them with people who can help them, and that those people have been welcoming.”

The projects filming in the Tulsa area during April:

“In the Gap”: An original, 10-episode television series to be broadcast on Trinity Broadcasting Network in the fall, highlighting biblical heroes as well as showing modern examples of people committed to their faith. Not only is it being produced by Tulsa’s Cloud Nine Productions, but it’s also written and adapted by Oklahoma writers, and the casting is almost exclusively state actors, according to the Oklahoma Film & Music Office.

“A.R.I.”: This feature film, also shooting with an almost exclusively Oklahoma-based crew, is described by the state film office as a “family adventure movie that tells the story of an adventurous teenager who summons the courage to help a friendly robot escape” from those looking to exploit him as a weapon.

“Lucia’s Voice”: This documentary will tell the story of Lucia Lucas, who will make history when she performs the title role in Tulsa Opera’s May production of “Don Giovanni” (opening on Friday) as the first transgender woman to perform a lead role in a major opera in the U.S.

The office’s help and hospitality have also resulted in a high rate of repeat business.

The company behind “In the Gap” is Tulsa-based, and the “A.R.I.” filmmaker also shot his last two movies in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, Kirkpatrick & Kinslow Productions, the Tulsa company responsible for films such as the Emmy-winning “Boomtown: An American Journey” and now the Lucia Lucas documentary, is increasingly in contact with Kurin.

“As a Tulsa film producer, Abby Kurin’s office (has been) extremely helpful with locations, permitting, local crew, equipment rental and lodging,” said Russ Kirkpatrick, who is producing “Lucia’s Voice.”

Said Kurin: “We’ve been fortunate to have people filming here who came sometimes for the content and connections to Tulsa, like the (virtual reality) project about the 1921 race massacre, or a video commissioned by Apple that had a director from Tulsa involved.”

“I think we have a really exciting year ahead, and we’re confident that some great projects are coming,” she said.

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Michael Smith


Twitter: @michaelsmithTW

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