13. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
“Oklahoma’s the most film-friendly place I’ve ever worked,” says indie moviemaker Lance McDaniel (Light From the Darkroom) who also serves as executive director of Oklahoma City’s deadCenter Film Festival. “Oklahoma offers diverse locations, experienced crews, a 37 percent cash rebate and the most welcoming communities,” he says, noting that while recently shooting a short film trilogy set in small-town Alva, Oklahoma, the chamber of commerce provided meals from local restaurants to thank the production for filming. “I did the films as a community-building art project, partially funded by the NEA,” he says.
The rebate has a $4 million annual cap per fiscal year and has been renewed through 2024; productions must have a minimum budget of $50,000 to qualify. One production to take advantage of the incentive is The Adventures of Jurassic Pet: Chapter 1, a family adventure film from director Ryan Bellgardt about a teen who rescues a dinosaur from a mad scientist. Bellgardt’s preceding film, The Jurassic Games, premiered in Oklahoma at the 2018 deadCenter festival at OKC’s renovated Tower Theatre.
“There’s lots of things that make this community special for making movies,” Bellgardt says. “You can find great crews here that’ve worked on every size production. There’s also a great pool of local actors and everyone from grocery store owners to local police are excited to help you.” Bellgardt recalled once shooting a scene at a mansion in Oklahoma City in which actors were called upon to fire guns in the mansion’s direction. “This was a prominent neighborhood and we were nervous about getting permission to shoot the scene,” he says. “We called the police to let them know what we were doing and left fliers on everyone’s houses. Halfway through shooting the scene the OKC police showed up, and they just smiled and waved us on. Long as we have permission, that’s the attitude we run into when we shoot in Oklahoma.”