Tulsa King, the new Sylvester Stallone series that is of course set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shows off such strange and alluring locations as downtown Tulsa’s “Center of the Universe.”
But it was very nearly set in Kansas City.
Tulsa King, from Yellowstone mastermind Taylor Sheridan, airs on Paramount+ and follows Dwight “The General” Manfredi, an aging gangster who serves 25 years in prison instead of ratting out his crime family. He’s “rewarded” with a less-than-desirable new job in Tulsa, which he initially sees as too far away from the action in New York City.
Tulsa King showrunner Terence Winter confirms to MovieMaker that in Sheridan’s original screenplay for the show, Manfredi went to to Kansas City instead. So what happened?
The thing that so often happens in TV and film productions: tax incentives.
“When KC Film learned that a show starring Sylvester Stallone was set in Kansas City, we were so excited. We hoped we had a chance to capture some (or all) of the filming for the show. When the show decided to film in Oklahoma and change its name to Tulsa King, we were heartbroken,” Steph Shannon, director of the KC Film Office and vice president of communications for the Missouri Motion Media Association, told MovieMaker.
“We are working on instating state incentives for Missouri and Kansas. My hope and vision in 2023 is that we get incentive bills passed, and then we’ll be at the table to compete for these important projects going forward. I’m friends with the film commissioners in Oklahoma and respect them immensely. So I’m happy that they got a great show. When our bills pass, though, we will compete for the work!”
Tax incentives in Tulsa range from 20 to 38 percent, depending on several factors. Kansas City, meanwhile, offers a citywide incentive — a 10 percent rebate — to help make up for the lack of a state incentive.
Both Tulsa and Kansas City are on MovieMaker‘s 2022 list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Movimaker. Tulsa is booming thanks to Tulsa King — which is also shot largely in Oklahoma City — as well as Taika Waititi’s FX comedy series Reservation Dogs and the upcoming Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon.
Kansas City, meanwhile, is known for a very diverse range of locations, not requiring permits to film, and a very attentive film office. One of its recent achivements was luring Netflix’s Queer Eye, where is shows off attractions like KC’s historic Jazz district and trendy restaurants like Novel.
It isn’t at all unusual for film and TV projects to change locations due to tax incentives. Breaking Bad was initially set in San Bernardino County, outside Los Angeles, but New Mexico’s generous tax incentives lured Walt White and company to the Albuquerque. That stunning cinematography of Breaking Bad served as an advertisement for filming in New Mexico for years to come, and the state persuaded Netflix to commit more at least $2 billion in spending in the state. Albuquerque has spent the last four years at the top of our list of the best cities for moviemakers, and Santa Fe is always high on the list of smaller cities and towns.
Main image: Sylvester Stallone in Tulsa King.