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September 9, 2010

Oklahoma home to burgeoning film scene

NORMAN — A growing number of filmmakers want to shoot in Oklahoma and there’s a reason for it: the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program.

These production companies are spending their money everywhere from Luther to Pauls Valley, Enid to Bartlesville and Edmond to Cordell.

“We’ve never been this busy before,” said a distracted Jill Simpson, flipping through related paperwork, as she spoke of the recent growth and success of the film scene in Oklahoma.

“Our business is going nuts.”

Simpson, director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, has her hands full these days working with directors, scouting locations for future films and arranging financial incentives for moviemakers looking for a place to shoot their project.

All part of the job for Simpson, whose focus is to bring a niche industry into the heart of America.

“We’re tasked by the state of Oklahoma to promote Oklahoma as a destination for film and music,” she said.

One of the office’s main jobs is to oversee the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program.

The purpose of the program is to provide financial incentives to bring film and television productions, as well as television commercials into the state.

To qualify, the projects must have a minimum budget of $50,000 with $25,000 spent in Oklahoma.

Those who qualify and are approved are eligible to receive a 35 percent rebate on Oklahoma expenditures while filming within Oklahoma, according to the guildelines and application for the program.

The rebate jumps to 37 percent if the production company spends $20,000 for the use of music created by an Oklahoma resident that is recorded in Oklahoma. Currently, the cap for each fiscal year is set at $5 million, Simpson said.

Simpson said she would love to see the $5 million cap lifted, but understands the office’s success comes at a time when the state budget is stressed.

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