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.
State Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman, said that although he believes the program is attracting new industry to Oklahoma, the state can’t afford to increase the rebate percentage. He doesn’t think the program should be cut either, though.
“Best I can tell, I think (the rebate program) is doing what we intended it to do,” Collins said.
Collins noted that he believes all tax credits, including this one, need constant oversight to make sure Oklahoma tax dollars are going to good use.
State Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, agrees that all tax credits need to be monitored.
“It appears that this film tax credit is working,” he noted. “In general, I’m encouraged by the fact that every week when I open the paper and turn on the news, it seems like a new film is here,” Martin said.
Simpson said so far, it appears that the money spent through the program is having an economic impact in the state. She cited the case study for the film “Killer Inside Me,” filmed last year in several Oklahoma cities including Guthrie, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Cordell and Enid.
Overall, according to the study, more than $2.9 million was directly spent in Oklahoma. Using a 1.72 economic impact multiplier, the study listed the overall economic impact of the money spent in Oklahoma to be $5,152,503.
The estimated 15 percent rebate payout (the film was accepted before the rebate increase) $449,346. After taxes, the net rebate payout comes to $70,897.
In addition to direct financial impact, the study noted the attention Oklahoma received for being the location of this movie.
Simpson said she knows with the current structure of the program and with state resources, Oklahoma may never be home to huge blockbuster hits. Instead, the office’s staff is focusing on attracting quality A-list independent directors and actors.
“We figured out what our niche is and we’re working on taking care of these people,” she said.
Aaron Wright Gray 366-3533 email@example.com