MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

June 30, 2013

New push planned for renewal of film rebates

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Supporters of a program offering rebates to attract filmmakers to Oklahoma say they’ll try next year to persuade lawmakers to renew the program after efforts failed this session.

The Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program offers a 35 percent rebate on all production expenses made in the state, and 37 percent if Oklahoma music is used on the soundtrack. It’s set to expire July 1, 2014.

A proposal to extend it by 10 years and increase state appropriations from $5 million to $8 million, while reducing the rebate 25 percent so more film projects can take advantage of the program, failed in the Legislature in May. Some lawmakers said the money would be better used for education and health care, among other things.

“What you’re asking us to do is give the people in Hollywood $8 million this next year, instead of providing that money for pay raises for troopers, for correctional officers, or those people who are so essential to public safety in Oklahoma,” said Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City.

Rep. Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City, asked bill supporters, “why your priorities put film credits over public safety or education?”

Jill Simpson, the executive director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, told The Oklahoman that the state receives $3 for every $1 paid in rebates and that it helped attract movies such as “August: Osage County,” starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, to film in the state.

An economic impact study commissioned by the film office and conducted by Oklahoma City University found that jobs created by the film industry include film crew technicians and support service companies, such as production facilities, construction and equipment. Hotels, restaurants and other businesses have been profiting when film casts and crews arrive.

Also, Simpson said: “It’s a source of pride. What better industry to get an updated image of Oklahoma out there than the film industry?

“Think about what an ‘August: Osage County’ may do. They’ve moved its opening date to Christmas Day, which is reserved for big holiday movies,” she said. “That’s going to be great for Oklahoma.”

The movie was shot in Bartlesville and Pawhuska. Another one, “Rudderless,” which is actor William H. Macy’s directorial debut, was filmed during the spring in Oklahoma City, Edmond and Guthrie.

But an Oklahoma City producer, Gary Frederickson, said he is likely to continue filming in the state with or without the rebate, although he said it does attract others.

Frederickson, the Oscar-winning producer of the “Godfather” trilogy, “Apocalypse Now” and “The Outsiders,” helped establish the state’s first film rebate program, which went into effect in July 2001.

“Well, it’s unfortunate,” Frederickson said of the failed rebate bill. “They won’t come here for our fried chicken alone.”

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