DiCaprio, DeNiro, Scorsese … some of the biggest A-list names in Hollywood will start filming the big budget “Killers of the Flower Moon” in Oklahoma in the next few months.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese have been spotted across the state. But that’s not the only movie magic that’s done in Oklahoma, not even around it.
According to the makers of the Oklahoma film industry, the scene is set for a blockbuster.
Richard Janes, an Emmy winner who used to work for Disney, and his wife, Amy, a documentary filmmaker who worked for Paramount, moved from Hollywood to Oklahoma on a whim.
“Fell in love, stayed here for three days, and moved in three months later,” recalls Amy.
“We love Oklahoma,” enthused Richard.
Here they met Melodie Garneau, a former Air Force medic and owner of the Paramount OKC. For some time she had been looking for a place where she could build a sound stage.
She introduced them to Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, who works closely with the Oklahoma Film and Music Bureau to produce films for the state.
“They call it show business for a reason,” said the Lt. Governor.
Right now, the movie business is big business, worth billions of dollars to the state. And the stars have aligned to action. Streaming services need all of the content and a lot of it. The challenge was getting large industrial wigs to point their lens at Oklahoma. But then COVID-19 hit, and Governor Stitt called the film industry an essential business.
“Because of the pandemic, so many of the movie capitals have closed,” Richard said. “And what it means is that Oklahoma became the number one film state in the country for a period of the past year.”
The Reagan biography in Guthrie was one of the first films to be made in the United States during the pandemic. And the film keeps rolling. Oklahoma’s landscape is currently littered with movie sets.
According to the Oklahoma Film Commission, there are currently at least 12 active productions with a total of 20 films and TV shows scheduled to be shot by midsummer.
“The sky is the limit and a state and a city are going to take advantage of this, and I firmly believe that Oklahoma could be the state to take advantage of it,” Pinnell said.
The twist of the story: Oklahoma doesn’t have enough infrastructure – like soundstage – or crew to keep up.
This summer, Melodie, Richard, and Amy Green bought Pastures Elementary in Spencer.
“Aside from the occasional donkey across the street, it’s pretty quiet here,” laughed Garneau.
They are converting it to Green Pastures Studio and Film School.
The gym is now a solid stage, and classrooms will soon be set up for a police station, hospital, bar, and school.
“What used to be the cafeteria here in school language is now Studio 2, in which we all build a cyclorama and motion detection.”
Weekend and weekday courses at the film school have been held since September and graduates get jobs for film sets straight away.
Denard Hunt was riding his horse with his son on a Sunday.
“We just came across Green Pastures Studio and hey, it has changed life since then,” said Denard.
He recently lost his job in the oil field because of the pandemic and decided to take some courses. He says the oil industry taught him everything over long days and teamwork. Janes and the rest of the instructors helped convert those skills to the film industry in which he now works.
“I’ll pick up a camera every day instead of picking up a sledgehammer,” Denard laughed. “There is a big difference.”
“Just talking to them afterward and getting some understanding of how it changed their lives was just amazing and out of control,” Amy said. “It is what fulfills me.”
Another group, Prairie Surf Productions, is turning the Cox Convention Center into a giant soundstage and studio.
Green Pastures, Prairie Surf and some studios in the Tulsa area joined forces to form the Oklahoma Motion Picture Alliance.
Pinnell said he was spreading the message that our state now has the cast, crew, and locations.
“I’m starting to fill my calendar in 2021 just to get back out there and make sure people know Oklahoma is the place,” he said.
“Give us 10 years, we’re going to make $ 9 billion if not more,” said Amy.
And that would be the Hollywood ending for Oklahoma that Amy and Richard imagined when they found hers.
“This is pheromonal, this is life. I think that’s very much the American dream, ”Richard said.