Oklahoma becomes prime destination for TV and film productions: “Hollywood on the prairie”

Oklahoma – 1,300 miles from Hollywood – is becoming a popular destination for film and television productions. It is one of the fastest growing movie locations and is dubbed “Hollywood on the prairie”.

Several productions have been filmed there, including Sylvester Stallone’s Tulsa King, Matt Damon’s Stillwater, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Killers of the Flower Moon. Cinelease, one of Hollywood’s largest equipment rental companies, recently opened a store in Oklahoma City.

One reason Tinseltown is drawn to the middle of the country is money. Oklahoma lawmakers are luring production studios and creating local jobs with a $30 million rebate program to shoot in the state. In the past year and a half, $240 million has been pumped into the state’s economy.

Municipalities are also dangling dollars, and places like Oklahoma City are beginning to offer discounts for filming in the city.

Oklahoma City Community College’s film school works to not send graduates to Hollywood, but to prepare them for when Hollywood comes to make films and television shows in their state.

“I want to be close to my family, I want to … make films with people I enjoy, and if I left the state I wouldn’t be able to do that as often,” said DJ Zachary, a cinematographer who recently graduated from film school graduated from Oklahoma City Community College.

But preparing for when Hollywood comes to make movies and TV shows takes a cast of veteran movies training a small army of crew members so Hollywood can hire locally — and at an advantage.

In the last year and a half, Oklahoma’s film industry has added 10,000 jobs.


Costume designer Valerie Parker has transitioned from working on prom dresses and theater outfits to designing wardrobes for more than 20 motion picture productions filmed in the state.

“I just started getting more and more referrals,” she said. “So one thing led to another where I was in a production almost every month.”

New businesses are also taking center stage, such as the tenants of Oklahoma City’s former convention center. The arena has hosted big names like Elvis Presley, Tina Turner and Garth Brooks, but is now part of a 1.3 million square foot studio that hosts major Hollywood productions.

Rachel Cannon has teamed up with filmmaker and writer Matt Payne to open Prairie Surf Studios, a one-stop shop for the film industry with five soundstages, power grids and on-site audio recording.

“I think we’re growing our crew base fast, and I think we’re growing in a way that we’re putting really skilled people to work,” said Cannon, co-founder of Prairie Surf Studios.

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