Oklahoma doubles for Panama, China in new movie

DeadCenter Film Festival director Lance McDaniel transformed parts of Oklahoma City into sets for “Light from the Darkroom,” a new religious thriller.
BY GEORGE LANG glang@opubco.com Modified: August 24, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: August 24, 2013

That level of confidence in Oklahoma and its talent is paying off for members of the crew. Sound engineer Brian Gilliland said his experience working on “Light from the Darkroom” led to another job offer on an upcoming local film production. The same thing happened to Caleb Wall, a graduate of the Oklahoma Film Institute at Oklahoma City Community College. Since he worked on “August: Osage County” last year, Wall has found work shooting episodes of “True Blood,” “Modern Family” and “The Bridge.”

“I got hired as a local on ‘August' and they asked, what are you doing with your life?'” he said. “And I said, ‘I'm not sure — I just graduated.' They said, ‘You should move to L.A.'

“Thing is, I really like working here,” said Wall, who will relocate to Los Angeles after “Darkroom” wraps, but plans to continue taking jobs whenever possible in Oklahoma. “The incentives and all that gave me a career.”

Those incentives refer to the Oklahoma's Film Enhancement Rebate Program, an enticement to bring film and music projects to the state. Under that program, a rebate of 35 percent is paid to a film project for all in-state production expenditures it makes in the state, or 37 percent if Oklahoma music is used on the soundtrack. On May 24, the state House of Representatives voted down a proposed extension of the rebate program, which expires July 1, a decision that, according to Oklahoma Film and Music Office Director Jill Simpson, has already cost the state some lucrative film projects.

But Xavier Neira, a commissioner on the Oklahoma Tourism Board and a board member at the deadCenter Film Festival, said he is hopeful that the rebates will return, and productions such as “Light from the Darkroom” are examples of why films should continue to be made in Oklahoma.

“We don't make excuses. We just get the work done. That's a great attitude to have and people in the industry really appreciate that,” said Neira, who is also the director of development for Rooney's Manhattan Construction. “I think it shows that our industry is growing, it's a viable industry and there are serious businesspeople that are interested. It's not just an experiment. It's actually happening.”

And word will spread about Oklahoma's moviemaking, McDaniel said.

“I feel like our Oklahoma crews are not only hard working and great, but they want this to be an enjoyable experience,” McDaniel said. “I feel like, because we have all these international cast members and people from L.A. and New Mexico coming, they're all getting a really good impression of filming in Oklahoma.

“They're all from Oklahoma, and they're all just crushing it,” he said.

De Leon, who stars as Dr. Carmen Hill in “Darkroom,” said she will be spreading the word back in Los Angeles about her experience working in Oklahoma City.

“It's been great — it's a small group of filmmakers, but it's just like any big production you'd have in L.A. It shows you the manpower they have here and that they could bring more productions here, which is great,” she said. “Hopefully Oklahoma can be one of those great centers where people will bring productions.”


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