For Carol Spann Mathews, the choice to make the faith-based baseball movie “Home Run” in her home state has been a huge hit.
The Tulsa-based producer wasn't the only one cheering once it came time to round the bases, so to speak.
“It's been such a great thing for Tulsa. I mean, we have brought in all these industry people into Oklahoma; they loved it so much they wanted to come back. The actors asked for the premiere to be in Tulsa 'cause they loved Oklahoma. And we did. We had the premiere in Tulsa and every actor came back except two, and the only reason they didn't come back was because of work conflicts,” she said in a phone interview this week from New York, where she was promoting the film.
Opening in theaters nationwide Friday, “Home Run” focuses on baseball all-star Cory Brand (Scott Elrod, who had a small role in the Oscar-winning drama “Argo”) whose alcohol abuse sends his life into a tailspin. After he is arrested for driving under the influence and suspended from the team for eight weeks, his agent (Vivica A. Fox, the “Kill Bill” movies) sends him back to his hometown of Okmulgee, where he reluctantly enters a 12-step recovery program and takes over coaching a local youth baseball team.
Mathews, an award-winning television and film producer whose work has been featured on ESPN, The Family Channel and Trinity Broadcast Network, coproduced and worked as executive producer on “Home Run” with fellow Tulsan Tom Newman, whose credits include the Max Lucado adaptations “Resurrection” and “Christmas Child” as well as the 2005 missionary drama “End of the Spear.”
The decision to shoot the Samuel Goldwyn Films release in Okmulgee and Tulsa in October 2011 was an easy one, Mathews said.
“It's our home. I live there, I have two small children. Tom lives there, he has family and grandchildren there. Why go anywhere else?” Mathews said.
They found the ideal locations they needed — including a photogenic youth baseball field, an appealing town square and a certain small-town allure — in Okmulgee, conveniently situated just 45 minutes south of the production's headquarters in Tulsa.
“Okmulgee was a beautiful backdrop. It was charming and it was perfect for us. And then the town of Okmulgee was completely hospitable to us, you know, as we come traipsing in there with a huge crew of 60 people and trucks and gear. They were wonderful,” she said.
“Tom and I had been in the production world in Tulsa, in Oklahoma, for years, so we had crew that we knew and loved and that we wanted to work on the film as well as other supportive people around the film's production.”
Among those supporting players was her husband, Scott Allan Mathews, who composed the music for the film, including the opening song “Broken.” Their Grammy-nominated friend Steve Ripley, the Pawnee-based musician/producer best known as a member of The Tractors, crooned the theme.
“His voice was the perfect haunting, soulful voice to set the entire mood of the entire film,” Mathews said.
Plus, the production qualified for a state Film Enhancement Rebate.
“It definitely made the decision to be in Oklahoma a more solid, inarguable choice,” she said. “We loved the idea that it was the Heartland and baseball and small town. We think that has added so much to the appeal of the movie.”