Chris Freihofer, owner of Freihofer Casting in Norman and local casting director for August: Osage County, says that while this was one of the largest productions he’d worked on in terms of star power, it also was one of the least stressful. Freihofer, who also served as the local casting director for Malick’s To The Wonder, says his team only had to cast a few principle roles and 200-300 extras – small by comparison to some projects, he says. This film, however, had its own unique challenges.

“One of the things that made working on this film a bit more challenging than others was the fact that John Wells had this very careful hand in the selection of the extras as well,” Freihofer says. “He hand-selected every single extra – that never happens. He wanted the film to have a very specific look. We held big, open casting calls across the state and took thousands of pictures. He then met with me and the producers and selected every extra, including the scene they’d appear in and the role they’d play. Even if there wasn’t a backstory for the character in the scene, he created one for each and every extra. That’s very, very rare.”

Freihofer agrees that the production was an enormous benefit for the Oklahoma economy. “I know our office and crew and many, many vendors in northeast Oklahoma benefitted from August: Osage County being there,” he says, “including hotels, restaurants and antique stores for props. The support businesses benefitted greatly from the film.”

However, both Freihofer and Simpson note that while the production of August: Osage County was a huge success for the state of Oklahoma, we aren’t likely to see another of its kind any time soon. The Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program is set to expire in mid-2014, and if not extended by the Oklahoma State Legislature, its end could spell the death of the Oklahoma film industry just as it was getting started. While a bill to extend the program was passed by the Senate last spring, it was defeated in the House.

“It was a devastating blow,” Simpson says. “We will be back again in the spring to make the push again. Without the incentives program, our fledgling Oklahoma film industry will likely dry up, with the crew we have worked so hard to grow in recent years packing up and moving to greener pastures.”

“We have the ball rolling as a filming destination for producers, but now we have lost our incentives,” Freihofer says. “Hopefully now we can get them back and continue to have the films here we’ve had in the past. Boots on the ground are directly affected by not having rebates. I’m currently working on two films, one of which is the last to qualify for the rebates. Nothing will come in from out of state…Over the past three to four years, we were hired to cast an average of five to six films per year. Now there’s nothing on the horizon. We keep in business with commercials, but films shoot for a long time, spend a lot of money and employ a lot of people.”
Simpson says that despite setbacks, she and colleagues aren’t ready to give up on Oklahoma filmmaking just yet.

“If the program can be extended and the funding increased, my goal is to grow the program so that we are not always in a position of turning down projects,” Simpson says. “With a cap of $5 million per year, we can only accommodate about five projects per year, not nearly enough to keep our hard-working crew employed full-time or truly grow our infrastructure in the state. We have a very small program compared to most of the 46 other states that offer incentives. We do, however, have a well-run, fiscally conservative program that has earned respect in the film industry. With some growth and fine-tuning, we could eventually be on par with Georgia or Louisiana, currently two of the biggest filming states in the country.”

Meanwhile, August: Osage County, one of the last films funded with the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program, is already having a positive impact on the state.

“The Oklahoma Film and Music Office has been tracking the media hits as the film has been playing at festivals around the country this fall,” Simpson says. “The coverage has been amazing. The filmmakers have positively referenced their time in Oklahoma – specifically Tulsa, Bartlesville and Pawhuska – in many of these articles and press conferences. That kind of positive PR certainly helps me market our rebate program…The timing [of the film incentive shutdown] is ironic considering August: Osage County is likely to be an Oscar contender in multiple categories. It would be a shame for our program to go away just as it is really begins to take off.”

Previous articlePink Ribbon Event
Next articleDaria Goiran