The Oklahoma filmmaking community continues to grow year after year. Jeremy and Kara Choate, a husband and wife creative duo from Tahlequah, have joined those ranks.
Their first film, Tenkiller, debuted in November 2022. It follows an eighteen-year-old machinist who struggles with the death of his best friend, the divorce of his parents and the general violence of his life. Although this is the pair’s first dip into movie-making, they’ve been veterans of storytelling for years; they own Choate House, a photography/video production company specializing in weddings and personal stories. Additionally, the couple created Blood Relative Films to release their movies.
The idea of making a movie had been gestating for a while – but a harrowing moment in the family provided a push.
“Kara had always mentioned how cool it would be for us to write and direct a movie,” says Jeremy. “I started writing the screenplay for Tenkiller after my thirteen-year-old daughter saved Kara from drowning in a kayaking accident.”
The film, which is available to stream on Amazon, was shot entirely in Oklahoma, near Tenkiller Ferry Lake.
Jeremy utilized his Oklahoma roots when writing the story.
“The idea for the script was inspired by experiences I had as a kid growing up in Tahlequah,” he says. “One in particular was when I watched from the woods as a friend broke into his uncle’s house.”
While the duo was already comfortable behind the camera, there were some growing pains shifting to a scripted film.
“The first time filming a movie scene felt a bit stiff,” admits Kara. “It was just a crew of the two of us, along with the sound guy, so you can imagine the juggling act. As we got more into filming, we really began to feel things open up in freedom and flow. I think you can see that momentum build when you watch the film.”
While the couple is proud of the entire work, there are a few standout moments.
“The scene of the brothers playing with the water hose in their front lawn stands out for me,” says Kara. “Behind the camera, it had a feeling of The Tree of Life. It’s an honest moment between two real-life brothers that brought up similar childhood memories of my own.”
The film ran into a few production woes, notably COVID-19 and, of course, the harshness of Oklahoma weather.
“I think the toughest thing about filming was the heat,” says Kara. “We’d originally slated to film in the spring, but COVID hit the week prior and shut everything down, so we had to film in July. The majority of the scenes were filmed outdoors in 100+ degree heat. It was brutal, but we’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
And do it again they did; Kara and Jeremy liked the process so much they’ve already completed a second film, The Awkward Stage, which is in post production now with a planned release this year.
“It’s a story about a bullied middle school reject who falls in love with a sculpture,” says Jeremy.
Learn more about the duo at choatehouse.com or bloodrelativefilms.com.