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Former OKC elementary to be converted to a film studio

A former elementary school in far east Oklahoma City may find itself at the center of a pivot in the film and television industry.

The Oklahoma City School Board agreed Monday to sell Green Pastures Elementary School for $300,000 to Green Pastures Studio LLC.

Backers envision a movie backlot on the 12-acre site, an academy for aspiring crew members to learn film-set skills and etiquette, and a co-working space for film and television companies and entrepreneurs.

As streaming transforms entertainment and new players enter an industry long dominated by Hollywood, billions of dollars for new content and productions are "looking for a home," said Richard Janes, who retained his industry connections when his family moved from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City 18 months ago.

He commended the governor, lieutenant governor and Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, who sponsored legislation last year to sweeten incentives for film and television productions, for "going out of their way" to make sure Oklahoma seizes the opportunity.

Janes characterized Green Pastures Studio as "great stepping stone on a really big vision … at an amazing, pivotal moment."

Green Pastures Elementary, 4300 N Post Road, was among 15 schools closed last year by the Oklahoma City district as part of its "Pathway to Greatness" realignment.

Built in 1954, the 35,435-square-foot building occupies 12 acres next to Spencer.

Oklahoma City taxpayers invested $4.3 million in the school through MAPS for Kids, completing renovations in 2011.

A 2007 bond financed the new gym, said Courtney Morton, the district's spokeswoman.

Green Pastures Studio is acquiring the entire 12-acre site, Janes said.

The 5,500-square-foot gym will serve as the first sound stage but is small by industry standards. Plans are to add larger sound stages as the "creative campus" grows, he said.

The condition of the building itself is "phenomenal," Janes said, and the expectation is that productions and classes will be underway by the end of February.

The new Oklahoma Film & Television Academy will be the primary tenant at Green Pastures Studio.

Students already are being recruited at the academy's website, which offers three four-week training modules, beginning with "On Set 101."

Anyone with an interest in film and television is welcome, from young people who have finished high school to mid-career (or older) workers with experience and transferable skills — think carpenters, artists, accountants, electricians.

Oklahoma City's central location is a selling point for productions seeking facilities at a time when demand for new content, and the facilities to create it, is off the charts, Janes said.

And while productions may use Green Pastures Studio as a base, Oklahoma's diverse geography and other amenities mean all parts of the state could benefit as the cameras roll.

"This is for all of Oklahoma," he said.

William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›

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