Video: Oklahoma film and TV industry enters the streaming wars with Green Pastures Studio and Oklahoma Film & Television Academy
The streaming wars are on, and Oklahoma's burgeoning film and television industry is entering the fray with the founding of Green Pastures Studio and the Oklahoma Film & Television Academy.
Melodie Garneau and Richard Janes, who are with Green Pastures Studio, and Tava Sofsky, director of the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, visited The Oklahoman studios today to chat with me about this exciting new venture in the local film industry.
As my excellent colleague William Crum recently reported, the Oklahoma City School Board agreed earlier this month to sell Green Pastures Elementary School for $300,000 to Green Pastures Studio LLC.
Backers plan to convert the 12-acre former school site into a movie soundstage and backlot, 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.
"When you look at the streaming of wars that are going on, you've got all of these networks like Netflix, like Amazon, who are committing millions and millions - in some cases, billions of dollars - more to produce content," Janes said in today's interview. "All the soundstages across North America are now booked up. So, if you want to shoot in a soundstage, you're looking two years out now. So, it's not just Oklahoma, and I think that's what gets really exciting for what we're looking at, is the opportunity for serious economic impact."
Green Pastures Elementary, 4300 N Post Road, was permanently closed in May after OKC Public Schools went through the Pathway to Greatness project, a districtwide initiative to provide equitable learning opportunities for all students through resource alignment.
"It's just the perfect spot," Garneau said. "The streaming services now ... they need the content, and we have the great work crew and film office that's going to really support it - and the legislation, it's actually getting there."
As previously reported, the initiative to establish a film studio and academy comes after Gov. Kevin Stitt signed new legislation in May to attract film and television productions to the state. The bill offers film and television productions a 35% to 37% cash rebate on qualifying labor, goods and services, with a fiscal year cap of $8 million. The bill is also set to help recruit and retain Oklahoma jobs and serve as an immediate and long-term economic investment in the state.
Oklahoma film companies and vendors have long talked about the desire to be located on a film lot where different organizations can easily work together and a central hub of creativity can be presented to outside producers and film financiers - and Green Pastures Studio is designed to offer that. The final paperwork for the sale is being worked through, Janes said.
"We can move in there very quickly; we have a number of the Oklahoma production companies that are going to base themselves there. We're talking with other universities and colleges about bringing them in," he said.
"The soundstage that we have at the moment ... it's pretty darn perfect. And our hope is - we're in discussions at the moment - for end of March, our first movie to be in there - which is a movie that is a sequel to a movie that everyone watching this will know."
In addition, Janes said the Oklahoma Film & Television Academy is slated to begin offering classes March 1 at the facility. Three tracts will be offered, and they are designed to be affordable, to fit into the schedule of working adults, and to let people begin to work on a film or TV set as soon as they finish the first four-week tract.
In the first week, the academy received 70 applicants, he said.
My colleagues and I at The Oklahoman will be following the progress on Green Pastures Studio and the Oklahoma Film & Television Academy, so stay tuned for more to come.