Film leaders look to grow filmmaking workforce in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Film leaders are looking to grow the filmmaking workforce in Oklahoma.

If you’ve ever wanted to work on a movie set, there are now new courses to teach you. The film industry in Oklahoma is growing, with “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Minari,” “Reagan” and “Reservation Dogs” all made here in the state.

“On ‘Reservation Dogs,’ I had trouble filling a crew because Killers was going on at the same time. So, we had two studio projects here and we had to bring people from California, Texas, Atlanta, Colorado. Our goal here is to make the Oklahoma film community self-sufficient,” said Steven Mathis, a gaffer or chief lighting technician.

Prairie Surf Media, a production company in the heart of downtown OKC at the old Cox Convention Center, has partnered with local schools to train people to work on film sets.

“If you don’t have people to work on the productions, and not just writers, directors, cameramen, but people trained in construction and prop design, then you can’t really run an industry. You can’t make a movie without people to work on the film,” said Matt Payne, the Founder and CO-CEO of Prairie Surf Media.

A five-week course called “Grip & Electric” starts Jan. 3 at Oklahoma City Community College. In the course, students will learn about lighting and wiring, specifically for film.

The course costs $2,500.

“Let me tell you, this is a great business to be in and a class like this doesn’t come along very often. So, if this is something you want to do, find a way to scrape up the money and take the time off because it will pay off for you in the next 40 years,” Mathis said.

Mathis will co-teach the class and has worked on everything from “Back to the Future” to “Black Panther” to “Thor: Ragnarok.”

“We will teach them how to be safe, how to be thorough and how to survive in the film business in Oklahoma. Coming out of this class, they’ll be qualified to apply for jobs as grip or an electrician,” Mathis said.

There are also film courses offered at the Francis Tuttle Technology Center that start in February. Food Styling, Production Accounting, and Film Art Department Boot Camp are offered where students can learn about set design, construction and prop creation.

“Some of them are as affordable as $75 and can be completed in about a month’s time. Some of the jobs they might be qualified for include prop master or carpenter or even painter,” said Cody Mosley, the Director of Workforce and Economic Development at Francis Tuttle Technology Center.

Payne believes these classes are special.

“I think what makes these classes special is that every one of them is taught by an industry professional. So, the courses are being taught by people who are looking for people to hire,” Payne said.

Travis Wright, a construction foreman who worked on the movie “Reagan” will be involved at Francis Tuttle.

“We want to build the infrastructure in the state, both with our crews and our vendors, so that we can support and attract these larger films and tv series and streaming content so we can have what they’re looking for,” Wright said.

Anyone is welcome.

“Even though you may have never dreamed of a career in film, if you can build houses out in a neighborhood, you can build sets on a sound stage,” said Rachel Cannon, the Prairie Surf Media Founder and Co-CEO.

Prairie Surf Media said that oftentimes, jobs in film pay more.

“You take somebody who’s making $10, $12 an hour on average and that’s going jump up to like $34 or $35 an hour just because it’s on a bigger project for a film,” Cannon said.

Their goal is to create an ecosystem for film right here in Oklahoma.

“It’s going to illuminate a path for creatives to really be able to thrive and prosper in Oklahoma for years to come,” Payne said.

As an added bonus, Prairie Surf Media says that upon completion of a film class at OCCC or Francis Tuttle, the Thunder will give the student a free ticket.

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