'August: Osage County' location director speaks at Bartlesville meeting

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - More details came out Friday about "August: Osage County," a movie starring Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep to be filmed beginning this month in Osage and Washington counties.

Directed by John Wells, the movie is based on an award-winning play by Oklahoma's own Tracy Letts, a story about the dysfunctional Weston family which comes together when their alcoholic patriarch goes missing.

The film's location manager, Joe Guest, appeared Friday morning at the Arvest Financial Forum along with Oklahoma Film and Music Office Director Jill Simpson and the Bartlesville Convention and Visitors Bureau's Maria Swindell Gus.

They all emphasized the movie's financial impact in northeast Oklahoma.

Guest told the roughly 200 in attendance that starring in the movie in addition to Roberts and Streep will be Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis and "a couple others."

"It's really exciting to be working in a location that a movie story is set in," he said, saying not many many movies bear the name of a county, and much less, are shot in the same county.

Turning to the economic impact of the film on the community, Guest said the production crew has already been spending quite a bit of money in the area.

"We've rented 30 something houses. This is just for the crew and cast to stay in. We are estimating over the course of the production we will incur about 5,000 in hotel room nights" — for the three months of filming.

Giving an idea of the size of the production, he said the crew will have 15 tractor-trailer trucks and is currently 60 members strong.

"That will double by the time shooting begins," he said, explaining that the date will be on Sept. 24 and that much of the filming will take place at a house near Pawhuska with just a couple days of shooting in Bartlesville.

Gus Swindell speaking beforehand said scouts began visiting Bartlesville nearly a year ago as a possibility for August: Osage County. She learned only three months ago the town was selected as a production base, something she knew would be good for the area.

"It's like having a little micro-business in your community for a period of four to five months. They are spending money and they are consuming. They are putting all of that into our economy."

Simpson told those in attendance August: Osage County had looked at Louisiana, Georgia and Massachusetts as potential film locations, but chose Oklahoma largely because of the state's incentives.

"It's all about where the incentives are, so if our incentives go away, the films that are coming here and spending their money in our local economies will go away as well," she said, saying the state annually pays out $5 million a year to draw films to the area. Typically that brings five to seven films, each which contribute between $14.5 million to $15,000,000 million in direct dollars to Oklahoma.

"It's a 3-to-1 return. We are growing jobs and its new dollars in our economy."

She said however that this year the incentive program is empty of funds.

"So one of our objectives in the coming sessions is to work with (State) Sen. (John) Ford and (State) Rep. (Earl) Sears and all the other legislators to extend our sunset date so we can keep this program going."

August: Osage County is the second major movie to film in the Washington and Osage counties area — the first being Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams which filmed in Bartlesville in 2010.

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