Tulsa International Film Festival kicks off in downtown Tulsa Thursday

TULSA - The inaugural Tulsa International Film Festival is bringing a little bit of Hollywood to Tulsa, and that could mean business for the state.

Tulsa rolled out the red carpet Thursday night to welcome filmmakers from all over the world.
Organizers hope the festival will put the spotlight on Oklahoma.

It's been 10 years in the making. Now it's lights, camera, action here in Tulsa, as the city's first international film festival kicks off. 155 films from 22 countries will be shown, and the concerts and local food vendors will cater to expected crowds of hundreds.

"I wanted to bring films to Oklahoma, show Oklahoma, what's happening all around the world, but build up this community that we have growing here. I thought this is the perfect place for it," said Joel Hulett, chief programmer for the Tulsa International Film Festival.

Rebate programs and tax incentives are bringing more filmmakers to Oklahoma. Recently crews shot an untitled movie starring Ben Affleck in Bartlesville, and cameras rolled in Glenpool and Tulsa for a movie featuring Jason London called "The Lamp."

"It's very exciting to be here. It's exciting to be in Tulsa, it's exciting to be in Oklahoma," said filmmaker Kevin McKiernan, who attended graduate school at the University of Oklahoma.

McKiernan is screening two of his movies at the festival.

"To attract people in film, you've got to have a festival," he said. "And this is your first annual festival, and I think that's very important."

He encourages filmmakers to give Oklahoma a try.

"There are so many stories in Oklahoma just waiting to be made. And what you need is cinematographers and writers and producers and crew to stay here and not to flee out of state to work elsewhere," McKiernan said.

Aspiring filmmakers have a chance to learn from the pros in several workshops. Academy award-winning filmmaker Haskell Wexler says the best way to attract more movies to the state is simple.

"I think the best way is for people in the state to work on making their own movies. Because now a days, the film business is really international," Wexler said.

The four-day event features multiple venues and special guests including actor and Oklahoma-native Wes Studi, of "Dances with Wolves" and "Avatar," two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler, of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Thomas Crown Affair" and actor Tate Steinsiek, of the television series "Face Off," among others.

The Tulsa International Film Festival is sponsored by the Oklahoma Film & Music Office.  For more information, visit www.tulsafilmfestival.org.

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