I do a lot of bitching to people about how Oklahoma is not really conducive to the creative development of its artists.
I am not only talking about filmmakers, such as myself. I am talking about musicians as well. For many years I have worked with great local bands who seem to never get the kind of turnouts they deserve when they put on concerts. I used to think the venues were to blame, but the more I thought about it, I realized it was not so much the venue owners as it was the fan base not really wanting to take the time to leave their homes to support their local talent.
Then these same fans wonder why their favorite bands break up or leave the state.
I live in a college town. We had a big music festival a few weeks ago, the biggest I can recall around here. It had over thirty great bands playing in five venues in one day, all within three blocks of each other. Two large stages sat at each end of Main Street, blockaded off for the day. A public theater (Sooner Theatre) was another venue. An art museum and the patio of a smaller art house staged the other two venues.
For the first time in ages, I was proud of the music scene here. People showed up and supported the bands and it was an overwhelming success. I covered the show as a journalist and got some great video interviews with some of the bands that I will be posting soon as Starving Dogs Productions prepares the re-launch of its podcast, The Starving Dog Show (shameless plug!!!).
When we had the comments on the articles, I took offense to a guy who claimed that since I was from Oklahoma, I obviously was not as knowledgeable about film history as someone who lived on the coast. Well, other than the fact that that poster had to be an complete idiot, I thought about what made people think that if you don’t live in California, you don’t have the qualifications to discuss film academically.
At my alma-mater, the faculty included an Academy Award winning producer (Gray Frederickson for The Godfather II). When he came back to Oklahoma and began to teach here, did he no longer qualify as someone who is knowledgeable of the film business? I mean, he taught me and I guess I’m not qualified. I also had a professor who is considered an expert on the life and work of Bela Lugosi (Gary Don Rhodes). Of course, living in Oklahoma, I guess he was not qualified to produce and direct the documentary Banned in Oklahoma, which appeared on the Criterion release of The Tin Drum. Add to this list Fritz Kiersch (director of Children of the Corn), Andrew Horton (film scholar and author of numerous academic film studies), actor Darryl Cox (Arlington Road, JFK), and James Ragan (esteemed author and poet, and the former head of the USC professional writing program), and I would argue that living in Oklahoma does not diminish someone’s film knowledge when it comes to the history of the medium.
I have done quite a lot of complaining about the stores here in Norman. I was anti-Borders for a while and have complained about Hastings continued redesigns. However, with those as the only two retailers in Norman who actually caters to classic and foreign film fans, I feel a need to apologize for everything I have said against them. I went back to my home town to have dinner with my family a couple of weeks ago and chose to visit the Hastings in that town. I figured since Yukon, Oklahoma had grown so much since I left (with Garth Brooks and everything), the “Entertainment Superstore” should be pretty decent and I have been looking for a certain Criterion DVD for a couple of months now.
I will never complain about the Hastings in Norman again.
All the foreign films were cluttered into a corner of an aisle, not alphabetized and with very little to choose from. My wife was looking for a book and had to pass many rows of Christian and self help books to find their small selection of fiction novels. I will never bitch about Norman again because I think, viewing a town such as the one I grew up in, I understand why there are so many people on the coasts who are ignorant about the Midwest.
Just because I live in the same part of the country as the majority of this nation’s hillbilly population, does not mean that I am one of them.
I also don’t feel any need to move to California. I want to make small films and the ability to make those films is a thousand times easier here than it would be for me in California. California is about making movies, and I could never afford to make my movies there. People here, especially in a college town like Norman, are willing to help me make these dreams a reality. The greed of “what will you do for me” does not exist here on the level it does in LA, and I believe it is an easier process to make films here.
California may have more people who want to make movies, but I don’t consider that a good thing. I would rather be a big fish in a little pond than a floundering fish lost in a giant pond of piranhas.