The Cherokee Nation recently announced a movie rebate program. Starting this week, the Cherokee Nation Film Office will accept applications for a new cash rebate incentive fund offering up to $1 million annually for film and television production expenses that occur within the limits of the Cherokee nation.
The Cherokee Nation is located in northeast Oklahoma and covers 7,000 square miles across 14 counties offering a variety of looks from big city to rural towns to rivers, dams and five distinct ecoregions. The reservation also hosts a modern 27,000-foot facility with a virtual soundstage, using CGI technology to simulate locations around the world.
The Cherokee movie discount program is a first for a Native American tribe. It offers up to 25% cash back on expenses and salaries for productions over $50,000. The incentive program is available on its own or it can be used in conjunction with the Oklahoma State incentive program.
The 2021 Film In Oklahoma Act, administered by the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, offers a similar program with a budget of $30 million. Surprisingly, all of this money has already been allocated. The New Paramount Plus Series King Tulsa and the second season of FX’s Reservation dogs are at the top of the list, alongside several feature films. Despite the pandemic, production spending in Oklahoma reached $170.4 million in fiscal 2021, up from $32.6 million the previous year.
This new incentive from the Cherokee Nation will give films that were not eligible for Oklahoma’s rebate this year another chance to get a rebate. And, with the $1 million annual cap, that’s likely to help several low-budget movies.
The mission of the Cherokee Nation Film Office is to increase the presence of Native Americans at all levels of the film and television industries, while creating opportunities for economic development and employment in the Cherokee Nation. This new rebate program is key to that mission.
In some ways, the program is already a success. The Los Angeles Times ran a big story last month about the Cherokee movie discount and how it will elevate the perception of Native Americans in film and television. The Writer’s Room Anousha Sakouis provided great exposure to the Cherokee Nation and a great interview with Jennifer Lorendirector of the Cherokee Nation Film Office and Original Content.
“This has the potential to be groundbreaking as far as Native filmmaking goes, because what we want to do is use this film incentive to create a Native Film Center in northeast Oklahoma,” said Loren. “We’re extremely strategic in building this industry here in a very smart way so that we’re creating jobs that won’t just be temporary, so that we can have an industry that’s here all year round.
If the Cherokee movie discount program proves successful, I expect similar programs to be launched from other tribes and cities across the state.
In closing, I want to make a correction to last week’s column: The co-CEO of Prairie Surf Media is Matt Paynea graduate of Bishop McGuinness who is also an award-winning filmmaker, writer, photographer and educator. Have a good week!