SHOOTING WRAPS UP FOR REALITY-BASED MOTION PICTURE DRAMA 'TULSA'
Preliminary "Tulsa" movie graphic. Insets: Left, co-Director Gloria Stella prepares for a scene with young actress Livi Birch (who plays Tulsa) and actor/co-Director Scott Pryor (on the motorcycle) who plays her father in the film, at right, actor Cedric Greenaway goes over his lines in the script for a hospital scene.
▶ BY KEVIN SCOTT COLLIER
Principal filming has wrapped up for the upcoming faith-based motion picture, Tulsa. It’s not about the famous Oklahoma city, Tulsa is the name of a young girl. Based on an actual event, the inspirational film is written by Scott Pryor, Executive Producer at Foretress Films, and co-written by Ty DeMartino. The project, directed by Pryor and Gloria Stella, is produced in association with Autumn Bailey Entertainment and En’val Entertainment.
“Tulsa, is a love story about father Tommy Colston, a very rough character, and his long lost daughter Tulsa, a sassy Bible thumper,” Scott Pryor told CM. Gloria Stella, producer and founder of En’val Entertainment, told CM Tommy’s daughter is “a sassy 9-year-old girl who takes control of her biological father’s life, in an attempt to make him a fitting father.”
“Their relationship has a rocky start, which leads to some great comedic relief, but reluctantly, it takes root and grows into a heartwarming love story,” Pryor explained.
The motion picture, filmed entirely in Augusta, Georgia, is expected to be released in late 2020, or early 2021. The movie features Livi Birch as Tulsa, and Scott Pryor as her father, Tommy. Other principal players include John Schneider (The Dukes of Hazzard fame), Cameron Arnett, Hannah Alline, Nichole Marie Johnson, Kylie Deire, Kristin Brock, Kristopher Charles, Odessa Feaster, Reese Gould, Sharonne Lanier, Dale Anthony Jennings, Garett Knights, Credic Greenaway, Jemarion Jones and Joey Rodriguez.
While the story has its feel-good moments, it puts on display how life can sometimes be turned upside down.
“Life is messy,” Stella said. “But God can bring beauty from ashes.”
Scott Pryor and Gloria Stella agree that making a motion picture can be a challenge but raises and seasons individuals to meet the task.
“Tulsa was an awesome experience of challenge, growth, and perseverance,” Pryor said. “It's always a huge responsibility to come on set and lead every day no matter what you're going through or how you feel. You have to maintain a positive attitude and encourage everyone around you. The leadership on a film truly sets the tone.”
"Logistically, the biggest challenges were getting the right locations and resources with very little money,” Stella said. “But the Augusta film community was amazing and we did have a partnership with a church there, New Life, that also partnered with us in prayer, and I believe God orchestrated many resources for us that worked perfectly, that we would’t have gotten otherwise.”
“I love directing, but the credit belongs to our amazing cast and crew and everyone else who helped with this project,” Pryor explained. “They're the superstars!”
At times the “superstars” faced a notorious enemy called the weather, adding a misery factor making production more difficult. Temperatures soared to the high 90’s, and some planned shoots were “rained out.”
“In the end though, I do think that the ‘mishaps’ ended up working out in our favor—we got better footage than we would have if we did things the way we originally planned,” Stella said.
Actor Cedric Greenaway, cast in the role of Tiny, said that being part of the Tulsa production was rewarding personally.
“Being on the set of Tulsa was great, everyone worked together,” Greenaway told CM. “Meeting new actors from all over the nation, not just Georgia. I’ve been on great sets before and I have to say Tulsa was one of the best! Felt like I was a part of a family!”
Greenaway had high praise for Tulsa film co-directors Scott Pryor and Gloria Stella. He conveyed Stella was tuned into an actor's strong and weak points regarding performance to bring forth the best result.
“I would say Gloria is ranked as one of the best directors I’ve worked for. She had a very talented team around her whom she could trust. She was just amazing,” he said. “I watched her every day on the set. She allowed others into her own creative process. She had the ability to reflect on an actor’s strengths and weaknesses, and she was truly open to taking other’s advice and was confident enough to dismiss it, too. Love her style.”
Greenaway was particularly impressed with Scott Pryor's versatile talents and professional tenacity.
“Scott is a best, he does it all. He's non-stop!” Greenaway shared. “I would love to work with him again. He's beyond talented. Actor, Director, writer. He had his hands in all aspects of the movie. I can truly say I honored to have worked with him. Very good person, honest...I could go on and on.”
For actor Cameron Arnett, who also acts in Tulsa, being under the direction of Gloria Stella reached back to his beginning in the industry.
“Working with Gloria Stella was a full circle for both of us,” Arnett told CM. “Gloria was actually the 1st AD of the very first Christian film I ever did called Stand Your Ground. So seeing her move as the director of Tulsa was just a feeling of what was just fitting.”
Like Cedric Greenaway, Arnett was impressed with co-Director Scott Pryor's multi-talented touch he added to the project.
“Scott Pryor was seamless as he occupied the space of actor, Producer and Director,” Arnett said. "Having worn all those hats myself, I know that takes a determined spirit to keep it all in line and working.”
The production of Tulsa took place during mainstream media’s reporting on Georgia’s pro-life “heartbeat law,” and subsequent boycott threats from Hollywood producers. Gloria Stella wasn’t too concerned about the negative response.
“For me, personally, I believe that I need to do what God has called me to do, regardless of what’s happening politically in the world,” Stella said. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in the politics and distractions--and issues like pro-life are incredibly important, but at the end of the day, God’s called Christians to love people, and it’s pretty difficult to love people when we make decisions to create Christian cliques, where our beliefs are never challenged—and therefore, never displayed.”
Stella said believers need to seek God’s will, not what the media or Hollywood elites desire.
“I hope Christian filmmakers will film wherever God leads them to film, if it’s in Georgia—great, they will probably find a lot of support in their belief system,” Stella explained. “However, if God calls them to film in Hollywood, I hope that the way Christian filmmakers operate, in showing love, will be a light that attracts people to them.”
Stella addressed possible reasons Hollywood isn’t producing more family-oriented entertainment for movie patrons.
“I think that Hollywood produces movies according to the season that the culture is in,” she said. “We went through a season where people needed to go to the movies to escape, then we went through a season when people needed movies to inspire them, then there are seasons when people need movies to push them to think beyond themselves, or consider deeper philosophies of life. Perhaps this season, Hollywood believes that people need a big adrenaline rush, or need to be shocked.”
However, the shock and awe themed blockbuster films haven’t crowded out the genre of family entertainment.
“I believe there is still a huge market of people who want to watch a movie together with their family, and laugh, cry, and be challenged to think, and that’s what Tulsa is,” she said.
Actor Cedric Greenaway sees expanding platforms for family films.
“My family is always looking for great family shows,” he said. “When my kids are planing movie night, they would pick out family shows and we would stream them all night. So, these types of movies will never go away, there’s a need for more and I see it expanding.”
Scott Pryor believes Tulsa fits into that mold and will produce a result that is more than an entertaining work of cinematography but an experience families can share.
“I believe audiences will laugh, cry, but also leave the theater with a new found appreciation for their relationship with God and others,” Pryor said. “As a creator, I want to have the audience connect with the characters and bring them on a journey and experience the joys and pains, the sorrows and victories, with the characters throughout the film.”
The challenges of making the motion picture and the ups and downs in the storyline still point in one direction only, Gloria Stella explained.
“That trusting in God doesn’t mean life will be easy, but it means that God is in control,” Stella said. “It doesn’t mean that we will ever be able to understand why things happen on this earth, but God’s always moving one way, or another, and trusting Him is still the best option we have.”
“God brought an incredible team together and opened many doors for this project,” Scott Pryor explained. “We had to move forward in reliance on Him, scene by scene, and shot by shot, day after day. It was like sprinting a marathon, and yes, I meant sprinting a marathon but we loved it. My deepest sincere appreciation goes out to our Tulsa family, they were warriors who sacrificed time, sleep, and financial reward. Love you all!”
Watch CM Online for updates on the pending release of this picture.