MADE-IN-OKLAHOMA Movie About Cockfighting and Politics

Friday, July 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(TULSA) - A movie shot in Oklahoma uses the controversial subject of cockfighting as its backdrop, but its true focus is on the political wrangling involved in passing laws, the film's writer says.

``Cockpit,'' a working title of the movie, is ``a political thriller and a murder mystery,'' said Kent Frates, an Oklahoma City attorney who wrote the screenplay.

Frates, who spent eight years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in the 1970s, said the movie is populated with a number of earthy characters, including ``a crazy lady, a member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), who throws blood on everyone.''

Jill Noonan, whose Tulsa-based Dreams Beyond Productions is producing the film, said neither the blood nor chickens are real.

Noonan said the film has a budget of less than $500,000 and will be wrapped up next week.

Noonan said she kept things quiet during the early part of production because of the strong emotions surrounding the cockfighting issue.

Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico are the only states where cockfighting is legal. Supporters have challenged an initiative petition to ban cockfighting, and the case still is pending in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

State Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, overcame strong opposition and managed to pass a legislative referendum in May, calling for a vote of the people on a proposal that would require nearly twice as many signatures on any petition to ban cockfighting.

The movie takes no position on the issue of cockfighting, Noonan said.

``It's strictly fictional,'' she said. ``It's a political-suspense drama.''

The movie crew spent 10 days on location in Sand Springs and Tulsa and the past three days filming at the Capitol, concentrating on the Senate Chamber.

Noonan said the passage earlier this year of legislation giving financial incentives to companies producing movies in Oklahoma was a key factor. The new law gives companies a rebate of up to 15 percent of the money they spend in Oklahoma.

``That gives you a real incentive to hire as many local people and spend as much money locally as you can,'' Noonan said. ``We scheduled production around the passage of the legislation.''

Many of the actors in the film hail from Oklahoma. Some of them had to return to the state from the West Coast.

Veteran character actor Wilford Brimley, a frequent visitor to Oklahoma for rodeos and other events and a friend of former Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy, plays the governor.

Tulsan Gailard Sartain, who has appeared in the critically acclaimed films, ``Mississippi Burning,'' ``The Grifters'' and ``Fried Green Tomatoes,'' plays an aide to the governor.

Oklahoma City actors Robert Knott and Rex Linn and Tulsan Robert Peters also star.

The movie is directed by Noonan's husband, Robert Slane, who has 25 film credits to his name.

The film is scheduled for release late this year or early next year.