Hollywood Comes Home

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the August 2015 Issue

Homegrown music and locally produced films seem to be all the rage in Oklahoma. Festivals are popping up all over and street corners are alive with musicians. This year alone, six major film projects have taken place. It’s not happening by accident.

Tava Maloy Sofsky, Director of the Oklahoma Film & Music OfficeThe Oklahoma Film and Music Office helps attract, orchestrate and advertise the television, film, and music industries for the state. According to Tava Maloy Sofsky, its influential director, Oklahomans can be proud of the state’s attention, but the impact goes much further than entertainment value.

“When a movie or music video is filmed here, it brings an extraordinary amount of business to the local community,” Sofsky said, “because the crew needs lodging, food, and gas stations. They’ll often hire local people for jobs ranging from hair stylist to technical support. We also help them find the perfect backdrop, whether it’s a water scene at Turner Falls, a farmhouse in Guthrie, or a desert setting at Little Sahara State Park.”

This type of behind-the-scenes networking is nothing new for Sofsky, although she has only been in her current position for a year. For the past twenty years, both she and her husband worked as freelance filmmakers in California.

Sofsky, originally from Ada, had no interest in being in front of the camera. Her talent lay in coordinating day-to-day-operations such as scheduling, budgeting and managing the set. After working commercials, she was promoted to movie production assistant on the sets of Money Train and Drop Zone. Next, she moved up to production supervisor for Beyond Borders and The Fast and the Furious.

In 1998, she became the associate producer for The Mask of Zorro. It was a career highlight for several reasons. First, actor Anthony Hopkins directly reported to her for any problems he was having. Once the filming was done, he invited her and two other staff members to dinner because, “We were his favorites.”

Secondly, on the set, she hired Brian Sofsky, dated him and agreed to marry him by the end of Zorro. They honeymooned in Belize at a lodge owned by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, best known for The Godfather movies.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the Sofskys moved back to Oklahoma. Brian was doing an on-location film, and she stayed home with their three children and “soaked up family.” While hosting a film camp for students last summer, Tava visited the Oklahoma Film and Music Office to get permission from the director, Jill Simpson, for the students to film at Myriad Gardens.

“The day after camp, Jill called to ask if I was looking for a job, because she was leaving. We had similar backgrounds and had worked in the trenches for some of the same Hollywood producers. I accepted, and it’s been a blessing. Because of my past, I can relate to filmmakers and their challenges.”

Despite Sofsky’s track record with filmmaking, she has strong music connections as well. Her grandparents sang and performed Country/Western music, and her brother, Zac Maloy, formed the well-known Oklahoma band, The Nixons.

Sofsky has successfully convinced visiting film producers to hire Oklahoma composers and musicians to write and perform movie scores. It is one more example of assisting filmmakers, while bringing business and acclaim to local musicians.

“Music in Oklahoma is really getting attention lately,” Sofsky said. “From big names to newcomers, you can find someone playing in a café, on a street corner or at a music festival in downtown Oklahoma City or in Tulsa’s Brady District nearly every weekend. It’s a great time to be a musician here.”

She’s excited that film festivals, too, are experiencing popularity never before seen in Oklahoma. Her office sponsors and advertises these events, such as the deadCENTER film festival, which had its highest attendance this year. To top it off, Oklahoma films won a number of awards.

“If you want to embrace any part of the film or music industry, visit our website to see what films are gearing up. We post upcoming casting calls for musicians and for good ole’ Okies who might want to have a role as an extra in a film. A lot of things are in the queue right now that I can’t talk about yet—but let’s just say that if a certain television series comes here, it will be gigantic!”

Sofsky is proud of her past, and she’s using her experience to influence Oklahoma’s economy and entertainment industry.

“Oklahoma has been the site of so many great films, like The Outsiders and Twister. It’s hard to predict the success rate of the newest ones—maybe Heartland or The Veil?” In all cases, there are a lot of eyes on Oklahoma, and we’re helping put musicians, actors, filmmakers and fans to work. ”

To learn more, visit www.ok.gov/oklahomafilm.

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