From left: Alicia Hutsell, volunteer, David Carr, board president, John Farmer de la Torre, executive director, Marcus Aton, board member/treasurer, and Mattalynn Hutsell, volunteer, pose in some of the 12,000 square feet of space that will be home to The Ozarks Film Foundry’s media production lab. The Foundry is a Springfield-based nonprofit seeking to expand filmmaking opportunities and cinema knowledge in the Ozarks region. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

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At a quiet, roughly 15,000-square foot warehouse off an industrial side street in west-central Springfield, a relatively new nonprofit is making noise as it leads the way in developing a blossoming film industry in southwest Missouri.

Regional politicians and local leaders are already showing signs they're listening. Now, the Ozarks Film Foundry hopes to gain the endorsement of the people.

The nonprofit, which officially formed on paper in mid-2022, has spent the time since then transforming the warehouse into a filmmaker's delight, including a theater to hold viewings and a 12,000-square foot upstairs media productions lab.

While the dream is far from complete, the group is taking the steps to lay the groundwork for a film industry to bloom. The Foundry hopes to be a place for filmmakers and students alike to learn and to produce, and a spot the community can come to embrace and participate in cinema.

“The end goal of all this activity is to make the appreciation of the cinematic arts and the production of them permanent features of the economic and cultural landscape of the Ozarks,” said John Farmer de la Torre, executive director of the Ozarks Film Foundry.

“So, everything feeds into that.”

The timing of the Foundry comes just as Missouri reinstated a film tax credit in late-2023 on the promise the program will spur economic activity throughout the state. The tax credit program and the Ozarks Film Foundry have helped bring the burgeoning film industry in southwest Missouri to the attention of local and regional politicians, such as Bob Dixon, presiding commissioner of the Greene County Commission.

The nonprofit was established in the middle of a fracturing film industry across America. In the past few decades, Hollywood has become stifling expensive, leading to both low-budget and multimillion-dollar productions looking elsewhere to send their crews. At the same time, filming technology has advanced, driving down the costs associated with producing a movie, a show or a commercial.

The result is the strengthening of regional filming hubs across the country, Farmer de la Torre said. He thinks the Foundry has hit the sweet spot, which will help the nonprofit grow an industry hub in the heart of the Ozarks.

Developing a three-legged stool to support filmmaking in the Ozarks

David Carr, left, board president, and John Farmer de la Torre, executive director, of The Ozarks Film Foundry, which is working to build a film industry incubator at a warehouse in west-central Springfield. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Farmer de la Torre, who joined the nonprofit early last year and previously worked at Miramax Films and National Geographic, compares the Foundry to a three-legged stool, with the purpose of the nonprofit balanced on three principles.

The Foundry refers to the first leg as an incubator. The nonprofit aims to “train another generation of Ozark filmmakers,” Farmer de la Torre said. This will include classes that will walk participants through an adaptive film school. Introduction-level classes will be free, with intermediate and advanced classes at a highly reduced cost compared to traditional film school.

“That way people can come in and get whatever they feel they need at the level they need it,” Farmer de la Torre said.

Aiding in that process is a 12,000 square-foot media production lab in the works in the upstairs portion of the warehouse, located at 1300 W. Poplar St., near the northeast corner of the intersection of Chestnut and Kansas expressways.

The space will allow the Foundry to host specific workshops for filmmakers and students alike. Classes, which will focus on different topics like audio and sound or cinematography and lighting, start in early-April.

The production lab will eventually consist of a plethora of sets, all of which can be torn down and put up quickly. Filmmakers will be able to rent out the space at a low cost to make movies, commercials, YouTube videos and more. The Foundry also wants to get film students from area-colleges involved by using the space for classes.

The nonprofit plans a series of workshops that aim to bolster filmmaking capabilities in the region. “Filmmakers on Filmmakers” invites local directors and producers to show one of their films and discuss it with the audience.

“It's a local filmmaker who recently made a movie who basically shares their stories and helps up-and-coming filmmakers learn about what they just went through,” Farmer de la Torre said.

Then there's the Creator Series, which involves more accomplished filmmakers. The masters of the craft share insights with aspiring filmmakers and more importantly, contacts.

“These are people who, you know, they've done things” in the industry, Farmer de la Torre said. “They come here and extend their contacts themselves. That's really big when you're tring to get into the movie business. Connections are everything.”

Along with its speaker series, the nonprofit produces a podcast called “Outland Filmmakers.” The podcast features well-known filmmakers and Farmer de la Torre interviews them, asking questions about their career and inspirations. The podcast has more than a dozen episodes. (Find it here on Spotify or search wherever you listen.)

“We call it ‘Outland' because everything outside of L.A. (Los Angeles, California) is kind of the outland” of the film industry, Farmer de la Torre said.

Creating an Ozarks Film Commission

Some of the 12,000 square feet of space that will be home to The Ozarks Film Foundry’s media production lab. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

The second leg of the Foundry's stool revolves around building a film industry in the Ozarks. The nonprofit has already begun work developing a database of possible film locations throughout the region. The database will give production crews a starting point on scoping out locations for filming in the Ozarks.

“Coming up with a database or a directory of various businesses or venues or locations around the area that are comfortable working with filmmakers is a big value that we can offer people,” said Marcus Aton, treasurer and board member of the Foundry.

The next step in establishing an Ozark film industry is to become an accredited film commission, certified by the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), said Farmer de la Torre.

Film commissions are typically quasi-governmental, nonprofit organizations that attract motion media production crews to shoot in their respective localities. Commissions provide support to productions with the aim to have a significant, direct economic impact on the region. AFCI represents more than 360 commissions from 40 countries, according to the organization's website.

There are already film commissions in Kansas City and St. Louis, as well the Missouri Film Office based in Jefferson City. There is no commission in the southern part of the state.

Being an official film commission is more than a fancy title, said Farmer de la Torre. The title acts as an “official handshake” with movie studios across the world, he said.

The commission is “an important part to attracting studios,” Farmer de la Torre said. “We haven't had that representation before and that's one of the reasons we haven't attracted a lot of big studio productions.”

Accreditation is a lengthy process that begins with a government agency's sponsorship, Farmer de la Torre said. The Foundry has already begun meeting with a number of local and regional community leaders, such as Dixon, Matt Morrow, president of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, and Springfield Mayor Ken McClure.

While the ultimate form of the sponsorship is still being decided, the Foundry wants to be sure it includes a broad base.

“We have to find the best way of representing the region, because we want it to be a regional effort,” said Farmer de la Torre. “We don't want it to be just Springfield, we want it to be the Ozarks.”

The initial idea is to have it pushed through the Greene County Commission, Farmer de la Torre said. The Foundry aims to have the sponsorship in place and gain accreditation sometime in Fall 2024.

Bob Dixon wants a Southwest Missouri Film Commission

Bob Dixon, the Greene County Presiding Commissioner, supports the creation of a regional film commission to help draw filmmakers to southwest Missouri. Dixon has seen firsthand the sprawling industry the tax credit programs have helped build in other states, like Georgia. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon is already pushing the Foundry's plea to regional politicians and leaders in Jefferson City. His goal is to get a film commission in southwest Missouri and he's in the middle of figuring out exactly how to do that with the resources available in the region.

“There are a lot of moving parts to” establishing a film commission, Dixon said. “From a governmental perspective, we just want to be supportive of film production in the Ozarks.”

Dixon has discussed the idea of a southwest Missouri film commission with multiple mayors in the county, as well as chambers of commerce and tourism boards, he said. The structure of the commission, how it will be endorsed and if it will be housed in another organization are yet to be determined.

“It could be the Ozarks Film Foundry, specifically,” Dixon said. “It could be a broader-based commission. It could be an endorsement. I've got to figure out what we're able to do.”

Dixon's interest in a film commission came after Missouri re-adopted tax credits for the cinema industry in 2023, he said. Last summer, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed the Show MO Act to reinstate filming tax credits that were in limbo for 10 years.

The Motion Media Production Tax Credit Program allows the state to authorize up to $16 million in a tax year, including an $8 million annual cap for both a film or episodic series. An eligible project can receive a tax credit equal to 20% to 42% of qualifying expenses, according to the Missouri Film Office.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development oversees the program and decides which projects are approved. After the production, the department performs an audit to verify its direct economic impact.

After sunsetting in 2013, the lack of the tax credits meant Missouri missed out on enticing productions to the state, said Dixon, who served eight years in the Missouri House and eight years in the Missouri Senate prior to winning his county office in 2018. Multiple projects that were slated to be filmed in this region, instead went to other states that had film tax credits in place.

‘Ozark' and ‘Tulsa King' move to other states due in part to lack of tax credit

John Farmer de la Torre, executive director of The Ozarks Film Foundry, says having an official film commission is “an important part to attracting studios. ... We haven't had that representation before and that's one of the reasons we haven't attracted a lot of big studio productions.”(Photo by Jym Wilson)

Dixon highlighted a few noteworthy productions that Missouri lost out on. First, Netflix's “Ozark,” a popular crime-drama series starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. Even though the show tells the story of a family living in Lake of the Ozarks, its production crew never stepped foot in Missouri.

“Well, it wasn't filmed anywhere around here,” Dixon said. “It was filmed in Georgia because Georgia had a state tax credit.”

Dixon has seen firsthand the sprawling industry the tax credit programs have helped build in other states, like Georgia. He made an official trip to Atlanta a little under two years ago and was part of a tour of the film studios.

“It’s an exploding industry in Atlanta and I was amazed at what was filmed there,” Dixon said. “A lot of shows people just assume were filmed in Hollywood. They were not filmed there, they were filmed in Atlanta.”

Second, was Paramount Plus' “Tulsa King,” a crime-drama series starring Sylvester Stallone that was created by Taylor Sheridan. The series portrays a Mafia capo who is sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to set up a crime syndicate in one of the biggest cities in the Midwest.

‘Tulsa King' “was supposed to be about Kansas City and the mob bosses of Kansas City,” Dixon said. “But Missouri didn't have a credit and they could actually make [the show] in Tulsa, so it became about Oklahoma.”

Just like Georgia and Oklahoma, Dixon said he believes the reinstated tax credit program will help lure film productions to Missouri, but it will take time. He believes having a Southwest Missouri Film Commission will provide the support for productions that will drive economic growth in the region.

Whether or not the commission is ultimately housed inside the Ozarks Film Foundry, the nonprofit will definitely have a place at the table. Dixon said he plans to have additional meetings with Farmer de la Torre and David Carr, founder and board president of the Foundry.

“Some of the local collaborative efforts we're working on to figure out how to structure” the commission, “would help guide” his next steps, Dixon said.

“The bottom line is that things are happening in the Ozarks,” Dixon said. “We have a story to tell. We have a new way to invite people here. We have the potential for significant economic development.”

Lining up business and community sponsors, fundraising

David Carr, board president of The Ozarks Film Foundry, says development of the local film industry could help retain talented people graduating from local colleges. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

It's not just governmental agencies that have taken notice of the Foundry. In late-2023, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO) named the nonprofit an agency partner. CFO has a page on its website set up to take donations to the Ozark Film Foundry.

The nonprofit is also in talks with the Hatch Foundation for some type of sponsorship or partnership that would include a significant donation, Carr said. The money from Hatch would immediately be used to further develop the media productions lab.

Erin Danastasio, executive director of the Hatch Foundation, said she toured the facilities and met with the Foundry's leaders to learn more about the organization about a month ago. She said meeting with the Foundry and learning about the reinstated film tax credits have alerted her to the potential of a southwest Missouri film industry.

“With all the tax credits and everything that has been released for Missouri, this could be a new industry that we could see a big spike in,” Danastasio said.

Hatch will make a decision on the Foundry's sponsorship and donation at some point in May, Danastasio said. The executive director also highlighted the nonprofit's effort to reduce what Carr called the “brain drain” of film industry specialists. Basically, a lack of a motion picture industry in southwest Missouri has caused those getting degrees in the field to have to move away from the region in order to explore commercial opportunities.

“We have all these film students at MSU (Missouri State University) and at OTC (Ozarks Technical Community College) and there’s, I’d say, limited commercial work at the moment in this area,” Carr said. “If we can help kind of build out that industry a little bit more, maybe we can retain some of that talent here.”

The Foundry is aggressively exploring business sponsorships and agency partnerships, as well as other means of funding like private donations, Carr said. There is a spot on the organization's website where business sponsors can sign up and individual donations are taken.

Early this year, Hotel Vandivort became the nonprofit's first business sponsor after donating $3,500. The downtown business, located at 305 E. Walnut St., hosts a once-a-month mixer for the film industry.

It's events like these that help foster what Farmer de la Torre calls the third leg of the Foundry: Community. The nonprofit wants to build a community around film in the Ozarks. While there is no timeline established to hold the inaugural event, the Foundry aims to have an annual film festival at its headquarters.

The Foundry holds events all the time in an effort to build a community of cinema appreciation in the heart of the Ozarks, Farmer de la Torre said. At the end of April, the nonprofit will host an anniversary celebration.

Carr said the Foundry's biggest purpose is to build infrastructure and awareness. Getting a film commission in southwest Missouri, building out a database of shooting sites, training the next batch of Ozarks filmmakers and building a community of support will lay the groundwork for a movie production industry to blossom in the region.

“We don’t necessarily even need people to give us money as long as they endorse us,” Carr said. “If we could just get broad community support.”

“That’s one of our biggest goals as a nonprofit, is to get the film commission going, get the resources here and make it obvious to everybody in the area that having a film industry is beneficial.”

Ryan Collins

Ryan Collins is the business and economic development reporter for the Hauxeda. Collins graduated from Glendale High School in 2011 before studying journalism and economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He previously worked for Bloomberg News. Contact him at (417) 849-2570 or More by Ryan Collins