For The Children Weekly Column

“Lights, Camera, Action…”

PHOTO CUTLINE – Attending a showing of the Oklahoma-set movie What Rhymes with Reason in Oklahoma City are (from left) OICA CEO Joe Dorman, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Heath Holt Hayes, Matthew Farley, Katie Lenhart, and Bonnie Campo. Dorman praised the film for its positive collaboration with Oklahoma’s 988 Mental Health Lifeline. – Courtesy Photo

June 12, 2023

“For the Children” Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, OICA CEO


Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Telephone: (405) 833-1117


OKLAHOMA CITY – Last week, a very special event happened in our state. The deadCenter Film Festival is Oklahoma’s largest film festival welcoming 20,000-plus film enthusiasts and industry professionals to Oklahoma City each June.

Each year over the past twenty-three years, this film festival premieres or shows artist-created productions, including Oscar-qualifying categories for two of the short-film entries.

You may be wondering how a film festival ties into child advocacy. One of the films debuting this year was an entry by Kyle Roberts called What Rhymes with Reason, about a high-school senior who struggles with depression after a family tragedy.

The main characters begin an adventure to find a legendary landmark hidden in Oklahoma. Each of the teens has some mental health struggle due to trauma in their childhood or the pressure of being that age. One character deals with anger issues over abandonment and being compared to his father, while another sees his identity tied to “likes” on social media. Still another teen struggles with a pill addiction to deal with her depression.

What makes this even more special is that the film collaborated with Oklahoma’s 988 Mental Health Lifeline, prominently displaying posters, and referencing suggestions for seeking help. The promotion of the mental health campaign is extremely important, normalizing seeking help for those struggling and needing assistance through this hotline. Movies are persuasive, so this partnership will certainly help reach many.

I was honored to be invited to the cast and crew showing of the film prior to the premiere, and I was pleased to see there several Oklahoma high school-aged actors cast in the film, including the daughter of two college friends. This type of work for young people not only gives them an opportunity to see themselves on the big screen, but it also helps spark their desire to find a career in film, an industry that now has high school and college courses established to aid those wanting to work in the movies.

Thanks to the legislatures and governors over the past two decades, the film industry has seen growing success in our state. In 2021, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law a $30 million tax incentive designed to create additional opportunities, which has proven successful.

These efforts led to the filming of the biopic Reagan that was filmed three years ago in Guthrie, highlighting the 40th President of the United States. Another film, Minari, is a Golden Globe-nominated drama about a Korean family. A third is Killers of the Flower Moon, based on the 2017 book detailing the notorious Osage murders and the birth of the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

The program offers film and television productions up to a 38 percent rebate on money they spend in Oklahoma, capped at $30 million annually. Being a rebate, money must be first spent in Oklahoma for film studios to get the rebate.

Should state leaders continue to grow this program, the guarantee of tax collections will also grow and support other local businesses and individuals. Our incentive program is so successful, several actors with Texas roots did a short PSA lamenting the fact movies with Texas settings were filmed in Oklahoma.

Thank you again to Kyle Roberts and those who worked to highlight a very important issue with the struggles of teenagers facing mental health issues, and thanks to those policymakers who helped make this film a reality.