Indie Filmmaking: <I>Tulsa</I>
Issue: January/February 2021

Indie Filmmaking: Tulsa

Atlanta-based production company Pryor Entertainment ( specializes in creating films that inspire, empower and educate. The company is run by Scott Pryor, a trial lawyer, and his wife Laura, and recently released their third independent film, titled Tulsa. In addition to writing and directing the two-hour feature, Scott also stars in a leading role. The film is inspired by one of his actual cases, and centers on a former Marine- turned-mechanic, whose life is blindsided when he finds out he has a nine-year-old daughter. 

Tulsa, played by Livi Birch, is bright and optimistic — a stark contrast to Pryor’s Tommy Colston character, who is struggling with a number of demons, including alcohol and the stress of running a garage. John Schneider, of Dukes of Hazzard fame, appears as a doctor later in the film, which saw success as a self-distributed movie during the pandemic.

Tulsa marks the company’s third feature ( The List, Black Bear) and was shot in Augusta, GA, in 2019, with post production stretching into 2020. 

“The country — and world — is really starving for family-friendly content,” says Scott Pryor. “And there is a huge need for family friendly and inspirational storytelling.”

Independent films, he adds, “can be brutal”, and it was his hope that each department’s contribution would stand out while collectively making the film the best it could be. Working with a tight budget, as most indies to, Pryor says he tries to “pay in opportunity”, meaning, he tries to work with creative individuals who are looking to advance their careers by working on a feature — something they may not yet have had an opportunity to do.

“We will take a director of photography, who has awesome work, but has not has a chance to do a feature,” he explains. “They may be a hard worker and have their own camera and lenses, and want a feature as a way to up their game. We pay at a reduced rate, and we do that with the different departments.”

He also relies on a lot of volunteers, who believe in the project, and tries to create a fun — though, admittedly, sometime stressful — family atmosphere.

Tulsa was shot in Augusta, GA, over a 20-day period. The film was shot using Red’s Dragon camera, with Denton Adkinson serving as cinematography.

Pryor says the film has a well thought out color palette, with a “fall” look. There are no blues, and Tulsa represents sunshine, while Tommy’s character is much darker. 

“I’ll give my director of photograph a lot of latitude,” he explains, noting that they will discuss their end goal and how they can get there through a choice of technology. Articulating the story to each department, he believes, helps achieve the strongest results.

On-set, the production had an editor — Joshua Jamison — who worked to put together scenes to make sure they had the proper coverage. Jamison worked with Pryor on The List, and also cut behind-the-scenes sequences for Tulsa, which can be viewed Pryor Entertainment’s YouTube channel.

“I would certainly recommend having an on-site editor on an independent film, because if you are on-location, you can go back (and re-shoot),” says Pryor. “It’s extremely beneficial.”

The feature was ultimately assembled by Georgia-based editor Lonny Pelot using Adobe Premiere, and Pelot also handled the final color grade.

For those taking on an independent project, Pryor offers this advice: “Prep, prep, prep!”

He also says it’s important to have a great team that’s passionate about the project. Distribution and marketing are also incredibly important. Keeping budgets tight will help down the road when it comes to recouping costs.

Pryor Entertainment has several scripts currently in the works. One looks at mental health, while another center on defeating ISIS. Pryor says he’s also hoping to try his hand at a comedy, which he feels is one of the toughest genres to write.