SCOTT PRYOR On TULSA and the risks and joys of filmmaking By Alex A. Kecskes
Known for the gripping drama Blackbear and the taut drama The List, actor/writer/director Scott Pryor is also a well-known trial lawyer, married, and raising three sons. Together with his wife Laura, they run Pryor Entertainment, a thriving Atlanta-based independent production company. Inspired by true events from one of Pryor’s actual trial cases, TULSA follows a desperate marine biker whose life is turned upside-down when he’s united with the sassy 9-year-old daughter he never knew existed. TULSA is a funny and heartwarming story of redemption, family, and forgiveness—even in the darkest of times. The award-winning drama scored sixth in the category of All-Time Box Office for Self Distributed Movies. Thank you for taking the time for this interview. TULSA is an emotionally powerful, faith-based film. Can you go into the trial event that inspired you to make it? Scott Pryor: I was preparing for a trial some years ago, representing a family that had suffered a very horrific tragedy. I asked the family I was representing how it affected them—both financially and personally. The father said, “My daughter used to love to go dancing with me, but after the tragedy, she could only dance for ten minutes before we had to leave.” So that stuck with me. And then a friend of mine, who’s kind of a grandfather to me, related his story, which was brought to life by Cameron Arnett, who played the bishop in the movie. Many actors who direct their films say it’s not an easy process. Can you go into the challenges you faced wearing both hats? Pryor: Typically, when we’re filming, our two biggest challenges are time and money. We shot TULSA in 20 days. As an actor, I’ll sometimes have to walk into a scene at two o’clock in the morning. And I’ll have just 20 minutes to shoot the scene and nail it. That’s an added layer of pressure because on the production side and as co-director, 24 • HOLLYWOOD WEEKLY
I know that we can’t be at this location longer than 20 minutes. Sometimes a cast member can’t shoot one day, so you’re constantly switching stuff around. On top of all that, we filmed in Augusta, Georgia. It was a great location. Clint Eastwood used it. But it’s really hot, so being in a black leather jacket and biker boots in high 90-degree humid weather in July is—well, I Iost ten pounds. And sometimes a location would drop out and we’d have to rush over to a new location and work that out. But the flip side of all that is I got to co-direct the film with Gloria Stella, who had helped produce one of our previous films—Blackbear. We did a lot of preparation before shooting--like setting the style and color palette. My wife also helped behind the camera with creative and logistics. Do you have a favorite scene or scenes? Pryor: Oh boy. I have so many. I like the comedic scene when the social worker’s boss came in and grilled Tommy and Tulsa. And Tommy pretends that he’s a person of faith. Where on Earth did you find the adorable Livi Birch? She was absolutely phenomenal.