Pawhuska ok movie

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Walking through downtown Pawhuska, Oklahoma, will transport you to another time and place. 

The capital of the Osage Nation and the county seat for Osage County, Pawhuska has been transformed into a film set for the Martin Scorsese-directed movie “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

The movie, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, is based on the book of the same name by David Grann. In it, Grann recounts how, in the 1920s, Osage tribal members were killed so others could take over their oil-rich land mineral rights. It exposes a forgotten history, corruption, and exploitation. 

Now, the pages are coming to the screen and with it, increased tourism to this area in northeastern Oklahoma. 

“Within the last month and a half, we have seen a dynamic shift,” said Kelly Bland, executive director of Osage County Tourism. That’s when news of the filming of “Killers of the Flower Moon” started reverberating and people began arriving in the area. 

Located about an hour from Tulsa and 2.5 hours from Oklahoma City, Pawhuska and Osage County, which is also known as the Osage Nation, is now the go-to destination in Oklahoma. 

In Pawhuska, main thoroughfares have been closed, dirt placed on the ground and buildings remodeled to resemble those of the 1920s from nearby Fairfax, Oklahoma. 

“The streets are booming with actors in costumes,” Bland said. “At any moment you can see 1920-model cars all of a sudden come up the streets and areas get blocked off.”

Although the chance to see high-profile entertainers attracts some to the area, Osage County/Nation had been seeing an increase in visitors for many years, thanks to Ree Drummond, known as The Pioneer Woman. Ree Drummond has various books, a television, a magazine, and a blog where she documents her life in rural Osage County/Nation. She opened a combination retail store, restaurant, and bakery in Pawhuska called The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in 2016. 

In addition to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, the business also includes P-Town Pizza, a wood-fired brick oven pizzeria; The Boarding House, a boutique hotel; The Pioneer Woman Collection, an upscale retail boutique; Charlie’s Sweet Shop, ice cream and candy store named for the beloved Drummond family basset hound; and an event center that seats up to 180 guests for dining and receptions.  

More than 2 million people have visited the restaurants, according to Kurtess Mortensen, general manager, and executive chef.

“The vision of The Merc was to help revitalize Ladd Drummond’s hometown while simultaneously giving visitors a real-world opportunity to experience the hospitality and culture described in Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman media brands,” said Mortensen. 

Visitors to the various Pioneer Woman establishments have come from all 50 states and more than 10 countries. The majority of visitors are from outside Oklahoma, Mortensen said. 

Rhian Chambers flips through the visitor book at Mariposa, a boutique clothing store in downtown Pawhuska that is situated next to a filming location for “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

“It’s really cool,” said Chambers, who has worked at the store for six years. “I love meeting people and telling them about the town.”

Chambers, who also lives in Pawhuska, has watched as the area has exploded with visitors. Now, large buses full of tourists delicately maneuver through the streets. Visitors from Russia had visited the store just the day before. 

“We love it. We love having all the people here. We want them to get to know the town more,” she said. 

One thing visitors from far-away destinations may not be accustomed to is the lack of hotel accommodations and public transport. 

There is no public transportation and most visitors stay in AirBnBs, Bland noted. 

But with the ornate and intricate homes all over Osage County/Nation, there’s no limit to the unique experiences that can be had, she added. 

We have some of the most unique and exquisite AirBnB properties,” Bland said. “Just like downtown Pawhuska is historic and unique in that it’s true to the time period of the early 1900s, a lot of the homes in Pawhuska are huge 1900-model homes and many have been renovated to bed and bath stays.”

Even when the movie wraps, Bland hopes people continue to visit Osage County/Nation. 

“In Osage County, it’s a place of beauty and history and we are a combination of three eclectic cultures that make us such a unique place: it’s a combination of the oilman, the cattleman, and the Osage Native American.” 

To that end, Marla Redcorn-Miller, executive director of the Osage Nation Museum, said the increase in visitors has allowed for cultural exchanges.

“Within the last two to three months, it has really picked up,” she said, adding: “We have some great one-on-one conversations with visitors who come into the museum.”

The museum, which is undergoing a plan for expansion, recently opened up a new exhibition looking at drums and the unique way it intertwines with the Osage culture and life. 

In terms of the moving filming, Redcorn-Miller said there are still some questions about the impact it will have on the community. 

“We have to be prepared for that. We are working hard to prepare ourselves and be ready for opportunities but also protection of certain things as well,” she said, adding that the exhibit examining drums will tour for the next five years and will be another story that circulates about the Osage Nation members. 

The Osage Nation is much more than just “Killers of the Flower Moon,” she said.

“It’s much more than just that story,” she added. “We want to be respectful, but also let people know there’s a lot going on and we’re not victims but surviving, thriving people.”  


Movie production will return to streets of Pawhuska

Welcome back, and once again I’ll start off with a report from Pawhuska, which has become the No. 1 tourist destination in Oklahoma.

This past week, filming on the movie based on David Grann's book “Killers of the Flower Moon" moved to Osage Hills State Park, which was completely closed to visitors; no camping or hiking, not even drive throughs were permitted.

Dale Lewis

A temporary parking lot was constructed near the entrance for all the movie extras who now number in the dozens, and a shuttle bus took them to the actual locations where shooting was taking place. The same scenario took place on the Hughes Ranch the week before: dozens of semi-trucks carrying props, hundreds of cars, on-site catering and lots of security. The Drummond Ranch has also had Apple film crews filming scenes in several locations all in an effort to capture Martin Scorsese’s vision for the book.

It’s quite the deal, and here’s the scoop, which you’ll find here first in the Examiner-Enterprise. The film crews are coming back to downtown Pawhuska one more time, and this will be your last chance to see history in the making. Watch all of the actors who they keep in the Constantine Theatre until they are needed march down the street in costume to the movie set. See the lights and the cameras, even meet some of the film crew who walk around town. It’s all great fun, but it won’t last much longer. Yes, my sources tell me that the film process is coming along quite well and filming may wrap up early if the weather continues to be favorable. My advice is come check things out before they are gone.

Always on the hunt for a good story, I took a short trip to southeast Kansas last weekend and found myself at the home of Big Brutus, which sits between Parsons and Pittsburg No I’m not talking about a professional wrestler or some other big guy; this is the world’s largest electric shovel. Built in 1962, this thing can pick up the equivalent of three railroad cars of dirt at a time. When the top layer of soil has been removed, other smaller machines come in to strip the coal from the ground. Sixteen stories tall and weighing 11 million pounds, Big Brutus is retired now and has been turned into a museum that is well worth a visit.

The railroad industry is another big part of the history of this area, and there is no better place to learn about it than at the Webb Family Railroad Museum and Education Center in Carona, Kansas. In addition to great exhibits, they also offer the opportunity to ride in a real old-fashioned railroad car to destinations in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, even into New Mexico. Sit in the locomotive as you cross four states imagining what life must have been like back in the old days. But don’t wait, they are only open on the first and third weekends during June, July and August. Call the Carona Depot Complex at 620-896-8594 for a ticket to the past.

Another interesting thing I discovered on this two-day trip was just how many cave attractions there are in Missouri. You may have heard of some of them, but there are 16 in all, so if you are into cave adventures and are looking for a place that always cool, head for Missouri.

As for me, I’ll be back in Pawhuska this week working hard to find you another interesting story.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road. ...

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Pawhuska gets a vintage look as Martin Scorsese films 'Killers of the Flower Moon' in Oklahoma

PAWHUSKA — On a recent sunny spring Saturday, people stroll the sidewalks of downtown Pawhuska, swinging shopping bags from the popular Pioneer Woman Mercantile, taking snapshots of the quaint brick buildings and wandering in and out of stores with their doors open to the customers and the breeze. 

Inside the boutique The Honey Pot, mother-and-daughter co-owners Penney Johnson and Amber Hurd last weekend gazed out at the familiar sight, which they won't be seeing for the next two and a half months. 

"This is going to be a jewelry store in the movie. They're going to cover the road in dirt — complete dirt — all the way from my corner all the way up to the hill," Hurd said. "They're going to take all my windows out, they're going to take my awnings off, and they're going to make it look like the 1920s."

Excitement has been building in Osage County since filming began April 19 on director Martin Scorsese's eagerly anticipated adaptation of "Killers of the Flower Moon." Over the past week, crew members have been busily building facades on Kihekah Avenue, while residents and business owners have been settling into a proverbial front-row seat with the production moving into the heart of Pawhuska. 

"All you need is popcorn and Milk Duds," Kelly Bland, executive director of Osage County Tourism, said with a laugh Friday afternoon. 

"There's an anticipation," Bland said. "There's something exciting on the horizon that's coming and about to happen."

A crew member on the Martin Scorsese movie "Killers of the Flower Moon" works Friday on the Miller Building in downtown Pawhuska. The building will be used in filming the movie.

Big-budget moviemaking comes to Oklahoma

With its reported $200 million budget and starry cast featuringLeonardo DiCaprio,Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons and Native American actress Lily Gladstone, Scorsese's fact-based Western is believed to be the biggest movie production ever undertaken in Oklahoma. And with the industry still trying to come back from the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be the biggest movie made in America this year. 

"We are thrilled to finally start production on 'Killers of the Flower Moon' in Oklahoma,” Scorsese said in an April statement. "To be able to tell this story on the land where these events took place is incredibly important and critical to allowing us to portray an accurate depiction of the time and people." 

Oscars 2021:Youn Yuh-jung wins historic Oscar for Oklahoma-made movie 'Minari'

Calling it "a time in American history that should not be forgotten," Scorsese is adapting David Grann's 2017 best-seller “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI." His film will chronicle the slayings of Osage Nation citizens in 1920s Oklahoma, after the oil boom made them wealthy. The killings became known as the "Reign of Terror" and led to an investigation by the then-fledgling FBI. 

Downtown Pawhuska is seen on April 24. The town is getting ready for more moviemaking activity as filming ramps up on Martin Scorsese's anticipated adaptation of "Killers of the Flower Moon."

"In Osage County, we believe in happy endings, and I know that this story is not one of the sort of happy-ending stories. ... But from a tourism standpoint, I feel like if anyone benefits from this movie, I want it to be the Osage Nation, because it was them who've suffered. ... They're getting to tell their story, and they're working directly with the movie company to make sure it's done in a way that needs to be done," Bland said, noting that the production was delayed a year due to the pandemic.

More:How 'Minari' came together 100 miles from Lee Isaac Chung's hometown on the Arkansas/Oklahoma line

The perks of filming in Oklahoma 

In a 2020 interview, Grann, the author of the book, praised Scorsese's decision to film in Oklahoma.

"I think it's in the hands of people who seem to really care about getting it right, about being sensitive and being authentic," Grann said. 

Garrett Hartness, a docent and director at the Osage County Historical Museum, said the Pawhuska attraction already has seen an uptick in visitors over the past few years due to the popularity of Grann's book. If Scorsese's film version proves to be a blockbuster, he said the effects could be profound on the community. 

"It has gotten now to where it's probably about 50% people come to our museum because of the Pioneer Woman and probably 50% come because of the movie or the book," Hartness said, telling of a pre-pandemic visitor who traveled there from Norway because of Grann's best-seller.

Pawhuska already has changed dramatically in the past four and a half years with the opening of local Food Network star Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman Mercantile. The booming tourist attraction is south on Kihekah Avenue from where filming ramps up this week, Bland said. 

"From Sixth Street going north ... that's going to be the movie set. It's going to be downtown Fairfax is what it's supposed to be, but in Pawhuska," Bland said, adding that she doesn't anticipate The Merc, as Drummond's hot spot is known, will close for the moviemaking.

Crew members on the Martin Scorsese movie "Killers of the Flower Moon" create a set on Friday that will be a 1920s train station for the film in Pawhuska. The façade is being built around the brick structure that remains of the freight building on the Midland Valley Railroad depot site.

Over the past few weeks, film crews have been constructing a facade on a church in Fairfax that recreates an early 20th-century Catholic church in the area, along with building a wooden shell around a brick structure, the remains of a freight building, on the Midland Valley Railroad depot site. The latter will serve as a 1920s train station for the movie. 

Now, the cinematic action also is chugging into Pawhuska's downtown business district, and between The Merc and the movie, Cathi Ball, co-owner of Mariposa boutique, said it's an exciting time there. 

"I just saw a lady on the street, and they're from Mississippi. She said they came here because they heard they were filming a movie, and she didn't know the name of it," said Ball, whose store is on Kihekah Avenue. 

"Leonardo DiCaprio was out here shooting a selfie with the Triangle Building in the background. … They had some neat old cars in town … and then there was a truckload that had Rolls Royces on it one day. So, it's very interesting."

Mother-and-daughter co-owners Penney Johnson, right, and Amber Hurd are seen in their shop, The Honey Pot, on April 24 in downtown Pawhuska. They moved all their merchandise temporarily out of their store so that it could be used for filming on Martin Scorsese's anticipated adaptation of "Killers of the Flower Moon."

 After watching crews working on pre-production for the past six months around the area, the mother-and-daughter co-owners at The Honey Pot said they're eager to see what happens next. 

"I think it's awesome. Look at the old buildings, they're getting fresh paint. It's just revitalized the downtown," Johnson said, adding that they're being compensated by the production for temporarily shuttering their shop. 

"The buildings that are empty, they've already been in those doing things. … They're painting (around) the windows right across the street," Hurd added, pointing to the historic Kennedy Building across Sixth Street.

On Friday, Hurd and Johnson finished moving out all their merchandise and closed down their shop for filming. They anticipate being closed through July 15. 

On May 17, Hurd is due to give birth to her third son. 

"We're loving it because we get a little paid vacation. … And I won't have to bring a fresh, new baby here to work, so that's nice."

Merchandise is displayed inside The Honey Pot on April 24 in downtown Pawhuska. The shop temporarily closed Friday, as it will be used for the next few months for filming on Martin Scorsese's anticipated adaptation of "Killers of the Flower Moon."

Contributing: Pawhuska Journal-Capital's Robert Smith. 


In next Sunday's The Oklahoman, members of the Osage Nation discuss the making of Martin Scorsese's fact-based film "Killers of the Flower Moon."

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'Killers of the Flower Moon' filming continues in Pawhuska

Cinematic attraction: 'Killers of the Flower Moon' filming brings tourists to Osage County

PAWHUSKA — Roslynn Jackson will never forget the summer her downtown businesses were hurled 100 years into the past for a major motion picture. 

"It's not something that happens normally much in a lifetime, does it? ... It's been fun — cool to see the little town transformed back to the 1920s," Jackson said July 17, sitting under a vintage awning just steps away from the dirt-covered Kihekah Avenue. 

It's not every summer that you get to meet Martin Scorsese and have your shops play a part in one of the Oscar-winning legend's movies.

Roslynn Jackson, owner of the Pawhuska Marketplace, sits outside her business recently, the first day her two downtown shops, the Pawhuska Marketplace and the Gypsy Cowgirl, were open for business in two and a half months, after they were used for filming Martin Scorsese's big-budget adaptation of "Killers of the Flower Moon."

Two and a half months after shutting down and undergoing a major transformation, a two-block section of Kihekah Avenue is opening back up as Scorsese finishes filming there on his historic drama "Killers of the Flower Moon." Filming on the big-budget movie is scheduled to continue into September in Osage County, but downtown Pawhuska is starting to get back to normal. 

"I don't think we knew what to hope for because this was the first time to have a major production like this filming in the city," said Kelly Bland, executive director of Osage County Tourism. "This has been an iconic moment, a historic marker and something that we definitely would love to do again in Pawhuska. It's been a good experience all the way around."

Recreating history 

Cars from the 1920s are parked in downtown Pawhuska to be used for filming "Killers of the Flower Moon."

With a reported budget of at least $200 million and star-studded cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons and Native American actress Lily Gladstone, Scorsese's fact-based Western is believed to be the biggest movie production ever undertaken in Oklahoma. 

Calling it "a time in American history that should not be forgotten," Scorsese is adapting David Grann's 2017 best-seller “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI."

The film chronicles the slayings of Osage Nation citizens in 1920s Oklahoma after the oil boom made them wealthy. The killings became known as the "Reign of Terror" and led to an investigation by the then-fledgling FBI.

"The book was excellent, I thought. I'm excited to see what they do with this. I hope they do the story justice," said Rhett Warren, a history buff from Yukon, standing near a facade meticulously fashioned to resemble an old Studebaker dealership. 

Part of Kihekah Avenue in Pawhuska has been transformed to a 1920s version of the nearby town of Fairfax.

The creator of the "Rhetty for History" YouTube channel, Warren and his wife Sarah made a weekend trek to Osage County to check out the progress on Scorsese's Apple Studios epic. 

"I'm glad to see it happen. I think it's good for the Osage," he said. "I feel like there's a lot of Oklahoma history that's not known. ... And I think that this story needs to come out."

Getting a close-up

The Cavalcade Parade route includes the dirt surface of Pawhuska's transformed downtown on July 17.

The production took a break from filming on Kihekah Avenue July 17 for Pawhuska's Cavalcade Rodeo, which gave people a chance to get a close-up look at the vintage makeover. Bland and other organizers asked if the parade could come through downtown, as it does every year, and filmmakers arranged the filming schedule to make it possible. They even joined in for the 75th annual event.

"The movie people, they had a stagecoach and a carriage and a covered wagon sort of thing, and they brought up the tail end of the parade," Bland said.

A facade of a 1920s car dealership stands in downtown Pawhuska.

Along with the dirt covering the pavement on the street, carefully aged awnings shaded storefront windows advertising rooms to let, a steam laundry service and a billiards hall. One window was emblazoned with "Fairfax Electric," since downtown Pawhuska is doubling for nearby Fairfax in the film. A few blocks away, a fleet of antique automobiles was parked and ready for action. 

Launa Ford, of Cortland, Nebraska, and Tina Fincher, of San Antonio, met up for a girls' weekend to visit Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman Mercantile and the Food Network star's other Pawhuska businesses. The friends were surprised but delighted to find themselves in the middle of a major movie production. 

"It's very detailed," Ford said, standing on the sidewalk near the soil-covered street. "We didn't know what was going on. We're like, 'Maybe they're repaving?' and then somebody was talking about filming. So, we Googled it. ... You can see some of the pavement peeking through in a few spots."

Attracting visitors 

Crowds gather to watch filming of the movie based on the book, "Killers of the Flower Moon."

Since the opening of Drummond's Mercantile four and a half years ago, Pawhuska has enjoyed robust summer tourism, but Bland said filming on "Killers of the Flower Moon" has brought a noticeable uptick in visitors since principal photography started in April. 

"The streets lots of times are lined with tourists ... hoping they'll get a glimpse of someone famous or at least feel that they're a part of making history," Bland said, noting her assistant was thrilled to see DiCaprio come through their parking lot three times on one recent weekday.

Osage County has broken records in lodging tax dollars coming in for two straight months. 

Actors work on set during filming of the movie based on the book, "Killers of the Flower Moon."

The production is using the Constantine Theater, one of the oldest operating theaters in Oklahoma, as a place for extras to rest and await their cues. Although security guards are limiting access to some areas, Bland said the filmmakers have been cognizant that they've been working in the middle of downtown. 

"You might see 100 extras in costume standing out in front of the Constantine ... right there on Main Street," Bland said. "I was just down there with some tourists that came from Colorado, taking pictures of all of them standing there. They were giving us their smiles. And it's so neat, because it's almost like you step back in time." 

Experiencing extra

A man looks at a section of Kihekah Avenue in Pawhuska that has been cordoned off for filming on "Killers of the Flower Moon."

Daniel Scholfield, a Potawatomi performer from Mayetta, Kansas, is among the dozens of Native American extras who have worked on "Killers of the Flower Moon." 

"They just had us walking around, kind of filling in background, and then every once in a while we'll get close to the camera," he said. "I was wearing period clothes, but it was like Osage-type period clothes. So, they were just like nice suits." 

The suits were nice, but the shoes left something to be desired.

"Everybody's feet hurt a lot because it was a lot of standing and waiting," Scholfield said. "A lot of people bought insoles for their shoes because the shoes they give us were period shoes, so they were really uncomfortable." 

In his first film foray, Scholfield said he worked as an extra in Osage County for two weeks, including some 15-hour days. 

Actors work on set during filming of the movie based on the book, "Killers of the Flower Moon."

Scholfield said he is excited to see the movie, especially now that he might be in it. 

"A lot of people don't realize what a lot of us Natives kind of went through back then, how we weren't able to access our own money," Scholfield said. "I think it's really important as they're getting it out there, especially with Scorsese on it. So, it's such a big film right now that it'll get more coverage than, say, a little documentary or something."

Getting back to business 

Two women walk along the part of Kihekah Avenue in Pawhuska that has been transformed to a 1920s version of the nearby town of Fairfax.

Jackson, the downtown business owner, also said that she is eager to see the completed film when it comes to theaters, most likely in 2022. 

"People are excited — and sad about the story that is to be told — but it's a story that does need to be told," she said. "The movie people were marvelous to work with. I found them to be very happy to help in any way they could."

Her Gypsy Cowgirl women's clothing boutique was turned into the Gardener Flower and Plant Shop for the movie, while her Pawhuska Marketplace, where one of the production team bought gloves, clothes and jewelry for the film, was temporarily transformed into Bright Ruddy's, a men's tailoring shop. 

The buildings along part of Kihekah Avenue in Pawhuska have been decked out in 1920s-era awnings and lettering.

After two-and-a-half months of staying closed — for which Apple Studios compensated her — Jackson reopened her businesses on the north end of Kihekah Avenue for the first time this summer July 17. While part of the street stayed closed for filming over the weekend, the production was slated to finish up in downtown Pawhuska this week and start restoring the storefronts and street to business as usual. 

"It was very busy. It was great," Jackson said, adding she's still hoping to meet DiCaprio before filming wraps in September. "It was good to be back. We were doing pop-up stores and stuff in the heat outside and in the rain. ... This was nice to be back to air conditioning and comfort." 

She opted to reopen her shops with the 1920s awnings still up and the windows still painted with the names of the fictional businesses. 

"I think that's cool. ... I'd like to leave them there so people can see what it was (for the film)," Jackson said. "We do good business, and I'm hoping it gets even better with the fact that people would love to still come and see where the movie was made."

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OETA Story on Preserving History--Pawhuska, Oklahoma aired on 07/20/10


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