OU drama director plays Wiley Post in 'Pearl'

Outlet: California Chronicle
Publication Date: 5-7-2010

May 7--NORMAN -- The Warren Theatre in Moore had the red carpet out Tuesday as cast and crew from the Oklahoma-made movie "Pearl" attended the Oklahoma premiere.

"Pearl" chronicles the teenage years of Pearl Carter Scott, who at 13 was the youngest licensed pilot in the U.S. in 1928.

"My desire is that this film will encourage others to hold fast to the worthy ideals of family, love and dreams of little girls who believe they can fly," director King Hollis said in a release about the film.

"Pearl" was produced by the Chickasaw Nation, who wanted to share the tale of one of their ancestors.

Tom Huston Orr, director of the School of Drama at the University of Oklahoma, played the role of Wiley Post in the film. Being the third Oklahoma-made movie Orr has had a role in, he remarked that the making of the film was different because many of the cast and crew were united by a common Oklahoma spirit.

"The unique thing about this film is that we very much became a family quickly," he said while waiting for his complimentary soda at the movie's premiere.

Orr said that before auditioning, he was quite in the dark about the life of Wiley Post.

"I researched him," he said. "I didn't know anything at all about him."

After learning about the iconic figure, Orr said he feels Post is not given enough credit for the significant role he played in the development of aviation.

Another interesting aspect of the film for Orr was the fact that he was able to work professionally with a former student, OU alumnae Isabel Archuleta, who played Pearl's sister Opaletta.

"It was without a doubt one of the highlights of the film," he said.

"Pearl" was the first Oklahoma-made film to qualify for the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program, said Jill Simpson, director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office.

Simpson, an OU film studies graduate, said the program has been on the books since 2001. When she took over as director in 2004, there was no money left for the program. After getting the legislature to reappropriate money for the program, and lowering the qualifying budget requirements, the program was finally in a position to work with filmmakers at the end of 2008.

Since then, Simpson said six projects have either been shot or are in production in Oklahoma.

"The program is up and running and everything is going well," she said.

Although its a tough year for budgets in the legislature, she is hopeful that the film rebate program will continue. She looks forward to building an atmosphere that will keep film graduates in the state.

"Pearl" is currently on a nation-wide screening tour. As of press time another Oklahoma screening was not scheduled. The DVD of the film is expected out in late fall.