Lights, Camera, Tulsa! Hoodwinked! Debuts at the PAC

Contributing Writer

TULSA GETS HOODWINKED! Proving that getting “hoodwinked??? can be a good thing, it was recently announced that Tulsa will be the site of the Midwest premiere of the new animnated film, Hoodwinked. Produced and written by native Tulsans, the premiere will benefit the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa. Making the announcement were, left to right, Mayor Bill LaFortune; Sally Dennison, Council Oak Books; Jill Simpson, Oklahoma Film and Music Office; Ken Busby, Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, and Christine Booth.

D.J. MORROW INGRAM for GTR Newspapers

Here’s a story that could have leapt from the pages of a novel onto the big screen. The film would be about a girl from tornado alley, the progeny of oilmen, who takes innate talent and a Midwest work ethic and makes it big in Hollywood working in film. Never forgetting her roots, she helps some hometown boys realize their silver-screen dreams and brings them, their shared movie project and a lot of Hollywood hoopla back home with her.

At the end of this film, the camera pans rows of spellbound children, their older siblings and parents at a hometown theater enjoying the movie made by she and her colleagues. The director of the town’s arts council smiles from the back of the auditorium, knowing that proceeds from this film debut will benefit much-needed arts initiatives to help a struggling downtown reclaim its former glory and glamour.

Move over It’s a Wonderful Life. We wouldn’t hoodwink you — this story is true.

Hoodwinked! the animated film produced by Tulsans Sue Bea Montgomery and Preston Stutzman, and written by Tulsans Cory and Todd Edwards and another Tulsan, Tony Leech, makes its Midwest premiere, replete with searchlights, red carpet and celebrities, at the PAC’s Chapman Music Hall on December 13 at 7 pm. Tickets are $20; $10 for children. All proceeds benefit the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa.

This “true story” behind the adventures of Little Red Riding Hood introduces a karate-kicking Red, voiced by Anne Hathaway, her thrill-seeking Granny, Glenn Close, The Woodsman, Jim Belushi, and a sarcastic Wolf, Patrick Warburton. Together they try to apprehend an malevolent goody-stealing bandit.

Sue Bea Montgomery, was born in Tulsa, graduated from high school in Wagoner, Okla., and later earned a degree from the University of Tulsa. Her career began as a camera operator for Tulsa’s NBC affiliate and for Winner Communications, working with Chris Lincoln. She landed a production assistant’s job on the Francis Ford Coppola film The Outsiders, and later as part of another S.E. Hinton/Coppola collaboration, Rumblefish. Both were shot in Tulsa.

Montgomery followed her Tulsa/Hollywood exposure with a move to L.A. The highlights of her resume, working for producers and directors, include Iron Weed starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, and Great Balls of Fire with director Jim McBride, Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder. She switched to the associate producer role with the TV show The Wonder Years, and then jumped back into film with the Wolfgang Petersen-directed In the Line of Fire, starring John Malkovich and Clint Eastwood, and worked on Shawshank Redemption with Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, Tin Cup with Kevin Costner and Rene Russo and Air Force One with Harrison Ford and Glenn Close.

With two young sons, Montgomery wanted to spend more time at home, so she took a managerial job in production with Disney. During her more than five years there, she worked on Mulan, Lilo and Stitch, Atlantis, Treasure Planet and A Bug’s Life. Her work with animation proved invaluable.

She came to know Cory and Todd Edwards when the Oklahoma Film Commission called her with information about two Tulsa filmmakers, principals in a film company called Blue Yonder, who had made a trailer the Commission thought worthy of a look. She met them in L.A. and agreed they had something. They made several trips to California, one to join Montgomery at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch mixing facility near San Francisco. “Eight years later we were at Skywalker Ranch mixing their movie [Hoodwinked!],” says Montgomery. “We just finished up a few weeks ago. It’s like a full-circle thing that was kind of neat.”

Montgomery introduced the Edwards brothers to her friend Maurice Kanbar (of Skyy Vodka and New York University’s Maurice Kanbar Film Institute fame, who also invented the stretchy material found in Spandex). He became their financier. “Maurice said to us, ‘Give me an idea of what you would like to do. I would really like you to do a retelling of a classic fairy tale.’ And that’s what we did. Todd and Cory came together with an idea — we all embellished on it, went back to Maurice and that’s how it began. We got the script written. They worked very, very hard, and then we needed a home to make it.” The film ultimately was made in the Philippines by seven partners who “hunkered down and got the job done.” Says Montgomery, “No studio was behind what we were doing. We just kind of came out of nowhere.”

Kanbar was particularly interested in the film opening in Tulsa as he has invested heavily in the city’s downtown, purchasing five buildings. The most notable being the long-neglected Mayo Hotel. Hoodwinked! will enjoy a New York, Hollywood and Tulsa premiere. It opens nationwide on Christmas Day.

“It’s fun. It’s entertaining. It’s got something for college kids. It’s for like the 6-to-60 group,” sums up Montgomery. “I hope that those audiences that do embrace it understand that it is the ‘little engine that could.’ It’s bringing about opportunity for people who wouldn’t necessarily have gotten a chance to make this kind of movie outside of the studio system. That’s a big thing. If any one us had stayed in the studio system, we would have been a cog in a big wheel and you are not really heard. So all those people out there making art in all parts of the Midwest, this shows you. You just pull together. If you have a good idea, a good script and a computer, you go for it. You can do that. You don’t have to move to Hollywood to do this sort of thing. It takes a work ethic and persistence. Overall, I just want people to go out and enjoy the movie. That’s really what it is all about.”

Updated 11-28-2005

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