Oklahoma marked 100 years of statehood in 2007. Centennial events, exhibits and programs celebrated the 47th state’s history from pre-Columbian times to the present. Filmmakers Todd Kent and Devin Dennie are digging even deeper into the state’s past.
Their new documentary, “Oklahoma Rocks!” celebrates the state’s “pre-history” – “looking at what the science of geology tells us of how Oklahoma came to be,” Dennie said. The state’s diverse geology offered a rich vein of material for the duo, who logged hundreds of hours and thousands of miles pursuing the project over the last year.
While people picture Oklahoma as a Plains state, overlapping landscapes vary from pre-Cambrian metamorphic rock formations to Cretaceous stones holding dinosaur bones to Ice Age sand dunes, all within a couple hours’ drive of each other, Dennie said. The barren granite Wichita Mountains in the state’s southwest corner, for example, contrast greatly with the richly forested Ouachita Mountains in the southeast, he said.
In addition to tourist vistas, the film touches on the geology behind the state’s industry and economy, examining the contributions of petroleum, minerals and mining – and even sand and gravel – to the area.
Centennial events also helped the pair by putting a lot of history on display, Dennie said, referring to how in one case a visit to a Paleo-Indian buffalo kill site offered evidence of how indigenous inhabitants used geology to their advantage.
Early hunters drove the bison into narrow canyons and over the edge of cliffs.
Interviews with experts and interesting visuals are being condensed into a quickly paced 60- to 90-minute package that Kent and Dennie hope will appeal to the general public as well as hold the attention of younger viewers.
Scheduled for November release, “Oklahoma Rocks!” is not the pair’s first movie. “Rockhounds: The Movie” focused on gem and mineral collectors. The movie was filmed in several states and screened in venues worldwide.
“Rockhounds” won the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies’ Excellence in Education Award.
A portion of the film was shown as part of the “OK Rocks!” exhibit at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman, Okla., for more than a year, Kent said.
Another film featured the East Texas oil field, and a 1999 television show, “North Texas Explorer,” aired in several states, Kent said.
Nor is this project the first time AAPG members have had a chance to encounter the team. The two gathered footage for their projects at the 2004 AAPG Annual Convention in Dallas, interviewing geologists and going on a pre-convention field trip. (August 2004 EXPLORER)
The pair grew up in north Texas and have known each other since the first grade.
Dennie, a petroleum geologist with Devon Energy, does most of the research and is the on-camera host for the films. Kent, a professional filmmaker, said he is “the production guy.”
They formed their non-profit production company, Explorer Multimedia Inc., in 2003.
It is a “frugal organization,” Kent said, with the two friends doing most of the work themselves in their spare time.
Store and online sales are planned for “Oklahoma Rocks!” The filmmakers also are seeking out potential financial contributors to help pay for the movie’s distribution.
The great American … plains? A new film on Oklahoma geology will help show the state’s contrasts and complexities – and look at how geology impacts the state’s industry and economy.
The Science of Your Life
The pair has hundreds of ideas for future films, according to Dennie.
“There are 49 other films out there like this,” he said, “and there are still things out there (in Oklahoma) we haven’t gotten.
“I’m interested in the science of your backyard,” he added. “The things you drive past every day on your way to work, the rocks kids play on, that well in the back pasture – where does it go ...?”
The films also capture some of the knowledge of older experts “who have a lot of insights to share,” he said.
The movies “help show why some people would spend their lives studying these things,” he said.
In the meantime, the pair wants to put “Oklahoma Rocks!” into as many venues as possible. They hope to show the movie at film festivals and offer screenings for geological societies and other organizations.
“We’d like to put a copy on the desk of every high school science teacher in Oklahoma,” Dennie said.
“We hope you don’t have to look very far to see it.”
Learn more about the movies "Oklahoma Rocks!" and "Rockhounds: The Movie" -- and theproduction companybehind them.