Great State: Oklahoma Director Found the Best Setting for His Film in ‘Hollis’

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HOLLIS, OKLAHOMA -- Sonny Priest had the story first, but the setting for his movie was an empty landscape until he drove the lonely highways west and happened upon Hollis.

"I had idea kicking around for years," he says. "It was based on experience I had working in Altus."

"I had a lightning strike driving through Hollis," Priest recalls. "I thought, 'this is where that story happens'."

The story came from his days as a youth pastor.

He knew he needed a small town setting.

The more he walked these streets the better he felt.

"We could have shot it anywhere and faked it," he says. "We decided we wanted to shoot here because it was authentic, and it was real, and it was a beautiful place."

As good as the setting was the people were ever better.

Debra Anderson could have called the local police when she saw a stranger taking pictures of her house.

She and Sonny struck up a friendship instead.

Debra's bright, yellow place was home to a film crew for a whole day.

"It didn't bother me at all," she says. "I felt blessed to know what was going on and very blessed to have them film at my house."

The police and county sheriff's departments couldn't have been nicer either.

They even donated some uniforms for filming.

Everywhere the crew went folks welcomed with open arms.

Somewhere along the line, the movie 'Hollis' and the town became the same.

Sonny says, "In the conceptual mode of that brain storm, that lightning bolt moment, that's when it became pretty clear. The main character's name had to be Hollis and it had to be in Hollis."

In the film a young man struggles with the decision to leave his home town.

In life the town Hollis proved the perfect home for a story in search of place.

'Hollis' had two screenings at the recent Dead Center Film Festival in OKC.

For more information on Sonny Priest's feature film go to