Doug Bauer looks like an actor, but the specific irony there doesn't lie in the fact that he actually is an actor, but an actor who looks more than a little like Jim Caviezel. And they both played Jesus. But Bauer, Kansas-born and Tulsa-bred came back from Los Angeles to do it.
"This is where my roots are, where I'm from," he said. "California is a little like a different country. L.A. especially."
Bauer, while attending the University of Oklahoma, took an acting class for non-majors as a blow-off elective. But something about the process of acting became an unexpected creative outlet for him. Set to graduate in May of '88, he had no idea what he wanted to do, but the spark he felt in acting class inspired him to throw caution to the wind. He packed it all up and went to Los Angeles.
"You can't make a living as an actor (in Tulsa)," Bauer said. "That's impossible."
After spending some time out in Hollyweird, where his accomplishments ranged from security guard at the Playboy Mansion to appearing alongside Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell on the hit television series Quantum Leap, he returned to T-Town and his family's business: real estate. Still, the creative bug gnawed at him.
So, he began to paint and seek out local productions in which to participate. Bauer has since performed in several locally produced films, appearing in 1999's critically-acclaimed, Chillicothe, as well as portraying Jesus in the 2008 film In His Sight. This, in turn, led to his current collaborations with Tracy Trost and Ryan Dunlap, in the films Find Me and the yet-to-be released Greyscale, (See more about it in this week's Cover Story, P. 16) respectively.
His work with them, along with his latest role in the still-in-production Dome of Heaven -- where he co-stars with a local legend, Avatar's Wes Studi -- has Bauer excited not only about his future but for that of Tulsa filmmakers in general.
"I think everyone needs to support everyone else (in the local film community), and I think that's what's happening," he said.
Lately, he's been very busy.
In Tracy Trost's 2009 film, Find Me, Bauer plays Matthew McIntosh, the son of an Oklahoma Senator who is kidnapped as leverage to influence an important vote. A group of friends playing an Internet game called "geocaching" -- a sort of hi-tech scavenger hunt -- discover secret clues that might lead to his character's whereabouts. He stars alongside his noted fellow Screen Actors Guild member, and friend, Brian Shoop, who plays his father.
His role in Greyscale has yet to be revealed, owing to secrecy about that film's plot details -- a secrecy that makes the upcoming film all the more appealing. But, as motivated and proficient local filmmakers are coming into their own (and attracting professional actors in the process), the lack of a real industry is a concern for Bauer -- as it is for anyone who wants to create or work in independent film from Tulsa.
"I think Greyscale will surprise some people," he said. "Here's a guy (Dunlap) who wrote, directed it, shot it here and hopefully Ryan will stay here and make another feature. He employed a lot of local actors, a lot of local talent, and I think people will be impressed with what he has done. It won't be, 'We like the movie because it's made in Tulsa,' it's just, 'We like this movie.' That's where I get excited. That's what I (think) about guys like Ryan and Tracy. We need guys like that to stay."
Bauer believes that holding L.A. up as a model is misguided, and the wiser and more likely path to expanding the local industry lay in looking toward the smaller cities that grew a film community themselves -- often with state/municipal incentive -- to attract national and international attention, such as Austin, Shreveport and Albuquerque.
"The more pictures that are done here, the more experience people get," Bauer said. "Will it ever be L.A.? Obviously, no. But there's no reason we can't do what Albuquerque is doing."
Albuquerque currently has full production facilities and an infrastructure for which, Bauer said with a wry grin, has become known as Tamalewood.
"Or Austin," he continued. "Look at Dfest. Maybe having something in conjunction with that ... while the focus is on Tulsa ... that might be a good time to try and capitalize (on Tulsa filmmaking). When you look at the success of Dfest and what they've done, it's possible."
It's important to note that Austin's SXSW is now as internationally well known for it's film component as much as anything else. But it's easy to forget it all started as a music festival ... just like Dfest.
"I think it's time for Tulsa to really make an effort to do two things," he said. "Help promote the local film industry. And let's try and get the big budget movies to come here. But we shouldn't rely on that. You have to create your own (scene)."
Of course, he has a vested interest in building an environment where he can indulge his passion and make a living, but Bauer wants to see filmmakers supported here. And not just because the more films that get made here the more opportunities are afforded to actors. He also thinks it's integral to retain the talents he believes have the best shot at doing quality work.
"In the end it's all about making a good movie," Bauer said. "Nobody cares where it got made or where you studied. All they care about is the story. Who's to say you can't make a sleeper hit from right here?"
Bauer is on hiatus now from the currently in-production Dome of Heaven. About 60 percent of the film was completed last winter, and it will return to Vici, Okla., a few miles south of Woodward, in the coming weeks to shoot the remaining scenes that call for a springtime setting.
Shooting in Western Oklahoma is a prime example of the variety of topographies the state enjoys -- from the urban, to the forested and green rolling hills, to the arid, more desert-like, environs way out west.
"It looks more like New Mexico," Bauer said. "Literally, I was driving and saw tumbleweed blowing across the highway. It'll be interesting to see what it looks like in the spring."
Bauer hopes that Dome of Heaven will be able to premiere in Tulsa. His co-star, Wes Studi, obviously has local roots. The film's writer and director -- and award-winning Cherokee poet -- Diane Glancy, while a Kansas native, was also Artist-in-Residence for the State Arts Council of Oklahoma and has deep ties to her slightly more southern home.
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