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    Oklahoma City Documentary: “City Rising OKC – A Hidden Gem of American Cool”
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Oklahoma City Documentary: “City Rising OKC – A Hidden Gem of American Cool”

Oklahoma City Documentary – CITY RISING OKC | There was a time, not long ago, when cities like Austin and Portland didn’t exist as we see them today. Before these towns became great American cities, they were communities on the rise just waiting for their stories to be told. There are more like them, and one stands out. For every covered wagon or cowboy hat in Oklahoma City, there’s a tech startup and cultural story waiting to be discovered. I traveled to OKC to witness these stories firsthand. I trained with Olympic athletes, spoke to entrepreneurs and craftspeople about the businesses of tomorrow and even stood on the Chesapeake Arena’s center circle where NBA star Kevin Durant goes to work. I left intrigued and encouraged, having witnessed a city on the rise that is just waiting to be discovered. OKC will surprise you. (It surprised me.) It’s a rising beacon of tech, culture and sport in the center of the Great Plains. Join me as I experience Oklahoma City firsthand.

this story is brought to you by vapor-distilled smartwater, who found unique inspiration for their water by looking up to the sky. we hope the change in perspective this piece offers will help inspire you.

“CITY RISING OKC” – Oklahoma City Documentary Timeline:

  • Introduction – 0:00
  • Rocktown Climbing Gym – 2:01
  • OKC Boathouse District – 5:28
  • Interview with Sandip Patel of – 11:40
  • Rowing with the US Mens Olympic Team – 16:14
  • Oklahoma City Plaza District – 18:12
  • Violin Maker Arsenios Corbishley – 21:07
  • Oklahoma City Thunder Basketball Tour – 22:48
  • Entrepreneurs Lunch at Packard’s OKC – 27:17
  • Conclusion – 33:48

Written, Produced and Hosted by Seamus Payne of
Directed, Filmed and Edited by Ben Bradley of

Oklahoma City Documentary – City Rising OKC

Oklahoma City Documentary - CITY RISING OKC
  1. I think Tulsa has more potential to be a “next Austin” if they could get their economy going. It is more liberal and has a few key advantages missing in OKC. Most of the economic momentum is down here at this end of the turnpike however.

    Oklahoma City is overall too conservative politically and culturally to be compared with places like Austin and Portland. If there is a buckle of the Bible Belt, it’s OKC. That’s not to say there are no liberals here because there are some, but living in OKC as somebody left of center or who isn’t religious can sometimes feel pretty lonely.

    OKC also lacks the kind of musical diversity of places like Austin and Nashville. Most touring shows skip OKC and play Tulsa. OKC does have an excellent indie red dirt country and bluegrass scene however. It doesn’t really expand beyond that though.

    At least 3.2 beer will be gone in 2 years and brewpubs will be able to stay open much later. That should really help make OKC a more vibrant place.

  2. Great story. Thank you. We love our story and are so willing to share in our success with others. One person you should also visit with is former mayor Ron Norick. He is the heart of what we could be come. If we didn’t invest in ourselves, then who would invest with us…? We all were moved to commit ourselves to the future, by pulling ourselves up from our boot straps and have a “no excuses” approach to our future. This approach is for all of us….from the CEO to the Start Up to the Farmer. Let’s do it, Let’s do it right, Let’s help each other.

  3. I got chills watching this ^_^ I love my sooner state and all within it! Thank you so much for putting into perspective how great this city is and showing the potential as it grows!!

    1. The kindest words coming from my favorite art therapist! I’m happy you stopped by, even happier that you enjoyed it.

  4. Regular OKC residents don’t frequent those places though. You just showed where the upper percentile hang out. Kind of a misrepresentation to say the least, and doesn’t do much for the “no black people in Oklahoma” rumors. Not that I expected you to go to the NorthEast side or anything, but even something in Bricktown would have shown a more realistic representation

    1. Our goal in OKC was pretty specific, and if you poke around the website here at, you’ll get a sense of the kind of things we focus on. We’re inspired by world class works of culture, design and technology. Our focus is “aspirational awesome”. When we came to OKC, we wanted to show a “best of” to viewers outside of the town.

      Even then, I don’t agree with the notion that we focused on places where the upper percentile hang out. It sure didn’t feel that way at Rocktown Gym, the Plaza District, etc.

  5. I have ALWAYS said that this fantastic city is so progressive wit so many things going on w business, the arts, culture, food. And its affordable too. Love it.

  6. Loved the video! I was born in Colorado, grew up in OKC, then moved to Europe and Asia, finally moving back home to OKC in 2011. As you probably experienced, OKC is a place that is almost indescribable. The people are so friendly, everybody is welcoming and the community is so involved and uplifting. There is a lot of pride in being from Oklahoma City. I’ve never witnessed a community so willing to accept you into the family. It’s almost cult-like…. haha I’ve recently heard it called “The Big Friendly” and I like it. It’s somewhere I hope to always call home! Thank you so much for coming out and showing OKC for the rising star that it is! There are a few more districts that I’d recommend you to check out next time your in town too. The Paseo Arts District, Bricktown, and Classen Curve to name a few! Great job man!

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Born and raised in OKC, I left for Austin in ’07 but came home two years later as I realized OKC was taking off in ways I never imagined. BRAVO to your overview of what we have going on!

  8. As someone who just moved to the OKC metro to start my small business, I absolutely loved this. My family is from the area but I grew up in Las Vegas before spending the last 4 years in the DC metro – both places where I never really fit in. I had visited the area a couple times in the past 5 years and when it came time to make a change I knew exactly where I had to go. This city makes me passionate about joining the community, building a business and creating a life. Thank you so much for sharing this great town with others who just don’t know they belong here yet!

    1. Sounds like your story has the perfect setting now, Hannah! My experience has been similar, moving from Detroit to Chicago to Iowa City and now to Tampa, Florida. My wife and I both run our own small businesses, and it is both of these experiences — transplantation and entrepreneurship — that guide my storytelling. OKC was the perfect subject. The people and places there had a special resonance to them, and from a creative standpoint, it made for a compelling film. Thanks for chiming in, Hannah!

  9. The political and religious climate in Oklahoma City is vastly different from Austin and Portland which will prevent it being like those cities. I’m glad to see things improving in OKC. I grew up there. I lived in Austin 33 years and I just don’t see the comparison.

    1. I imagine the same could have been argued of Austin 33 years ago. One remarkable thing about the rise of Oklahoma City and several of the subjects we covered is that they were funded by a tax initiative supported by both political parties. A majority of people in OKC, regardless of political affiliation, love MAPS, and a stroll through the city will show you the level of success it has been.

      I would argue that Oklahoma City isn’t an example of political/religious handicapping. It’s a case study in the success of bi-partisan investment in civic projects.

  10. Great movie and really enjoyed! Would have been nice if the reporting dug a little deeper and uncovered more information:
    Rocktown is owned (90%) by a 501c3 charity called Touchstone Youth Project and operates primarily as a social organization (an organization run as a for profit that primarily purpose is to fund a non profit, Touchstone / an organization that mentors hundreds of local kids annually)
    Rocktown (as it now stands) as well as river projects (boathouse etc) would not exist without the vision and funding provided by Aubrey McClendon, not to mention many more okc attractions (thunder, pops, etc.)

    1. Thanks for sharing, Andrew! I mentioned to my contact at Rocktown that I’ll be returning next time I’m in town. At the very least, for a climb, but beyond that, to meet more of the people that put it together. It’s an amazing story, as is the Touchstone Youth Project behind it. For what it’s worth, my arm muscles aren’t sore any more!

  11. Very impressed by the quality of and consciousness you displayed in telling OKC’s rising story. I only wish you would have shown more of our biotechnology and our entire “medical” district. A touch more of the different neighborhoods surrounding the immediate downtown area would have shown a vibrancy as well for our variety in life styles.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Marcus, and thanks for chiming in! We all would have loved to have had more time to spend filming and visiting the city. There was a lot we didn’t have time to cover that we would have loved to have seen. Ultimately, the goal is to provide a concise, compelling view of the city to outsiders (like me) who aren’t aware of just how cool OKC is. If we had another day or two, we would have hit up neighborhoods like Film Row / Automobile Alley / Paseo / Deep Deuce and others, and explored a little more with other entrepreneurs– specifically in biotech.

      In other words, you and I are thinking alike in what we would have covered if we had another day to film. That said, I’m very pleased with what we did accomplish and I do believe it provides a succinct view for the outsider. I think we at least came pretty close to the bullseye there!

      Thanks again for chiming in, Marcus, and the kind words!

      1. Something that would be of interest to you would be the renovation of Brick town. The reality of decaying, and forgotten buildings of an area that has turned into a upbeat and thriving area including our River Walk. Really would have liked you to have included that in your production.

  12. This is amazing. Thank you, Mr. Payne, Mr. Bradley, and anyone else involved with this project for showing OKC some love! OKC is a big little town as I like to call it. Case in point – Sandip is an old friend from college and I recently met one of the other entrepreneurs through a mutual friend. Kudos once again to all of you. :)

    1. The pleasure is ours, Nick!! I feel like a bit of OKC rubbed off on me and I’ve brought it home. I need to come back at some point to explore it off-camera, too. Hopefully Sandip will be my guide!

  13. Thank you so much for making this documentary. It makes me ever more proud to be from OKC! We are a city on the rise!

    1. It’s my pleasure, Robyn! It was a genuine thrill to experience the city in the way that I did, and I’m grateful that the crew and I were so welcomed. You’ve got a special thing going there. You (and others) should pat yourselves on the back.