Lawyer leverages power of storytelling to inspire audiences with faith-based film 'Tulsa'

Scott Pryor wrote, directed, and stars in "Tulsa." | Tulsa

Filmmaker Scott Pryor understands the power of storytelling. 

A trial lawyer by trade, Pryor specializes in “death and catastrophic injuries,” often helping families affected by devastating, life-altering events. 

“We sit down with these families day in and day out, and we fight for them,” he told The Christian Post. “It’s really grounding because you really do empathize with the client and ultimately tell their story to a jury. We’ve found a lot of success in communicating our clients’ stories, making sure they’re more than just a claim number. They’re real people and their lives are really affected.”

Hoping to leverage the power of story to help others, Pryor, who along with his wife, Laura, makes up the Georgia-based Pryor Entertainment, turns his real-life courtroom cases into award-winning screenplays and films. 

Pryor’s latest film, “Tulsa,” is no exception. 

Inspired by true events from one of his actual trial cases, “Tulsa” tells the story of Tommy Colston, a drug-addicted biker and bitter former Marine who is unexpectedly united with his 9-year-old daughter, Tulsa (Livi Birch), whom he never knew existed. 

Precocious and strong-willed, Tulsa relies on her strong Christian faith to save her father from his addiction and help him heal from past hurts. Tommy’s heart slowly thaws — but unexpected tragedy strikes, forcing him to become the father his daughter desperately needs. 

“The movie was inspired by a case several years ago, where I had a conversation with a father who shared how his injury affected his life,” Pryor, who is the director, star, and writer of “Tulsa,” recalled. “He shared how he and his daughter loved daddy-daughter dances. It was their favorite thing. And then, this tragedy occurred, and his injury forced him to leave dances after 10 minutes. He couldn't tolerate any longer."

“It broke my heart, because this incredible thing they both loved was taken away from them,” he continued. “As a storyteller, that really stuck with me.”

Though a family-friendly, often funny film that highlights the power of redemption, forgiveness, and family, “Tulsa” touches on difficult issues including suicidal ideation, loss, drug and alcohol addiction, and abuse. 

“I write stories that are true to life and impactful,” Pryor shared. “I write what I feel like God wants me to write; stories that are going to be beneficial to viewers. There are going to be some hard subjects we tackle. It's a tough space and a delicate balance because we don’t want to ostracize our audience, but it’s important to us to talk about hard subjects.”

Through his work, the father-of-three and U.S. Marine Corps veteran said he strives to emphasize that the Christian walk isn’t an easy one — but that God is good, even in times of trouble.

“Just because you receive Christ doesn’t mean your life is going to be super rosy all the time,” he said. “Faith is the answer to struggle, but that doesn’t mean the road isn’t going to be rough. I would hate for someone to watch one of my movies, accept Christ, and then think their life is supposed to be perfect.”

“Tulsa,” Pryor’s third full-length feature, was shot in just 20 days and reached No. 2 on Christian All-Time Box Office for Self Distributed Movies, despite the pandemic's effect on the film industry and the temporary closure of movie theatres.

“We didn’t expect this kind of success,” Pryor admitted, adding that his goal was simply to share “powerful stories that are true to real life.”

“I believe everybody has a bit of a tortured soul this side of Heaven, and as a writer, I try to get to the emotions of each character and find their humanity. It’s important to show their flaws and weaknesses because that’s where connection happens,” he said. 

“I always want my audiences to be involved in these emotional experiences and have an impact on people’s lives, to help them change for the better. I think that’s why this film is connecting with so many people.”

Admitting that “Tulsa” might “break your heart” at times, Pryor said he prays the film both entertains and uplifts audiences at a time when the country is desperately in need of hope. 

“We want to make as big of an impact as we can,” he said, adding that while recognition is “great,” he hopes to use his film platform to better the lives of viewers.

“I love getting emails from people who watch our films and are inspired to return to their faith, or mend relationships with a family member, or decide to get help for addiction,” he said. “That means the world to us. That's why we do what we do. Hopefully, God will use this film to change lives.”

“Tulsa” is playing in select theaters that are open across the country and will be available on VOD and DVD on Feb. 2.

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