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Rotary Club of Okla. City Preparedness Plan
Rachel Cannon & Matt Payne
Rachel Cannon, co-founder and co-CEO of Prairie Surf Media, is an Oklahoma native and a woman who wears many hats well. Entertainment executive, entrepreneur, mentor and accomplished television actress, she is also a writer, producer, women’s group coach, wife and mother, who’s partnering to create an entertainment empire in the heartland through Prairie Surf Media (PSM).
Cannon and her long-time friend and PSM’s co-founder Matt Payne, share the vision of helping to shape the film and entertainment industry in Oklahoma at this transformational time. In addition to focusing on creative opportunities, the two hope to provide assistance for Oklahoma to become a prominent tax incentive state for the film and television industries, which can in turn provide economic advantages from employment to ancillary businesses relating to entertainment.
With an acting career in Los Angeles that spans over 20 years, Cannon has been featured in such iconic television series as “Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men,” and a coveted role opposite Jon Hamm in the final season of “Mad Men.” For the last six years, she portrayed the acerbic character of Deidre, the snarky neighbor and Home Owners Assn. head, in ABC’s hit comedy series, “Fresh Off the Boat,” who butted heads weekly with Constance Wu’s character Jessica. The highly acclaimed series was at the forefront of the culturally diverse movement to tell unique stories on television.
Cannon, who studied film at the University of Oklahoma, where she initially met Payne, returned to her home state in 2019, just over 3 years following the birth of her son. By then, Hollywood had become more of a zip code than a primary shooting location for her work. Traveling constantly to film series in Chicago, Atlanta and other cities with growing production incentives, she and her husband Noah made the choice to return to the city she loved as home, allowing her son to grow up closer to family and with the same values with which she was raised.
She says stepping into motherhood gave her a deeper connection to other women everywhere, attempting to navigate all that comes with that title, and is the job that gives her the hardest challenges, yet the most fulfillment.
In her short time back, Cannon was brought onto a film project by Lance McDaniel, Executive Director of deadCenter Film. She co-wrote, co-produced and stars in “Send Me Wings,” a heartwarming short film inspired by the book and song written by Bobby Cyrus. Filmed in Alva, Oklahoma, “Send Me Wings” is a poignant story about a woman’s journey home to settle her late mother’s estate and her emotionally stirring encounter with a young boy she finds hiding in an abandoned church. The award-winning short premiered at the Branson International Film Festival in May 2020 and continues to be accepted in various festivals across the country.
Cannon’s strong entrepreneurial spirit has seen her coach and mentor numerous women, helping them to start businesses of their own. As a champion of other women, her underlying belief is everyone needs the courage to dream without boundaries. Her passion is to help women step out from the edges of their comfort zones to find opportunities to rise and succeed.
A big believer in making bold choices, Cannon — as an entrepreneurial businesswoman, an actress-writer-producer, mentor and storyteller — through all her work, tries to inspire people to do the things that scare them most, to live their best lives. It’s what she’s hoping to achieve with Prairie Surf Media.
Cannon lives in Oklahoma City with her husband Noah Engh, a singer and songwriter, and their 4-year-old son August.
Oklahoma native Matt Payne, co-founder and co-CEO of Prairie Surf Media, a locally based production studio focused on multi-platform content creation, is a filmmaker to his core, with an impressive list of credits and achievements across a multitude of creative businesses.
During a 15-year stint in Los Angeles, where he worked in both television and film, Emmy award-nominated Payne racked up credits as a writer, a documentary filmmaker, an award-winning travel photographer and writer, public speaker and adventurer.
While in Hollywood, Payne had a successful writing career. He wrote episodic television on such hit series as CBS’ “Vegas” and “Defenders,” and TNT’s “Memphis Beat,” and additionally was part of the production team on Fox’s “24” and CBS’ “Without A Trace.” But he realized he could tell stories from anywhere, so he and his wife returned to Oklahoma City a few years ago, so their daughter could be with family and benefit from all the good Oklahoma has to offer. And, he could bring his wealth of experience to a burgeoning entertainment industry in his home state.
Payne, a graduate of the film school at the University of Oklahoma, where he met his long-time friend and partner in Prairie Surf Media, (PSM), Rachel Cannon, returned with the goal to create an industry that empowers other storytellers, allows them to be the mentors they wish they’d had, and to help shape the rapidly expanding entertainment industry in Oklahoma.
In 2019 Payne produced and directed “Storm Chasers,” as part of Oklahoma’s Own Originals for Griffin Communications. He traveled the state throughout the spring of that year tracking tornadoes with the state’s best storm chasers from Channel Nine, for the documentary. While “Storm Chasers” touches on thrill-seeking, which adrenaline junkie Payne can relate to, he told the story to highlight how the people who drive into these storms to report about tornadoes to the public are real-life heroes, who save lives through what they do.
Prior to that, he produced the three-part television series, “Mosaic Oklahoma,” which won the 2018 PBS Special Achievement Development Award. He was also a 2018 Emmy nominee for the OETA Foundation project “Rare;” a recipient of four prestigious Bill Muster Travel Photography Awards given out by the Society of American Travel Writers, and he received a first and third place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for Magazine Photography.
In addition to those pursuits, Payne is the Travel Editor of 405 Magazine and has been a contributing writer and photographer to National Geographic Traveler, Travel Age West, Explorer Magazine and many other travel publications. He served three years as an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City University and travels throughout the Midwest, inspiring audiences with talks covering a range of topics from travel writing and photography to screenwriting.
Payne is heavily involved in his community, serving on numerous boards and volunteering with nonprofits both to advance the streaming, television, and motion picture industry in Oklahoma and to help provide economic advantages from employment to ancillary business opportunities.
He’s a member of the Writers Guild of America, the Society of American Travel Writers, is a regular speaker at the deadCenter Film Festival, a participant in the Oklahoma Conservation Leadership Academy and sits on the board of directors of the Oklahoma City Zoological Society as well as the Moderns board at the Oklahoma Museum of Art.
The enthusiastic, adventurous, filmmaker-entrepreneur spends his downtime currently living on a farm outside of Oklahoma City with his wife Meg, his two-year-old daughter Maisie, a dog named Jasper, six horses, two cats, two donkeys, three chickens, two pigs and a rooster named Wayne.
Chair of the Day
John Michael Williams is the president of the Oklahoma City law firm of Williams, Box, Forshee & Bullard, concentrating in the areas of municipal, public finance, and urban planning law. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma School of Law. In 2012, he received the Dean A. McGee Award Life Time Achievement Award for advancement of Downtown Oklahoma City.
He served as chairman of the Board of Regents of Oklahoma City Community College for ten years, and was chosen as the outstanding community college regent for the Western Region of the United States and Canada by the Association of Community College Trustees.
Currently, John Michael serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the State Fair of Oklahoma and on the Board of Directors of Historic Preservation, Inc. He is a 65-year member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and is married to fellow Rotarian, Kathy L. Williams. They have four children and seven grandchildren.