Chris Hickey with our content partner, KUAR-FM 89 News, explores the rich explosion of filmmakers and their projects in Arkansas.
His in-depth report features interviews with Little Rock native Jeff Nichols, whose current film, “Mud,” is doing well. Hickey also talks with Arkansas Motion Picture Institute director Courtney Pledger, Democrat-Gazette film critic Phillip Martin, and several other players in the state’s film and digital production business.
One of the big reasons Arkansas is seeing phenomenal growth among young filmmakers is that good cameras are much more affordable and editing can be done on laptop computers. In the last decade, barriers to entry have fallen dramatically, thus leading to an explosion of small-scale original productions.
Hickey’s full report can be listened to here.
Also, we review our recent TV and magazine interview with Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane:
Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane says that new incentives approved by the state legislature are already paying dividends.
The General Assembly approved changes to the state’s film and digital products incentive act, which allows filmmakers working in the state to qualify for rebates and tax breaks.
One of the main aspects of the new law increased the sales tax rebate from 15% to 20% and provided a payroll tax break for productions exceeding $200,000.
“My phone has not stopped ringing,” Crane said. He added that three new movie projects – “Greater: The Brandon Burlsworth Story,” “Guttersnipes” and “Valley Inn” – are all poised for production.
“Greater” is a movie production that tells the life of former Arkansas Razorback football player Brandon Burlsworth. As a walk-on, Burlsworth eventually earned All-American status and was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. The Harrison native died tragically in an automobile accident before starting his pro football career.
“Guttersnipes” is a drama about a 17-year old homeless girl and a 12-year old autistic girl who has been abandoned. The movie chronicles the evolution of their relationship which starts in a harsh manner, but grows into a caring friendship.
“Valley Inn,” an independent film set in northwest Arkansas, follows a college student who lands in tiny Hindsville on a mission to sell Christian books door-to-door one summer. The character-driven movie is chocked full of comedy, romance, and introspection.
Crane also said that a long-term, recurring series may also be in the works.
“We have one right now that is going to be a constancy in the industry should we land it. It would mean a many year commitment,” he said.
Crane said recent successes and long-term projects are beneficial in growing the talent pool for behind-the-scene workers in the production business. He has worked to position the state for slow growth, not rapid growth, in order to expand the industry’s workforce in a sustainable way.
“Over the last two years, we’ve been able to garner some nice-size productions. All of the local universities and two-year colleges have great grip and gaffe curricula to support the industry, and we’re seeing a rise in some of the retail establishments too,” Crane said.
He also said that the late-April premiere of the movie “Mud,” which was filmed in the Arkansas Delta by Little Rock native Jeff Nichols and stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Sam Shepherd, will be a major moment in Arkansas film history.
“It truly is one of those pride moments for us,” said Crane.
“Mud” has already spawned numerous positive reviews.
The story centers on two young boys interested in an abandoned boat found in a tree on an island in the Mississippi River. A mysterious stranger named Mud is living in the boat, they learn.
After befriending him and working to help him escape from a manhunt in order to rendezvous with a love interest, the boys learn more about the complicated lives of the two main characters played by McConaughey and Witherspoon.
The ending has a number of unexpected twists.
Unlike a great movie, Crane is hoping that Arkansas’ film and digital picture industry growth is predictable and full of met expectations.
“That would be a continuing story line I’d love to see,” Crane said.