Actress/director Joey Lauren Adams hosts film discussion at Crystal Bridges

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 205 views 

The key grip, gaffer, and casting director took equal billing with the actors at the “Film and Discussion > Action!” at Crystal Bridges on Wednesday (March 25). Actress/director and native Arkansan Joey Lauren Adams hosted the evening, giving the audience of 250 a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making a scene from a movie and highlighting the work done by everyone involved.

“The crew is always so behind the scenes and so I really wanted to bring them out,” she said. “You see them roll by so quickly in the credits and they work harder than anyone.”

She said her goal for the evening was to show that making a movie is a group effort. 

“I want (people) to know that when you’re watching a movie, it takes all these people.  It is such a huge collaboration,” she said. “Everyone’s got their job. You’ve practiced and rehearsed and then you go. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

The evening began with the stage in the Great Hall set up as an actual film set with props, lights, cameras, sound equipment, wardrobe and hair/make-up for an actual film production reenactment.

Guests watched as two actors and a film crew reenacted the production of a three-minute scene from Adam’s 2006 film, “Come Early Morning.” In the process they demonstrated the challenges of shooting a movie. As in an actual movie shoot, the actors did the scene numerous times as they experienced all the interruptions and changes that happen. Filming had to be stopped frequently as a low plane flew overhead, wardrobe needed adjustment, camera speed was changed, and the actors’ lines were re-done, among other things. The three-minute scene in the actual movie took five hours to shoot.

The skeleton crew of around 40 people, all from Arkansas, included writer, director, actors, camera operators, gaffer (electric work), key grip, sound mixer, boom operator, production coordinator, hair/make-up, wardrobe, property master, production designer, location manager, food services and more.

At the end of the scene re-enactment, the audience watched the finished product of the actual scene from the film, which originally starred Ashley Judd and Jeffery Donovan.

Adams took the stage afterwards and introduced the actors and crew members who helped with the re-enactment.  Each one gave a brief summary about their role in the making of a film. 

Sarah Tackett, casting director, who has been casting for over 30 years, said that no two shows are the same.

“It’s a wonderful process when you nail a role for your director,” she said.

Actor Guy Whitney, who graduated from Bentonville High School in 1993, said as an actor he has to trust the film crew and the decisions they make. He said his main goal is to do a good job and be pleasant to work with so he will get the next acting job. 

“You can’t sign up to be in a film,” he said. “You have to scratch and claw your way in, and that’s why you’ve got to keep it together.”

Blake Elder, director of photography, said his goal is to get the director’s vision for the film.

“We take care of the technical side so he can be free to make art,” he said.

Location manager Paresa Kiani said her job consists of scouting locations and convincing property owners to allow their home or building to be used in a film. The location manager also monitors all sounds that might interfere with filming, Kiani said.

“Think of every sound you don’t want to hear. You want dialogue, not other sounds,” she said.

During the question and answer time, Adams was asked about the status of the film industry in Arkansas. She said there is a bill (House Bill 854) in the legislature that would provide a tax credit for filmmakers who film in Arkansas. Adams said that surrounding states like Louisiana have a tax credit. She said that because of that, financiers will push for shooting in Louisiana instead of Arkansas.

“They’re like, it looks kind of the same and we’d save $900,000. As a filmmaker $900,000 is a few days of shooting. So why do I want to sacrifice that?” she said. “So it just makes it really hard.”

Adams said her goals for the film discussion were realized. She was successful in helping the audience understand the work of the film crew and she was able to encourage the next generation. She hoped there would be at least one little girl in the audience who would realize there are more options in film than just being an actress and understand what those roles are. 

“That happened,” Adams said. “A little girl came up to me and she (said), ‘I think I want to be in camera. How can I pursue that?’ So, I got one of our female film makers who went to John Brown University to come over and told her how to pursue that.”