Film production soundstage opens in Hiwasse

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 1,249 views 

Farm Studios owners Zak Heald, from left, Tom Heald and Jason Netter hold scissors to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the film production studio in Hiwasse.

The budding film industry in Arkansas got a little larger Tuesday (Feb. 5) when Farm Studios, a soundstage and production facility, held a grand opening and ribbon cutting at its location in western Benton County.

Farm Studios, sitting on four and a half acres on Dickson Road in Hiwasse, is described as a “private Hollywood-style back lot designed to serve a wide variety of film, television and media production needs.” The 17,200-square-foot facility includes a 9,500-square-foot soundstage with a 50-foot by 90-foot cyclorama wall, a 30-foot by 50-foot light grid and a 3,000-square-foot set construction workshop. Average rental cost of the facility ranges from $1,500 to $2,000 per day.

The $1 million facility is owned by Jason Netter, founder and CEO of Kickstart Entertainment of Los Angeles, Zak Heald, owner of Intercut Productions of Bentonville, Tom Heald and Lori Heald.

Zak Heald said the partners built the studio to address the lack of film production services in Arkansas. The HBO television series “True Detective” filmed in Northwest Arkansas last year, and some estimates say it brought in $200 million for the state.

“We see [shows] like ‘True Detective’, and we see anything from small $500,000 to one million dollar budget features that are coming into Arkansas and shooting here,” Heald said. “When it comes to finding locations for interiors to shoot at and the general services that surround production, those are not here yet.”

Heald said an average of five to six films shoot footage in Arkansas each year. Reception of the new studio has been good.

“We went out to Los Angeles and started shopping it around and there was no shortage of people knocking on the door,” Heald said. “People have been eyeing Northwest Arkansas as a potential place to shoot projects for a long time.”

Kalene Griffith, president and CEO of Visit Bentonville, said growth in the film services industry will bring an economic impact to the area, with filmmakers coming to the community and “eating in our restaurants, staying in our hotels and spending dollars building sets.”

As Arkansas is introduced to the rest of the world, increased tourism and population growth are added benefits, she said.

Griffith also said with a film industry here, actors and crew don’t have to leave to do their work. “They can stay here because we have continuous films going on in the area,” she said.

Heald and Griffith both are encouraged by Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s 10-year renewal of the rebate incentive for filmmakers. The incentive allows production companies to earn a 20% rebate on all qualified production expenditures in Arkansas and from 20% to 30% rebate on wages paid.

“The incentive makes this a really competitive place to bring production to,” Heald said.

Gov. Hutchinson was scheduled to speak at Tuesday’s event but was absent due to a scheduling conflict.

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