My mind was racing as I walked to my car under the glimmering street lamps of Little Rock’s cozy River Market. It was a late Thursday evening and I had just left a screening of 1998’s “The Newton Boys” followed by a Q&A featuring acclaimed filmmakers Jeff Nichols and Richard Linklater. Needless to say that’s a pretty big deal for any fan of cinema. At the same time I kept thinking of how bigger it was for my home state of Arkansas and its growing movie culture.
The screening marked the start of Filmland, a four-day event put together by Arkansas Cinema Society. Filmland would feature a day set aside for Arkansas-made movies complete with Q&As with local filmmakers. Other days featured a comedy panel, a documentary screening, and a closing night sneak preview of the upcoming historical drama “Operation Finale”. In addition to Linklater, ACS brought in Will Forte, Mary Steenburgen, David and Christina Arquette, and a host of other writers, directors and producers.
Arkansas Cinema Society’s inaugural event was just last August but in a short one year’s time the organization has seen tremendous growth particularly in local sponsorships and in exposure. This is great news for local filmmakers and cinephiles. Filmland built upon last year’s success and expanded into several intriguing areas. But ACS isn’t just about annual events. Throughout the past year they have featured outdoor screenings, a writing seminar, the introduction of their Homegrown Film Series, and many other activities.
The driving force behind ACS is Jeff Nichols. With five stellar feature film credits serving as both writer and director, Nichols has earned the reputation as one of America’s best cinematic voices. Yet his love for his hometown and his desire to see an ever-growing Arkansas film community has driven him to use his resources and connections to bring quality films and talents to Arkansas. His goal for the ACS – to educate, encourage and inspire both filmmakers and film lovers from the Natural State.
But Nichols couldn’t do this alone. Co-founder Kathryn Tucker tirelessly works to make the local events happen and she is always quick to thank her incredible team. Much of the preparing, promoting and running of the events fall in their laps and observing their dedication and enthusiasm is infectious. ACS simply couldn’t function without them. As Tucker herself has stated, “It takes an army.”
The true beneficiaries of all the hard work and effort are us – the Arkansas film fans. Whether we aspire to make movies, write about them, or simply love the art form, Arkansas Cinema Society has given many of us a seat on the inside where the filmmaking process is opened up and made alive. Not only is it enlightening, but it offers opportunities for our love of cinema to be nurtured and expanded. That has certainly been the case for me whether it’s seeing good movies, listening to the artists who made them, or watching those hard at work to make the events happen.
As I was getting closer to my car a big smile spread across my face. I had just watched a movie with a theater full of fellow movie lovers. I had just listened to, met and had a photo with 5-time Academy Award nominee Richard Linklater. That same photo was photobombed by one of my favorite working filmmakers Jeff Nichols, a proud and unashamed Arkansas guy. It was truly a great night and it was only day one! Thanks ACS.