Arkansas Cinema Society, Filmland 2018, and Growing a Local Film Culture

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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.

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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.

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14 thoughts on “Arkansas Cinema Society, Filmland 2018, and Growing a Local Film Culture

  1. Keith has Richard Linklater chilling on his shoulder and Jeff Nichols photobombing said photo. WHAT! Too cool man, this is really insightful stuff. Its especially affirming of my own personal assumptions about certain famous people (say Linklater) that they really prioritize their communities and the people their movies connect with over that fame and prestige. Not to say Linklater and the like don’t enjoy certain benefits of becoming recognized, but shit. These guys I always felt were humble and this is proof that they are. Very cool stuff. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Let me tell you about those two guys. Talk about down-to-earth dudes. Neither has the slightest air of arrogance to them. Another cool thing about Linklater – he wasn’t paid to come and appear. That says a lot.
      As for Jeff Nichols, the fact that he would put so much of his time and effort into building this organization for his home state is mind-blowing. He really does go all out.
      By the way, I’m actually on my way back home now from the final night of the event. It closed with a sneak preview of “Operation Finale” followed by a Q&A with the producers Fred Berger and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones. Talk about two impressive producing resumes. Berger was on stage with “La La Land” during the crazy Oscar debacle. Yet both of these guys were so cool to talk to.

    • Thanks man. It’s such a wonderful thing for our state. The encouragement this gives to Arkansas filmmakers is tremendous. But also the chance for movie-oholics like me to get a look inside the process…priceless.

  2. Pingback: Month in Review: August ’18 | Thomas J

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