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Posts Tagged ‘Arkansas Filmmaking’

Our Real First Day of Filming

July 1, 2012 Comments off

Turns out that the star player in Sympathy Pains is not an awesome DP (thanks, Mike!), a great set designer (Kim Risi and friends!),  stellar cast (Chris, Courtney, FE, and Dahren who all give their “A” game for “F” game pay), or a great crew (who were working at peak efficiency), but actually a portable air conditioner. It’s just out of frame here – off of camera left. I got a couple of funny looks when I put that into the budget, but no one’s laughing after not sweating through every shot today!

And what a perfect picture of me, nose buried in my script, pretending to interact with my cast. :) I think they might tell you differently, but that’s always my opinion of myself as a director.

But seriously, we have an awesome cast and crew – today went as well as any proper first day could go. A couple of “getting to know you” moments, but mostly, we sailed through it and got some awesome footage! Again, my cast and crew rock.

We also cut a couple of lines on set – I love when the performances work better than the words, and you can get rid of some of my crappy writing to let the actors do their thing and their actions do the talking. That’s only possible with people who are great at their craft – have I mentioned that I LOVE my cast! Kat’s sick of me gushing about how much I love my actors, and so I’m going to put it out to the internet – I LOVE MY CAST! They make my job so easy, and make my lousy writing SO MUCH better!

And another great “what’s this scene about” moment: we were able to cut on set a complete reverse shot that would have meant moving the camera to the opposite side of the room, which also includes moving every single light, and adjusting the set design to dress the opposite angle. We realized that the shot we were doing was about our female lead –  it was from her point-of-view, and expressed her view of the scene. But the scene’s not about her. It’s about Danny, our lead guy and his temptation, and that Stephanie sees that. It’s not about her opinion about it (that’s obvious from her shot), and we don’t need to see it through her eyes, because it’s not her scene. I tell my students regularly to think about who this scene is about and let that direct the shots, and we were able to cut a LONG reset for a shot that was not necessary for what the scene is ultimately about.

Why no one films in Arkansas / Why Arkansas Filmmaking is Great

November 1, 2011 4 comments

About once a year I get interviewed about how wonderful the Arkansas filmmaking tax incentives are and that movies should be knocking on the Arkansas border any day now. Here’s what I usually say that gets cut out because it’s not the story the reporter wants to tell – the tax credits in Arkansas aren’t wonderful compared to other states, and the only people who film in Arkansas are people from here who know how good it is. The last interview I did didn’t even get made into a story, I assume because they realized that there was no story there.

Let’s start with the incentives, then move on to the other problems:

Arkansas has a 15% tax incentive, with a 10% bonus labor incentive for hiring Arkansans. Here’s a link to why Iron Man 3 decided to film in North Carolina.

Yes, North Carolina’s incentive is 25%. The article also mentions that for independent (not huge budget) films, California has a 25% percent tax incentive. That means it’s a stronger tax incentive for the low budget films that might come to Arkansas just to stay in California. Or they could go to Louisiana, which has a 30% incentive. Whenever anyone talks about our tax incentive, yes we have one, but it’s amongst the lowest in the nation. Our tax incentive is so low, it’s actually a disincentive. It’s better than 0%, certainly, but not really.

No one’s going to come to Arkansas based on the tax incentive unless we raise it to compete with other states. And that’s not likely to happen because a) no one seems that interested in doing it and b) the financial reports that show the value of giving productions tax incentives are questionable. I’m working second hand (I haven’t read the reports myself), but it seems the financial gain for a state is a lot less than the popular reports show – there’s a lot of double-dip reporting of gains, and other questionable methods of showing how much money a film crew brings to a state.

The second reason no one is coming here: sound stages. We don’t have any. Not of any substantial size like a large film needs (think air hanger). There’s nowhere for films to shoot unless they’re shooting on location. And that’s, again, where low budget films shoot, and again, there’s no reason for them to leave California where the tax incentive is better.

But you and I know that Arkansas is a great place to shoot – it’s beautiful, the people are amazing, and there are good crews ready to shoot. So how do I find that out? Let’s look at the website.

If you do a google search for Arkansas Tax Incentives, the top two sites are from SAG and filmproductioncapital.com. The third one is our site.  And they must have changed it at some point, because the links from the other sites to the Arkansas Film Commission are broken. When you look at the links for other states, the URL is “Alaksafilms.org” and “Filminmaine.com.” Ours is “arkansasedc.com/arkansas-film-commission.aspx.” Seriously, do you want people to find us? And what is “.aspx?”

Now, if you google “Arkansas Film Commission” you will find our site. Have you looked at it? You should. It looks a lot like what you expect the AFC site to look like if you’re from outside Arkansas, meaning that it looks like they just discovered the internet and haven’t quite figured it out, yet.  Even the guy at the top of the page looks like he’s doing ENG for Fox-16. His microphone is on the camera. Nothing says “professionals come here” like shooting video and not having a sound guy. It’s a stock photo of a video guy. sigh.

And then there’s the long, uncategorized lists that are hard to dig through. Beyond looking cheap because it’s undesigned, you have to dig through lots of tiny photos to see anything. It’s kind of a mess.

As a UCA faculty member, I have a dog in this race, but “resources” seems a bit… off.  Are production companies really looking for teenage film camps and festivals in Arkansas? And not the crew database, which has a link submit your name for inclusion, but doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the page?

None of this should be taken as a slam against Christopher Crane, our Film Commissioner, by the way. He seems like a good, enthusiastic guy who loves what he gets to do. But obviously, the man needs some resources.

It’s a shame, because the only people who film in Arkansas are the people who already know how good Arkansas is. Harry Thomason, Graham Gordy, Jeff Nichols. It’s all people who are from here. We lost “True Grit” and that’s a story about Arkansas!

So what does this mean? It means that the only films that are realistically going to be made in Arkansas are the ones that we make. We are the film industry. That’s what I told the last interviewer, and I know it to be true: there are a TON of great filmmakers making great films in Arkansas, and every time you go chasing after the Hollywood films, you’re telling the wrong story. It’s not about the films that will come to Arkansas – they won’t! It’s about the films that are being made right this second under your nose. Look around and see the stories being told every day. THAT’S the Arkansas film industry.

If Arkansas wants to incentivize filmmaking in Arkansas, they should incentivize the local filmmakers. The $30,000 filmmaking grants that Bob Pest and the Ozark Foothills Film Festival gave earlier this year was a start – let’s see that continue. And expand! The future of Arkansas filmmaking belongs to Arkansans. Let’s invest in that!

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