Movies can make us laugh or they can make us cry. They can instill hope or evoke fear. Movies can be entertaining, and they can be inspiring – perhaps even more so when the stories are close to our hearts. Across the state of Arkansas, local directors have used filmmaking to spark important conversations. Walton Arts Center and Fayetteville Film Fest recognize the impact of these local filmmakers and have collaborated to present an evening recognizing some of these creators. In the Arkansas Filmmaker’s Showcase, audience members will screen seven short films from our growing local movie industry. We sat down with a few of the directors ahead of the mini film festival to learn more about what it’s like to be a filmmaker in Arkansas.
Chuck Meré is a local director from Fayetteville. His film Lemniscate depicts a father who must choose between a scheduled visit from his daughter or indulging in his biggest scientific breakthrough, traveling to a parallel universe.
Lemniscate was a passion project for Meré, so he says that seeing people respond positively to it has been rewarding. “The film touches on a lot of important issues, like balancing work and family, and overcoming or being destroyed by the metaphorical man in the mirror. I think it’s important that these messages are shared, and I feel honored every time I get the chance to show the film to a new audience.”
Meré has called Fayetteville home for over 30 years and considers Northwest Arkansas the backdrop for his formative years. “My first steps into the world of video production were taken here through local cable access and it was here that I brought my creative visions to life,” Meré recalls. “The inspiration I draw from this place is inescapable, infusing every frame of my work with the story of Arkansas, a story that has become intertwined with my own.”
As the only co-directed film at the Arkansas Filmmaker’s Showcase, Levi Smith and Brett Helms’ film about two intrepid teenage boys is aptly titled Double Trouble. They share a similar vision for their movies – excitement – and the fun they had while filming shines through.
Smith and Helms fondly remember running around suburban Arkansas as kids, recording their stories on iPhones and camcorders, trying to capture creative moments. When the time came, the decision to study film at the University of Central Arkansas was a no-brainer. “We are still as much the passionate 11-year-olds with camcorders as we were then, only now we have equipment and a skilled crew!”
Smith’s favorite part about filming Double Trouble was “running around the coolest arcade I’ve ever seen.” He also praised the expertise of the cast and crew. “It’s just a movie that all came together like chocolate and peanut butter. Everyone wanted to work towards something that we would remember for the rest of our lives.”
“Film was created to entertain, and our films are no exception,” Smith says. “Beyond that, we always try to include meaning in our films. I believe we’ve done that with Double Trouble. It’s a film that both lets you have a great time, and then lets you sit for a moment and contemplate what it means to get older and grow up. All in under 15 minutes!”
Molly Wheat is thrilled to be screening her film Pomegranate again in Fayetteville. “The goal in making something is always for people to see it, and when you make things independently it’s not always easy to even get eyes on your project,” Wheat said.
When asked, Wheat couldn’t pick one favorite part of directing and filming Pomegranate. “Making a film in any capacity is so much work that you really have to love it to want to do it in the first place. To me, the electricity of being in it is so exhilarating.” Wheat also credited the strength of her film to her best friend of 15 years, Valerie Polston, who co-wrote and co-produced the film.
Wheat was born and raised in Arkansas and often reflects on the unexpected inspiration and creativity in the state. “We don’t live in a place that is widely known as a hub for art or filmmaking, but there is talent everywhere. I’ve found myself surrounded by a community of professionals and really talented filmmakers,” she explains. “So often our state is written off for unfair preconceived notions about the south in general, or for not providing a more metropolitan backdrop for stories. The state is beautiful and there are so many interesting stories to be told here.”
Pomegranate captures an intimate moment in which two exes, Annie and Henry, take a moment to check in on each other. In addition to the Fayetteville Film Festival, Pomegranate has screened in NYC at New York Shorts International Film Festival and Arkansas Shorts in Hot Springs, Ark.
Catch these films and more at the Arkansas Filmmaker’s Showcase on Saturday, March 11 at Walton Arts Center, curated by Fayetteville Film Fest. All tickets are just $15! On sale now at waltonartscenter.org.
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