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Arkansas woos Hollywood.

Arkansas Woos Hollywood

Movie Moguls Offer Advice To Arkansas Film Hopefuls, But Disappointed By Small Crowd

The dream was Hollywood, but the gathering place was Little Rock. A high-powered panel of Hollywood movie magnates and Arkansas maverick film makers powwowed June 29 for Cineposium '90 to ask what the state can do to attract major motion pictures and encourage a home-grown motion picture industry.

The answers ranged from unusual ones such as starting a film catering service so movie stars won't have to eat fried chicken all day long, to a more predictable suggestion to send an Arkansas film representative to Los Angeles.

"We need to get a much larger presence in Los Angeles," says local ad executive Ben Combs. "Many times a film location is already determined before we hear about it."

Star Searchers

Plenty of star producers descended upon Little Rock for the event. Hugh Benson, producer of "In the Heat of the Night" and "The Blue and the Gray" was there. So was James Bridges, director of "The China Syndrome" and "Urban Cowboy."

Others who gathered included Paul Freeman, producer of "North and South" and "Rearview Mirror," and Jeffrey C. Hogue, native Arkansan and producer of "Curse of the Alpha Stone" and "Alienator."

Benson says that if Arkansas wants to cash in on the film industry, the most important step is to have a representative in California to identify when a film is being made so that Arkansas can bid on it.

A second major step in attracting motion pictures is to cater to the needs of the film crew, literally. The state needs a good local caterer -- one who knows how to feed a Hollywood crowd, the moguls say. During filming, the production company provides meals on the set to the cast and crew at a cost of about $9 each.

Big Hollywood productions usually bring their own caterers, although director James Bridges said he tried the services of a local caterer while filming in northwest Arkansas several years ago. "The food was absolutely wonderful for the first three days, but then the Hollywood crew grew so tired of catfish, fried chicken and hush puppies that they just went insane," he recalled.

Cheap Copies, Fast Food

And while major productions may bring their own caterers, they still buy a great deal of food locally for preparation on the set. During filming of the low budget "Top Cop," food was purchased at the deli counters of local supermarkets, fast food restaurants and local eateries.

One director said Arkansas also needs to provide improved script typing and duplicating services. "A writer's magazine lists script typing services nationwide and there are 49 states listed, but there is no script typing service in Arkansas," director Joel Rosenzweig, said. Scripts can be photocopied for less than three cents a page in L.A., but Rosenzweig says he must shell out anywhere from six to 10 cents in Arkansas for the same service. "Somebody's gotta want to invest in a Kodak 9000. Right?"

What else would a major film production need? How about wood and other building materials for erecting sets, and carpenters to erect them. And don't forget cars, buses, trucks, limos, and airplanes, not only for their personal use but for use in the film. In addition, productions need a large banquet-style facility for a "wrap party," the traditional celebration at the end of filming.

How Do Other States Do It?

So how does the state gain the expertise to provide services to the movie industry?

Start by encouraging and providing service to the local production of movies, videos, commercials, and training films, the panelists said, so that when the big ones come to town, the state will have the experience and a depth of talent and technicians. Norm Bielowicz, director of the Georgia film office, said depth can be an inducement to attract major films.

The moguls agreed that several points make Arkansas a favorable location for filming -- the state's work laws, a variety of terrain for locations, and the nickel rebate program. The nickel rebate allows the state to refund 5 percent of the total that a production company spends in the state, provided they spend at least $1 million.

Some panelists said they would like to see that million lowered to $250,000, saying that would encourage low budget independent films -- Arkansas-made films -- and help to recruit television commercials and industrial films. There is currently a move in the legislature to lower the million to $500,000, Bob Ginnaven, a local ad exec, said.

Unlike Arkansas' film office, both the Georgia and Louisiana film offices are independent agencies. "Originally the Georgia film office was a unit of the Tourism Division and that made me very unhappy," said Bielowicz. Louisiana's film director said he reports to the Lieutenant Governor. Being a separate agency, the two said, allows them to make their own budget decisions and puts them on an equal footing with other state agencies such as tourism.

Arkansas's Motion Picture Development Office is a division of the Arkansas Industrial Development Office and there have been rumblings about a move to make it a separate agency during the next legislative session.

Although the movie moguls said they plan to bring film projects to the state and were pleased with the state's hospitality, many were openly disappointed by the small turnout of Arkansans at Cineposium '90.

"This group of panelists came here," Benson said, "because they are interested in bringing films into the state, and yet out of a population of three million, there's only 60 people in this room. So how interested are they?"

PHOTO : ON LOCATION: "Crisis At Central High," a made-for-TV movie filmed in Arkansas, is one production that brought Hollywood money into the state.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas holds symposium to attract major motion picture companies and encourage home-grown motion picture industry
Author:Gibson, Carolyn
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jul 30, 1990
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