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State's breakthrough came with the "The Blue and The Gray".

State's Breakthrough Came With "The Blue and The Gray"

From its creation in 1979 until 1985, Joe Glass headed the state Motion Picture Development Office.

"I lived it, I breathed it, I ate it," Glass says. "We were an unknown in the film industry, and there were a few of us out there determined to make Arkansas a viable player."

For too long, Arkansas had been the location for few movies. Those that were filmed here were mostly bad. Who could forget "Bloody Mama" in 1969, "Two-Lane Blacktop" in 1970, "Boxcar Bertha" in 1972, "Bootleggers" in 1973 or "Sweet Sweet Connie" in 1975?

Arkansas' breakthrough to respectability came in 1981 with the television production "The Blue and The Gray."

"It excited a lot of people," Glass says. "It also taught some of them about the film business. When I took the job, people thought I was supposed to sit in an office in an expensive suit waiting on producers to stop by. It doesn't work that way. I didn't dress as nicely or talk as nicely as the people at AIDC might have wanted, but I got out there and spent time with film crews. During the filming of |The Blue and The Gray,' I was the first one on the set in the morning and the last one to go home at night."

Glass had worked in 1971 and 1972 with native Arkansan Harry Thomason on a Rod Serling movie, "Encounter with the Unknown."

When Glass heard that CBS had signed with Columbia Pictures for a Civil War miniseries, he and others suggested that Thomason coordinate the project.

"Joe was the right person to start the film office," Thomason says. "He was a free spirit and had no preconceived notions of how to get things done."

Floyd Bohannan, executive vice president of the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce, vividly remembers those exciting days.

"Frank White was the governor and Preston Bynum (a Siloam Springs native) was his chief of staff," Bohannan says. "Preston called us and told us we needed to show Harry around. We got an old limousine from the funeral home to tour him around in. That's how much we knew. Afterward, we figured we would never hear back from him."

A month later, Thomason was back with a group of associates. Hudson Foods' corporate jet was used to fly them in from Dallas and to fly them out to Kentucky for another site tour.

Kentucky Mistakes

"The folks in Kentucky made a couple of key mistakes," Glass says. "They didn't meet the plane on time, and they weren't knowledgeable about the production requirements. They probably had more to offer than we did, but we got the production."

"When it comes to film, Arkansas traditionally has been in the shadow of Dallas," Thomason says. "|The Blue and The Gray' helped get us out from under that shadow. You can't measure this industry strictly in terms of dollars. We spent plenty of money in Arkansas, but the main thing |The Blue and The Gray' did was create a positive image for the state. It had a public relations impact."

Sometime during the 1980s, however, Glass believes Arkansas "peaked" as far as attracting major Hollywood productions.

"You can't out-cute the cute guys," he says. "That's not our job. The people in Hollywood don't want us telling them what will work and what won't work. They want us to be knowledgeable and brutally honest. We were honest when we were attempting to attract |The Blue and The Gray.'

"You can't embellish things. It will do nothing but backfire on you. What we have to sell is our diverse terrain. Within a 50-mile radius of Little Rock, you have swamps, prairie, mountains and pine forests. It can be made to look like a lot of places.

"In essence, we're a big back lot. The Lord gave us that, and nobody can take it away."

Thomason agrees.

"There are a number of films that could be shot in Arkansas," he says. "We proved you can do a quality production in the state. Arkansas just has to make sure it is going about attracting these films the right way. The studios have money to spend. And their primary concern is getting to a place and then getting out on time."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:location shooting in Arkansas; television production
Author:Nelson, Rex
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Feb 25, 1991
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