By Terrah Baker
The film industry in Arkansas is blooming, said Offshoot Film Fest organizers. Professionals dedicated to the art of film making are working in Arkansas to create talent from top notch film education programs, enact legislation that supports film making, and bring creative outlets for artists already here.
The Offshoot Film Festival held in Fayetteville — featuring independent films from across the world and state — is one local organizations way of showcasing talented film makers and bringing new ones to the natural state.
“Everyone who lives here knows how amazing (Northwest Arkansas) is. We wanted people to come here, see the place, and hopefully they would come back and start producing films here,” said Jason Suel of the Seedling Film Association and an organizer of the festival.
The festival is sponsored by the nonprofit Seedling Film Association as one of its main missions and projects. They got the momentum from local film festivals of the past like 540 Film Festival, first and last held five years ago.
“It was only meant to be a one year thing. The volunteers and organizers who helped with that film festival decided we should be doing this every year,” Suel said.
So they made it happen, along with the progress of others in the state — Like Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane who helped pass legislation providing tax exemptions for film production in Arkansas. Now in it’s fourth year, the festival organizers have gotten good at “taming the beast,” and the event’s been gaining ground.
Organizers are proud of stories like Ryan and Jennica Schwartzan of Purpose Pictures in L.A. who came to the second Offshoot and then back the next year to create Gordon Family Tree (2013), about an architect who becomes disenfranchised with the big-city grind and goes on a road trip to build treehouses, discovering what really matters in life.
“Just seeing that there’s an industry for that, and that we all know how gorgeous the natural state is. This is an amazing place for people to come for locations, it is way less expensive than shooting a film in L.A. or almost anywhere. And this area is training film makers,” community outreach person for Offshoot and Seedling Film, Jules Taylor, said.
Film advocates in Arkansas argue Arkansas provides not only a pretty place, but a support system of talented people that can help make great films. All Saturday of the festival will feature Arkansas-based films, with special guests and information about the films and makers.
The growth of the festival is important not only to artists, they said, but to the community at large. With the financial benefits and technical support, independent artists can actually create films with a more open voice.
“The voice of it is much freer on a lot of levels because you’re not having to meet the expectations of the funders,” Taylor said.
Offshoot Film Festival will run Thursday, Oct. 3 – Oct. 6 airing films and holding after parties after each night the film runs out. Visit www.seedlingfilm.com for more information on the festival, its organizers, how you can donate to bringing films to NWA and get your tickets to the festival.