This weekend I traveled to Scorching Springs to attend the sixteenth annual Arkansas Shorts Movie Pageant offered by Low Key Arts. What was previously a one-night occasion is now a three-day, full-fledged competition with visitor audio system, late evening events, and plenty of movies — 67 movies, to be actual.
This growth was a fairly daring step for the competition, and required a variety of adjustments. As everyone knows, change is typically tough — to just accept and handle. Actually, I had my doubts. I believed opening up submissions to movies made outdoors of Arkansas may make the competition much less significant for locals; I believed that increasing the variety of movies accepted into the competition may deliver down the standard. I will admit that the competition director, Jennifer Gerber, proved me improper, because the adjustments made this 12 months had been most welcome and refreshing.
The town of Scorching Springs by no means fails to shock me with each go to down right here. I had one filmmaker remark to me over the weekend that Scorching Springs is a “pocket of weirdness within the state.” I’ve to agree, as a result of as I am penning this, I am sitting in a espresso store downtown, being served by totally automated bickering automatons. Solely in Scorching Springs might you discover a futuristic, robot-themed cafe like Robo World Cafe, snuggled in between all of the outlets specializing in promoting rocks, and the road artists enjoying music or studying fortunes. Perhaps there’s simply one thing within the water that brings out the creativity on this neighborhood.
I began the weekend by checking into the ’50s-style motel Completely happy Hole, which was providing reductions to filmmakers and attendees of the competition. I ran into a number of filmmakers within the foyer who had been additionally checking in, considered one of which was Jon Huggins, an Arkansas native — initially from Nashville in Howard County — who now acts and directs in New York. His movie “Sugar Crash” — an expertly shot story of two younger brothers attempting to cover their sweet stash from their grandmother — screened Saturday morning. Huggins’total household, and his Dallas-based crew, traveled to city for the event.
In reality, one of the vital spectacular issues about this 12 months’s competition was the turnout, not solely from locals, however from filmmakers throughout the state who made the journey simply to help Arkansas movies. College students from UCA, filmmakers from Northwest Arkansas and Little Rock — everybody was networking and selling one another’s work over drinks within the adjoining lounge. This was simply probably the greatest attended movie festivals this 12 months — granted it is solely January, nevertheless it’s good to see folks truly come out on this post-covid society to in-person screenings once more.
There have been many highlights in the course of the weekend. The movies screened ranged from science fiction and comedy to horror, primarily each screening block had a little bit one thing for everybody. The Arkansas-made movies this 12 months had been very sturdy. For instance, Levi Smith’s “Double Hassle!,” about two youngsters that get sucked into an arcade recreation, had a few of the greatest visible results that I’ve seen in current reminiscence. Marc Crandall’s emotional “Banana Triangle Six,” a couple of geriatric battling a cognitive examination, deservingly gained greatest Arkansas Made Brief. Plus, it was good to see the competition showcase movies from first-time administrators that had taken half within the Inception to Projection program that Low Key Arts gives.
The competition was additionally ready to herald actress Joey Lauren Adams (“Chasing Amy,”https://information.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/”Large Daddy”), who gave an entertaining and informative discuss, moderated by Gerber, about how a younger lady from Arkansas discovered herself in Hollywood engaged on a few of the most memorable films of the ’90s. However she additionally delved into matters in regards to the craft of filmmaking, particularly screenwriting and directing, since she has slowly transitioned her profession to be extra behind the digicam. She imparted a variety of helpful info and phrases of encouragement to a packed room stuffed with wide-eyed, novice film makers.
However the one factor that impressed me essentially the most about this 12 months’s competition is the truth that it occurred on the historic Malco theater, which is among the most iconic locations in Scorching Springs’ downtown strip. Magician Maxwell Blade, the present resident of the Malco, was gracious sufficient to permit the competition to take over his theater for the weekend, and this venue actually did add one thing particular to this occasion, a flare of nostalgia. I am at present eavesdropping on a dialog in the midst of the Robo World, of two patrons speaking about their recollections of the Malco, particularly sneaking into the balcony to look at “Jaws.” There’s one thing ironic being in a espresso store stuffed with robots listening to folks reminiscing on the previous.
However then once more, I’ve fond recollections of the Malco too. In reality, it was on the Malco, over a decade in the past, that I heard in regards to the Arkansas Shorts competition for the primary time. I used to be in movie faculty at UCA and Crispin Glover (“Again to the Future”) had come to Scorching Springs to display considered one of his experimental movies on the Malco. After the screening, I used to be ready in step with my holographic “Again to the Future 2” hat to get Glover’s autograph when two younger women handed me a flier for the third annual Arkansas Shorts occasion. Glover did find yourself autographing my hat, writing “I’m not on this movie” below the hat’s invoice. A couple of years later, after being handed that flier, I would have considered one of my very own shorts screened on the competition.
As I sit right here ready to be served my third latte by Robbie the Robotic, I notice that I had a second of readability this weekend. Saturday evening, in any case the films had screened for the day, all of the filmmakers went to the SQZBX pizzeria for that evening’s after social gathering. I stood there, with pizza in hand, trying throughout the jam-packed restaurant at a room stuffed with folks that I am proud to name my colleagues, a room stuffed with folks that I am proud to name my associates.
Throughout the room, I heard the distinct voice of considered one of my former movie college students, Alex Guss, as he yelled, “Man, I really like movie festivals!” It was at this second I noticed that that is what a wholesome movie neighborhood ought to appear to be, and on that top observe I quietly, unnoticeably, snuck out the again door. I made the 20 minute trek again to the Completely happy Hole motel, in 40 diploma climate, with an unbreakable smile chiseled throughout my face.