Film industry seeks local cinema student talent

Northwest Arkansas’ burgeoning film industry is up-and-coming with the help of John Brown University students, thanks to the forthcoming film “Valley Inn.”

“Valley Inn” is a romantic comedy, the story of a New Jersey college student who comes to the South as a traveling bookseller. The idea for this film sprang from the mind of writer and producer Kim Swink. Although “Valley Inn” is not a true story, it does reflect Swink’s personal experiences to a degree.

Producer Kenn Woodard called the project a “passion film,” because he hopes it will do more than just tell a story. Unlike other projects filmed in northwest Arkansas, “Valley Inn” will use almost all local talent in every aspect of production.

Though a film industry in Arkansas may sound unlikely to some, Steve Snediker, assistant professor of visual arts, says the area offers a lot. In addition to the natural beauty of the Ozark Mountains, a lack of actors’ unions and state-sponsored financial incentive, Arkansas does not offer the difficulties to film students that Los Angeles or New York do, Snediker said.

Woodard firmly believes there is talent to be tapped locally. In addition to the University, he has gone to the University of Conway and the University of Arkansas’ main campus to seek it out.

Woodard asked Snediker for recommendations of film students here and presented in a class to raise interest among film students. He emphasized that the film needs more than just cinema majors however.

“There are a variety of opportunities that don’t just say ‘artist.’ They say ‘community,’” Woodard said. He is seeking talent wherever he can find it, including the local company Intercut Productions, headed by 17-year-old Zak Heald of Gravette High School.

Students with majors ranging from graphic design to marketing are encouraged to get involved, especially those with editing experience.

“We have a dire need for editors,” said Heald.

Some University students, such as junior Angela Morse, are already involved with “Valley Inn”. Morse is working on the pre-production at the moment, but hopes to work on set as soon as filming begins.

“I love every bit of it… I get to do a job where I’m with my friends doing what I love. How much more fun can that be?” said Morse.

Morse strongly encouraged as many students as possible to get involved in Arkansas’ film industry.

“They could go from here straight into a paying job. How many film schools can say they’ve got films in their backyard?” she said. “Take advantage of this opportunity that’s being put into our laps. Don’t let it pass you by.”

The producers are hosting a launch party and fundraising event today, 6 p.m. to midnight, at UARK Bowl at 644 W. Dickson St. in Fayetteville. Tickets are $20 at the door for University students. Besides fundraising, the goal of the event is to help students network with the who’s who in Arkansas’ film industry.

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