Little Rock Film Festival Goes To The Drive-In Due To Pandemic

Oct 1, 2020

This year's Filmland moved to a drive-in format due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit Arkansas Cinema Society

Like many other events across the state, this year’s Filmland, a four-day film-festival in Little Rock created by the Arkansas Cinema Society, went under modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

KUAR’s Sarah Kellogg spoke with Kathryn Tucker, executive director of the Arkansas Cinema Society, about this year’s festival and the films selected for screenings. Below is a transcription of the interview that aired on KUAR.

KUAR: What was the planning situation like for Filmland this year?

Tucker: "So we first had to secure a venue and we had talked about doing a pop-up venue in downtown Little Rock somewhere. We started getting into quotes and it just, it was becoming cost prohibitive just in terms of like, when we screen these unreleased films, they have security requirements that are totally dictated by what projectors we have. And so the projectors are a really big deal and in order to get those in and set up the screens and have the quality control we always want and the studios require with these unreleased films, it was just cost prohibitive. And then MP Outdoor Cinema opened and we were like 'Oh, maybe that’s a possibility!' So we called them and they were of course, lovely. We talked about doing a pop-up in downtown Little Rock and they were going to help us with it and they were like 'You know what, why don’t you just do it here? We’ve already done all of this.' And in tandem, helping a new local cinema, it felt like an absolute fit and at that point I kind of unleashed our board members to start programming Filmland and that wasn’t that long ago."

KUAR: What are the advantages to this year’s format compared to years before?

Tucker: "So this year’s format, we can’t screen movies during the day because it has to be dark and so we were only able to program four films because Filmland is only four days and it’s all curated and we have a single venue so that everybody can interact and see the same films and talk about them. But obviously we can’t screen films during the day, so we only had four films to program. So we really went after some hot, big titles to try to drive folks there. And this year also has been pretty great because we moved from August to October and we did that pre-COVID[-19]. We decided to have Filmland in October last year because we were hoping…we could get some of the hot titles coming out of Venice International and Toronto International and be able to screen those films for Arkansans because a lot of times these films that are award contenders, they don’t screen in Arkansas until after they’ve won. And so a lot of times, even just like my parents who are huge movie buffs, they really want to see the films before they win Oscars and so we’re hoping we can get some titles out of like Sundance and Toronto and South By [Southwest] and be able to give our audience some of the perks of living in a bigger city."

KUAR: Do you feel like the programming you could do this time [is] a little more limitless because you don’t have worry about bringing the filmmakers in and you can do it through zoom or other video conferencing?

Tucker: "In a lot of ways, yeah it’s been, that’s been a perk because a lot of these people are really, like we just had Jennifer Siebel Newson, who is the first partner of California and she’s also a filmmaker. She’s actually a filmmaker first and first partner of California second. But she’s an incredible filmmaker and we were able to do a Zoom Q&A with her several weeks ago and getting her here was like getting the First Lady of the United States here. So in some ways it’s allowing us, everyone’s learning curve on Zoom and FaceTime has gone up dramatically and so I feel like it’s, everyone knows Zoom. Everyone knows how to use Zoom now and so it makes it a lot more accessible whereas like nine months ago if we did a Zoom, I don’t know if people would care or do it or know how."

KUAR: Let’s talk about the films themselves. Tell me about the films you’re screening, why did you choose them, what do you think that audiences will get out of them?

Tucker: "So, The Way I See It, is Thursday night and it is a documentary about White House Photographer Pete Souza and Jayme Lemons is one of the producers on that film so I’ve been following it for a couple of years now and I’ve been really excited about it. And then it was an official selection of both Telluride and Toronto so it’s another film that’s hot out of the gates and this will be a sneak preview for Arkansas."

"And then Friday night, we’re screening One Night in Miami..., which is of course Regina King’s directorial debut and it’s another film that’s hot out of the gates at Toronto and is a huge award contender."

"And then Saturday night of course we’re screening Nomadland, which won the highest and most prestigious award at the Venice International Film Festival and then it also won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s one of the main awards contenders right now. It’s starring Frances McDormand, directed by Chloé Zhao and it’s just, it looks like an incredible film. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s obviously been getting rave review to be winning all of these awards already."

"Sunday, we’re screening Dreamland, which was an official selection last year of Tribeca. It is not out and it will be a sneak preview as well."

"A lot of times we’ll have already released films. We’ll be screening already released films, like Toy Story 4 last year had been out for a couple of months, but we brought Andrew Stanton, who is the creator and writer with Pixar. But we like to do, really it’s about the filmmaker. But this year I felt like was really important to get unreleased content and so we went after less of the released content than we normally do because we’re not able to bring the filmmaker here and everybody’s been stuck at home watching all of this content at home already in quarantine. And so we really just wanted to give the community access to content and the most cutting edge content."

Filmland runs from Thursday, Oct. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 4. More information, including ticket information, venue location and more can be found at the Arkansas Cinema Society’s website.