2021 has been an exciting year for the film scene in Fort Smith and the River Valley.
From the inaugural Fort Smith International Film Festival to the announcement of new projects in the area, the good news keeps pouring in.
Alma’s writer and director Jason Pitts is happy to see the region get the recognition it deserves.
“There is so much untapped talent here in Arkansas – a lot of people who haven’t had a chance to show what they can do,” Pitts said.
Officials at TGE Global Entertainment Inc. on Dec. 17 announced plans to build a $ 30 million, 92,000 square foot facility that will include 45,000 square feet of film and television studios at Chaffee Crossing.
The studio will include six sound stages, a projection room, a backlot, editing rooms, offices, a cafeteria and an amphitheater.
“This part of the state used to produce men and women who thought they could do it, so they did,” Giovanni Jackson, CEO of TGE, said in a press release. “Sam Walton is not from New York or LA And he’s only one on the list. There’s no reason Arkansas shouldn’t be known for its contribution to entertainment, not after what we saw at the Fort Smith International Film Festival. This is your opportunity, Arkansas. Let’s make it your own. “
The studio’s news follows the news in November that the company is planning to make a film about famous Fort Smith lawyer Bass Reeves.
“I think this upcoming studio is just going to showcase the state, the talent that is here and the amazing places in Arkansas,” Pitts said.
Pitts, 41, who graduated in radio, television and film from the University of North Texas in 2006, is showing his most recent short, “Masquerade” throughout the River Valley and the Northwest. from Arkansas.
“Masquerade” is the second horror short in a series that Pitts is creating. As he continues to create in the River Valley, the group of supporters and interested people has grown, Pitts said.
“It’s become a family and it’s just a bunch of passionate people who love what they do,” Pitts said.
The cast and crew of the film are a testament to the people of Arkansas who love films and want to see them perform in the state.
For some, it was an introduction to a newly found love.
“I wasn’t even really aware that we had such a movie scene here,” said Crystal Woodham, assistant director of “Masquerade”.
Woodham, 45, originally met Pitts in 2019 and reached out after seeing he needed help with “Masquerade.” She has since enrolled online at NYU’s Tisch Film School and made her first short film “Ungathered”.
For others, announcements like the proposed studio or movies shot in the area just make sense.
Alivea Disney, who plays the main character of Sylvia Darnell in the film, is not surprised that the region’s film scene is starting to pick up.
“Who can say what the rules are? Why not shoot in Arkansas? Disney asked.
Disney, 27, has been working in the state’s film scene since her college days at Pulaski Tech, where she fell in love with it after taking a acting class in hopes it would be an easy A.
She shot three lifetime films while completing nursing school at the University of Arkansas – Little Rock.
While it hasn’t always been easy to find the roles she represents, Disney has found success in her passion and wants others in the area to follow suit.
“We have a really talented team right here in the River Valley,” said Woodham.
There is a lot of talent to be offered on either side of the camera, from actors and actresses to those who direct or work on set, Woodham said.
“I’m really excited for what the future holds for the state and for this region,” Pitts said.
Abbi Ross is the company and featured reporter for the Southwest Times Record. She can be reached at aross @ swtimes or on Twitter at @__AbbiRoss