Kody Ford, ACS director of statewide outreach and education / Photo by Kat Wilson
When some confused the Arkansas Cinema Society as the “Little Rock Film Society” just because the nonprofit organization was based in the state’s capital, it frustrated ACS executive director Kathryn Tucker.
The ACS board of directors and Tucker never intended such a message to develop in any way shape or form.
However the recent hiring of Fayetteville resident Kody Ford as the ACS director of statewide outreach and educational director should help alleviate many such assumptions. Ford, who will continue to work from Fayetteville on North Skyline Drive, will also serve as the organization’s Northwest Arkansas program director.
“Even though we were based in Little Rock, our mission has always been to serve the film community of the entire state,” Tucker said in a joint telephone interview with Ford. “The addition of Kody with his energy, ideas, and enthusiasm as our outreach and educational director and as program director in Northwest Arkansas only enhances our ability to support the film community all across the state.”
Tucker said she has a vision of opening more regional offices around the state as the nonprofit grows and added that Ford’s outreach and public relations skills only increases the likelihood of seeing that vision come to fruition.
Ford, formerly the digital marketing coordinator for Experience Fayetteville and founder of The Idle Class, the state’s lone publication devoted the promotion of the creative community, has known Tucker for a decade or more and has been interested in working with her at ACS for almost as long.
“I made it clear to her that I wanted to work with the ACS long before this opportunity arose,” Ford said.
Ford has been chomping at the bit to get started since he was announced as joining the ACS in the newly created position in December, and with just a week on the job, he’s already knee deep in his efforts to promote film around the state.
“I have four other calls to make today, and they are all about exciting opportunities we have to support our film community in the state,” Ford said enthusiastically.
Ford is an avid film fan himself, and he misses the communal theater experience that the coronavirus pandemic has denied so many since March.
“I went to see a movie a week before Covid shut things down,” Ford said. “I get my popcorn and a drink, and just be excited about the experience. I haven’t gone in a while, but I did slip in to see ‘Tenet’ when it opened. It was just me and one other person in the theater. I enjoyed the film. I didn’t think it was great, but it would have been a totally different experience to watch a movie like that on TV.
“I truly hope we able to get back to the theater this year to have that cinematic experience. There’s really nothing like it.”
Ford, who said the first movie he saw in the theater was “The Care Bears Movie” animated feature in 1985, holds no special place in his heart, but he added he has always relished the movie-going experience.
However, he developed his true love of film as a graduate student, garnering a communications master’s degree at the University of Arkansas.
“That’s when I truly fell in love with film of all kinds — silents, foreign, documentary,” Ford said of his college years. “Just the exposure to so many forms of film in my studies only enhanced my love and appreciation of the art form. I’m so busy with work that I don’t get to explore all of those forms as much as I would like, but the appreciation is there.
“Just having this ability to support filmmaking and filmmakers through ACS is such an exciting opportunity for me.”
The ACS does host a film festival each year, but Tucker emphasized that is only a small part of the nonprofit’s mission.
“We’re here to support film and filmmaking and all that goes into creating that experience,” Tucker said. “We have a number of programs to help and support filmmakers in the state and to cultivate that interest with programs like our Filmmakers Lab for Teen Girls program and Young Storytellers activities. We offer stipends to state filmmakers to travel with their films to festivals. Our goal is to support filmmaking on all levels and help our state filmmakers to achieve their goals.”
Currently the ACS is working on creating legislation to reduce the stickiness of the red tape filmmakers must navigate to garner incentives already offered by the state.
“We know Arkansas will never be like Georgia,” Tucker said of the state that is basking in the growth of film and TV production within its borders in recent years. “But if we can entice five major productions a year to choose Arkansas, the impact on filmmakers and filmmaking in the state would be tremendous.
“One of our board members, Christina Arquette, has films just waiting to produce in our state when some of the barriers to those incentives are cleared away.”
Tucker said the production company A24 chose to film “Minari,” a movie about a Korean-American family whose members work in the Arkansas poultry industry that won the Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury and Audience prizes last year, in Tulsa instead of Arkansas because the complexity of accessing film-production incentives in the state.
The legislation the ACS is promoting could make producing films easier and more attractive as soon as 2022, Tucker said.
Ford is already at work, organizing programing for Northwest Arkansas that could begin to come to fruition as early as next month. Ford said to watch out for a special screening coming to Northwest Arkansas very soon.