Hollywood.Con highlights film industry opportunities in Eureka Springs
By Samantha Jones
It's been two months since the red carpet premiere of Hollywood.con was held at The Auditorium and filmmaker Mika Boorem is itching to get back to Arkansas.
"We thoroughly enjoyed having our project premiere in Arkansas," Boorem said. "My dad is from the area, and he loves his Arkansas roots. Work has brought him all over the world, but Arkansas is home."
Boorem brought the cast and crew of the film with her to Eureka Springs, and she said they all enjoyed themselves when they were here.
"I am so in love with the town and all of the people who have decided to live there," Boorem said. "The people are so diverse and from all over the world. It's a really, really special place that everyone needs to spend time in."
Boorem worked with May Festival of the Arts organizer Sandy Martin and CAPC interim director Rick Bright to make the premiere happen. Martin said she thought the event went great, saying attendance was better than she ever could have expected.
"They did a fantastic job of promoting it, and they did a lot of community outreach," Martin said. "It was very well accepted, and I think Eureka is hungry for more."
Martin is also the president of the Northwest Arkansas Film Commission, where she's seen the film industry boom in the region over the past four years. The commission is supported by the cities of Bentonville, Eureka Springs, Rogers and Fayetteville, Martin said.
"We've been pushing and working very hard to work on a regional filming process that streamlines it," Martin said. "We've been instrumental in getting four studios built here."
The third season of HBO’s True Detective was filmed in Northwest Arkansas, Martin said, and that was huge for the region.
"The more we can get high-profile films like that here, the more it's going to grow," Martin said. "People are realizing it's easy to film here. Nobody has strict guidelines like Atlanta or New Orleans."
Martin encouraged filmmakers to consider premiering their films in Eureka Springs, saying the Hollywood.con premiere is proof it can work. Eureka Springs is a great place to premiere a film, Martin said, because of its unique population.
"We may be a small town, but during the year we swell up to 1.5 million people," Martin said. "That's a great sampling to do a premiere or get audience feedback on a movie that's not quite cut yet. It would provide a true sampling of a lot of different people from all over the country."
Having the premiere at the Auditorium came with some hurdles, Boorem said.
"They had not had a movie screen in the Auditorium for years, so we had to work out a lot of kinks," Boorem said. "My dad and I enjoy challenges, so we took it on."
Martin said that's one of her regrets. If she had it her way, Martin said, Eureka Springs wouldn't have to borrow a projector and screen from the Arkansas Film Commission every time a film is screened in The Auditorium.
"They don't charge us anything for it, but it's still difficult getting it to and from Little Rock," Martin said. "I wish we could afford to have really top-notch digital equipment there."
Despite the challenges, Boorem said, she loved having the premiere at The Aud. She said she worked with Arkansas Film Commission member Christopher Crane to get the screen and projector at The Aud.
"The theater with its beauty and history has such a magnificent enchanting character to it," Boorem said. "It was important to me that if we were going to screen the film somewhere outside of LA or New York that the theater and town were special and brought something to the table."
She continued, "There isn't a town more special than Eureka Springs. I would definitely have more screenings and premieres in the theater, because we have now worked out the kinks."
Martin said The Aud is the hub of entertainment for Eureka Springs, along with Basin Spring Park.
"It's a phenomenal facility. Everyone loves either playing there or just doing something in that spot," Martin said. "There's just something magic about it."
Martin said she hopes to see more events in The Auditorium like the Hollywood.con premiere.
"It would be a phenomenal place to do actor workshops and different things like that," Martin said. "People should look more at Eureka Springs."
Boorem said she certainly plans to come back.
"Eureka has our hearts. Some of the local audience members told us this was one of the first events they had been to inside the Auditorium that wasn't a music concert," Boorem said. "I'm glad they came out to support. This is the first time we had screened the movie anywhere, so it was a joy to have and experience such a receptive audience."
For more information on the Northwest Arkansas Film Commission, visit www.filmnwa.org.