Wednesday's news that the Little Rock Film Festival would end was a blow to many local and regional filmmakers. Below is the transcript of an emailed Q & A with Brent Renaud , who co-founded the festival with his brother Craig. He talks about the background leading to the festival's demise and the future of the state's filmmaking community.
The festival seemed to provide one of the primary avenues through which Arkansas-based and regional filmmakers/those interested in filmmaking could establish connections and set a path toward future collaborations. Now that it's gone, what will fill the void?
That is a great question. One of the things we are most proud of is helping to create a real film community in Central Arkansas. Before we started the festival there were some good working filmmakers here, but the the community was unorganized and there was no consistent place to gather and present work.
I think there is a great opportunity for someone to fill the void with a festival, or a regular film series that celebrates local work. I also hope that Arkansas filmmakers will work harder to get their films seen at the regional and national level. The one thing that will be difficult for another festival to do, is maintain an environment where local filmmakers are presented on the same level as the best filmmakers in the World. That interaction was a big part of our mission, and very difficult and expensive to maintain. I don't see anyone else in the state at this time, even attempting it on a serious level.
Is the festival done for permanently or do you or anyone else have designs to resurrect it at some point in the future?
The festival is not happening this year, however we have gotten offers to reboot the festival, some of them are credible and some of them are not. We will listen to all of them. Two things would have to happen for us to reconsider, first the group who takes it over must be capable of running a World Class event, we are not interested in something scaled down that bears the LRFF name. Secondly, the festival will have to be able to function without Craig and I at the helm, we are retired.
How long has the probability of ending the festival been a reality?
Craig and I spend nearly seven months on the road each year making film and TV shows, and we were putting in at least three or four months of full time work each year to help run the festival. With some lucky breaks we received this year in the way of awards and honors for our work, we are now even busier, booked on projects years in advance outside of Little Rock. The writing has been on the wall for sometime, that the festival needed to function without us, and so over the last year and a half we worked on a transition plan to phase ourselves out, but in the end we did not feel it was strong enough to continue at this time. The cost to replace us with salaried employees with National experience running a top tier festival is prohibitive at this point.
Do you see any other film festival in the state becoming a standard bearer for local filmmakers?
I have high hopes for the new Hot Springs Documentary film festival. It was on the decline for a long time, but with Courtney Pledger, a real industry player, now at the helm things are looking up. The one drawback with Hot Springs is that it features Documentaries exclusively, and the Arkansas filmmaking community as a whole is much more interested in scripted filmmaking. I'd love to see Hot Springs start an Arkansas Film sidebar, or companion festival, that goes beyond just documentaries to include local fiction films, it would be a great way for Hot Springs to boost attendance and fill a much needed void in the filmmaking community. But I am by no means trying to tell them how to run their business.
What do you hope will be the festival's legacy?
We had a great run, and we are going out on top. We are debt free, coming off one of our best years, and have a staff that has been intact and friends for almost a decade. We created a World class event where nothing like it existed. People told us it was impossible and we didn't listen to them. The LRFF brought together a local community of filmmakers that didn't exist, and gave people the confidence to produce more and better work than they ever thought possible. We brought filmmakers here from around the World who couldn't even point out Little Rock on the map, and said goodbye to them as lovers of our great state and the people who call Arkansas home. We were also a small part of the revitalization of downtown Little Rock, and did our part to help build the local economy. And finally we simply tried to champion great art. We believe Little Rock must support events and institutions like the LRFF if this city wants to compete for professional young people, and to prosper in the region.