Lights, Camera, Action

by Jim Harris  on Monday, Mar. 29, 1999 12:00 am  

It's estimated that more than $29 billion is spent annually in the United States in production of films of all kinds. Hot Springs, which has quietly become a focal point of the film world with its Documentary Film Festival every October, wants in on that pie and is trying to get the word out that it has the ideal locale for a film shoot.

The Hot Springs Advertising & Promotion Commission, the Garland County Economic Development Commission and the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce have jointly created the Hot Springs Film Office for that purpose.

"After we saw the economic impact of last year's filming of 'The White River Kid' in and around Hot Springs, it only makes sense for us to establish a mechanism to seek more film productions," says Steve Arrison, the Hot Springs A&P Commission director.

Jay Chesshir, executive director of the Garland County EDC and interim president of the chamber, says, "Landing a film production like 'The White River Kid' has the same economic impact as hosting a major convention."

Carolyn Neff, director of the group tour sales for the Hot Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is managed by the A&P Commission, will add to her duties the managing of the film office.

Arrison says the beautiful Victorian architecture of downtown buildings, as well as the lakes and mountains that surround the city, would give Hot Springs a boost in being selected for a film. Plus, renowned Hollywood writer/actor Billy Bob Thornton is from nearby Malvern, Arrison notes.

Getting filmmakers interested in Hot Springs began in February when Arrison volunteered to help staff the Arkansas booth at Locations '99, the annual trade show of Association of Film Commissioners International in Los Angeles.

"The White River Kid," starring Antonio Banderas and Bob Hoskins, cost in the neighborhood of $5 million to make, and some of that money went to area restaurants and hotels, not to mention extra actors.



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