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Arkansan filmmaker's '45 RPM' has local screening

By Sean Clancy

This article was published June 16, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.


Jason Thompson is Louie and Liza Burns is Charlie in the 2013 Arkansas-based road trip movie 45 RPM. The film, directed by Juli Jackson of Paragould, will be screened tonight as part of the Arkansas Sounds series at the Ron Robinson Theater.

45 RPM Screening

6 p.m. today, Central Arkansas Library System’s Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Ave., Little Rock

Admission: Free

(501) 320-5728

Filmmaker Juli Jackson reckons that growing up in Paragould had something to do with her love of road movies.

"If you're in a small town, in order to go see a movie or buy a book or see a band play, you have to drive two hours to Memphis or to Little Rock," says Jackson, 35, from her Paragould studio. "From Easy Rider, to Little Miss Sunshine, I love it when you stick characters in a vehicle and they have to deal with each other and be on the road with each other."

The road and rock 'n' roll play a big part in 45 RPM, the 2013 Arkansas-made film written and directed by Jackson that returns to Little Rock for a screening tonight at the Ron Robinson Theater.

The event is part of the Central Arkansas Library System's Arkansas Sounds series and will feature performances by local musicians Adam Faucett, Whale Fire and Justin Vinson, just a few of the acts whose music is in the film. Jackson will also take part in a panel discussion afterward with actor Jason Thompson, co-producer/music supervisor Mike Poe and "garage rock" consultant Harold Ott.

It was, in part, Ott and his Lost Souls compilations of vintage Arkansas garage rock from the '50s-'70s that gave Jackson the idea to write the movie.

"When I found those albums, that was part of the inspiration," she says, "listening to that music and imagining that world, when music like that was being recorded in Arkansas in these little boutique places."

Set in Arkansas, the dark comedy follows Charlie, a young artist played by Liza Burns, who is searching for a connection to her deceased father by tracking down an elusive copy of "Rusted Roof," the only song he and his 1960s band Five Man Trip ever recorded.

She teams with Louie, an obsessive collector played by Thompson, who has his own reasons to find the record, and the pair set out on a music-filled journey and, on the way, learn about life and themselves. The soundtrack features nearly 40 Arkansas-connected acts.

"It's a self-discovery-type journey," Jackson says, "and they meet all sorts of interesting characters."

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Burns, who was living in Los Angeles when she was cast as Charlie, was the only person among the film's crew not from Arkansas. The sense of otherness she brought helped in her portrayal.

"It worked out well because that's her character," Jackson says. "She's coming as an outsider. She's a phenomenal actress and artist as well. I think Liza and Jason did a phenomenal job playing the leads. We've had a lot of good feedback on their performances and chemistry."

Jackson, who went to film school in Philadelphia and worked for a while in Los Angeles, was director of photography on Beat the Air, which was shot in Philadelphia, and directed her feature God's Country, Off Route 9, in 2008. Her animated adventure short, Sugar (Sweet) Tooth (Ache), was released in 2010.

"Even when I was in high school, I wasn't particularly interested in big Hollywood movies," she says. "I was interested in movies that looked like real people made them."

She was working with the Ozarks Foothills Film Festival when she got wind of the festival's Indie Film Fund grant for independent filmmakers in 2011.

"At that point, I'd written the feature script not knowing if I was going to get the funding to do it," she says.

She applied for the grant and ended up receiving $30,000, which was enough to get 45 RPM spinning from the page and, eventually, onto the screen.

The movie, which is available on DVD and video on demand, has won awards from festivals in Knoxville, Tenn., and Philadelphia, among others. It won the award for best feature made in Arkansas at the 2013 Little Rock Film Festival, where Burns also snagged the best actress prize. Tonight's screening, though, is the first time it has been shown outside of a film festival in Little Rock.

"A lot of people didn't get to see this movie the first time," co-producer/music supervisor Poe said. "This free screening will give more people a chance to see it and we're super thankful to CALS."

A Little Rock native and music-film scene fixture as a producer, DJ, director and manager, Poe wasted no time in getting involved with the film when he heard about the production.

"I told Juli that I wanted to be there every day and that I could do anything she needed," he says, eventually helping with most every aspect of the production, including wrangling songs for the extensive soundtrack. "You wear a lot of hats as a producer and I was just stoked to wear all of them."

"I'm really excited to be able to show it again," Jackson says, especially with Faucett, Vinson and Whale Fire participating in the screening. "It's also going to be nice to focus on the music."

Vinson, a Lake City native who plays in the band Come Sundown, wrote "Rusted Roof," the mythical, mid-'60s-garage rock single/holy grail at the heart of the film.

"Justin worked with me to create that character and that song and that sound," Jackson says. "He's going to be there and will play a version of the song and then we'll get to see the movie. I think that will be a really cool experience."

MovieStyle on 06/16/2017

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