FORT SMITH -- Plans for the second Fort Smith International Film Festival are underway, with the River Valley Film Society holding a news conference Thursday to announce details for the summer event and the meaning behind the theme, "Borderlands."
The first festival recieved 396 submissions from 43 countries, with over 130 shorts, music videos, documentaries and features screened for attendees.
"I love movies, so being able to share my love of movies with the city of Fort Smith and the River Valley -- it's just a joy to have people come and see movies that they would've never seen," Brandon Chase Goldsmith, president of the film society and executive director of the film festival, said.
Goldsmith said the film festival will be Aug. 26-27 at Temple Live, 200 N. 11th St. He said Temple Live was chosen because the historic theater building will provide an all-in-one movie going experience, with room for multiple screenings, question-and-answer panels, workshops and a lounge.
Submissions open through Film Freeway on Feb. 4 and continue through the end of June. This year's categories are people of color, indigenous, music videos, high school and college student submissions, documentary, short films and feature films.
"So basically we have a whole range of films that we're looking for, and throughout the process we try to keep our entry fees very accessible," Goldsmith said. "They only go from $10 to $25 for the very late entries on our fees. But students until the late entries are free, because we really want to encourage student involvement in the festival."
Goldsmith said the theme is both a nod to Fort Smith's history as a border town and a way filmmakers and film-goers experience their lives -- in the borders between different aspects of life like age and ethnicity -- which allows a range of experiences and perspectives to be showcased.
"Film has a way of showing where those borders are overcome, or where people come against borders. That's where creativity happens, it's within those borders, and movies bring those experiences to the big screen," he explained.
"To me, it means we're bordering on possibility. We're bordering on what can be," Jeff Smith, a member of the film society's board of directors and TGE Global Entertainment production company CFO, said. "And when we sit at that threshold, when you sit at that line, that's where dreaming can occur. To me, that's one of the beautiful things about film. It's somebody's dream, somebody's vision, and they get to tell a story through that dream."
Smith said TGE members were invited to be keynote speakers at last year's film festival, which led to a partnership with the film society to produce a film about Arkansas federal court deputy Bass Reeves.
TGE is also the company working to build a multi-million dollar sound stage and movie studio at Chaffee Crossing.
"That's exactly why film festivals like this are so important to economies like Fort Smith," Smith said.
Goldsmith noted the festival also builds the local creative economy by creating jobs and showcasing regional talent to the whole world.
Talicia Richardson, executive director of 64.6 Downtown, explained the creative economy involves the material and financial backing needed to provide art in the community.
"When you're buying paint and materials and equipment from local vendors, that's sustaining our community. And most of the time that's local dollars. When we are paying for live artists to come and perform in our various venues downtown, as well as across the city, we are feeding our creative economy," Richardson said.
"By bringing another level of arts to our community with the international film festival, we are expanding our reach in the community," she added. "The young talent, the seasoned talent that's available in our community is here. It's time for us through this film festival to bring them out."
Richardson said the festival wouldn't be possible without the help from various sponsors and volunteers.
Arvest Bank again donated $10,000 to be the presenting sponsor of the film festival, as well as a lighting kit to the Future School of Fort Smith's film club to hopefully grow student participation in the festival.
"Everything we do is for the community, and dollars are so vital from an economic perspective just to grow your whole community," Trace Andres, vice president of commercial banking at Arvest, said. "And really, a festival like this brings in such diversity, new ideas and a new thought process that's created. For all of those reasons, it's just awesome to be a part of this, and we appreciate everything that y'all do."
Goldsmith said he hopes covid numbers decrease by August to allow more people to attend, but the film society intends to still do online tickets so people from around the world can watch without having to travel. He added once submissions open next month, the film society will provide more information about a pre-festival film series in Fort Smith and Van Buren that will run some of last year's submissions.
"One of the things with film and independent film is we've got to build an audience," Goldsmith said. "Plus they're just fun to watch."