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From Filmland to filmmaking

by Karen Martin | November 20, 2022 at 1:55 a.m.
Karen Martin

The last night of Arkansas Cinema Society's recent Filmland celebration of cinema included a premiere screening of "A Period Piece," created by ACS' Filmmaking Lab for Teen Girls.

"How awesome do our girls look on the Filmland red carpet?" said Kathryn Tucker, executive director of ACS, on Faceook following the screening. "The crowd had such a loud applause following the premiere, and we are so proud of how hard these girls worked over the summer."

The eight-week lab is a partnership of ACS and Girls of Promise, an initiative of the Women's Foundation of Arkansas. The goal is to expose girls to opportunities and mentors in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to increase the number of women in higher-level STEAM courses and careers, and to guide them toward achieving economic security.

Filmed at Central High School, the plot of the lab's 2022 short film ( concerns Tampon 2.0, an eco-friendly herbal remedy for menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) that student Charlotte (Ana Brandon) creates and enters in a science competition.

When she earnestly explains her project to teacher Mr. Adams (Ed Lowry) who's one of the competition judges, he deprecates her: "Charlotte, are you serious? ... This topic isn't even appropriate. ... Get this ugly and gruesome project out of my face." Then, adding insult to injury, he tells her to don her jacket over her sundress; "you're just asking for detention."

Charlotte is disheartened, but not dissuaded; with the help of other women, she puts together a presentation that shows periods can be something beautiful. It wows the judges.

The lab members got hands-on experience in all aspects of the filmmaking process, including direction, production, hair, makeup, wardrobe, photography, sound mixing, lighting, and auditioning actors. Mentors include Kathryn Tucker (director), Gabe Mayhan (photography), and Christina McLarty Arquette and David Arquette (producers) with help from Masterclass filmmakers such as director and screenwriter Jeff Nichols, producer and writer Josh Miller, and visual effects artist and editor Les Galusha.

For those who dream of following in the footsteps of actress and director Regina King, filmmaker Chloé Zhao, costume designer Ruth Carter, editor Sally Menke, cinematographer Reed Morano, director Kathryn Bigelow, and other female cinematographers, scenic designers, editors, and screenwriters, participation in the free lab allows girls between the ages of 16-18 to experience all aspects of the filmmaking process. No prior filmmaking experience is necessary, and there's no cost to participate.

Each year's participants, guided by seasoned film professionals, develop a three- to five-minute minute short film with an emphasis on women's empowerment and STEAM throughout the eight-week program. The finished films will premiere during ACS' annual Filmland festival.

"These girls learned all the different roles; a coed crew might have made that more difficult, with boys leaning toward jobs like grip--maintaining and making rigs for camera support--and girls gravitating to hair and makeup artist jobs or producing.," said Tucker, a 1996 graduate of Central High, in a story about Film Lab that appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2019. "I'm trying to encourage girls to consider all the possibilities in a non-gendered situation."

Of the 100 top-grossing films of 2018, 4 percent were directed by women, 3 percent had female cinematographers and 15 percent were written by women, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

"There's a tremendous deficit of trained females in the industry," Tucker says. "A lot of people look to Hollywood to lead in that progressive, diverse way, but it's so behind the times."

Arkansas has developed a talent pool for film and TV, Tucker says, and these girls can now be included. "There is a thriving film community here. That's part of our mission, to give a venue and a voice to new filmmakers. That's why the girls' short films will be screened at Filmland, so they will be in the same room with other Arkansas filmmakers. That's where it all begins."

Applications for the 2023 Lab will open soon. To learn more visit

Karen Martin is senior editor of Perspective.

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