While Christina Arquette's career as a journalist has taken her all over the world, it's her work in producing films that gives her the greatest professional joy -- and brought her back to Arkansas.
She's president of the Arkansas Cinema Society's board of directors, which is hosting its fifth Filmland festival Nov. 3-6 at the Central Arkansas Library System's Ron Robinson Theater. While she lives in Nashville, Tenn., she and her husband, actor David Arquette, are in Little Rock often to work on various projects.
"I think now more than ever, films are going to be crucial in arming people with education, information and a call to action -- whether you are talking about women's rights, criminal justice reform, gun reform," she says. "I find storytelling and films to be a really powerful tool."
Arquette spent her early years in Hope, the only child of Shelley and Bud McLarty. She was the first girl born in five generations of McLartys.
"My grandmother was very happy and she forgave my dad for anything he had ever done in his life because I was the first girl in five generations." Her parents thought she would be a boy and planned to name her Christian but -- surprise -- she became Christina instead.
Her uncle, Mack McLarty, was President Bill Clinton's chief of staff. The McLarty brothers still own the house where they grew up in Hope.
"There was something really magical about the summers in Hope and the fireflies and the sound of the bullfrogs and the stickiness of it that I just have such memories of and I basically re-created that for my own children moving to Nashville," she says.
Her parents moved to Little Rock where she went to first through sixth grades. Then they moved to Los Angeles where her father worked in the entertainment industry producing concerts and live music events. Next, they moved to Phoenix for a year and, finally, Colorado Springs, Colo., where she graduated from high school.
Her parents chose Colorado -- in part -- because Arquette was a competitive figure skater and the state was the perfect place for her to train -- something she did for eight hours a day.
As a Southern girl, she doesn't remember how she got into the Northern sport of ice skating.
"I loved to dance and I loved ballet and then I became really serious about skating and dedicated my life to it. In fact, in school I didn't have to go to PE. They let me do the eight hours of skating."
Her high school worked around her hours. She would get up at 3 a.m. and start training and then train again after school.
"I didn't have any social life. I didn't have a lot of friends. And also because we moved so much, I was always starting a new school. So when I gave it up, it was a big, big thing. I think my mom was really disappointed at the time because she loved it so much."
Even though she aspired to compete in the Olympics, she hung up her skates when she was about 15.
"It was a blessing that I did because I went on to have a life and go to the college I always wanted to go to."
She has only skated once or twice since her competitive days.
"The thing that ice skating gave me that I carry to this day is a tremendous amount of discipline in life because it is so structured and scheduled all of the time, but what was really tough about it is you didn't have a life outside of ice skating," Arquette says.
She went to New York University and got a degree in journalism. While in college, she interned for then Sen. Hillary Clinton. And while her Uncle Mack had a long career in politics, she quickly learned that while she was interested in politics, it was not something she wanted as a career.
She also interned for MTV's news and documentaries division, giving her the love of documentary filmmaking.
Her first full-time job was as a general assignment reporter at KATV-Channel 7 in Little Rock. She says her days at Channel 7 were the best training ever.
"You learn to write your own scripts, to edit, to produce, to do live shots. It will shape who you are in the business," she says.
Next up, she worked for the CBS affiliate in Dallas where she spent about four years. She did a show, was weekend anchor and did human-interest stories on the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. She knew nothing about sports.
"I did have to do an interview with Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal] one time because the live shot failed and they gave me the questions. And I said 'I am going to apologize right now because I know nothing about sports so I am just going to read these, so please answer.' ... It was totally embarrassing but you just do it. And he was lovely. He answered all of the questions."
She moved on to a bigger league and was a reporter at both Entertainment Tonight and The Insider. At one point, she was doing both shows simultaneously from New York. She eventually moved back to Los Angeles where she just worked for The Insider.
When you Google Arquette, you find stories about how she was a star in the soap opera "The Young and the Restless."
"That's fake news. I have never acted. When I was on Entertainment Tonight, we had to cross promote 'The Young and the Restless' and I had do a behind-the-scenes report and play a reporter in one episode. It was just for fun. ... I have never acted a day in my life. I couldn't even try to act if my life depended upon it."
She interviewed David while on Entertainment Tonight. They were on an elevator together that day and he told her he liked her jacket. They met again at a 1980s-themed boat party.
She recalls that she did not go in '80s attire, but David changed into several era outfits because "he loves themes."
Sparks did not fly at the boat party. She remembers "awkwardly talking" to David.
About a month later, they finally went on a date. Soon after, they started dating but she had to move to New York for Entertainment Tonight and she decided to call it quits.
"Did we break up?" she asks her husband, who is sitting next to her during this interview.
"Yeah, you dumped me," David replies.
"I fell in love with her pretty quickly and she dumped me on the beach. I took her out for a beautiful picnic on the beach and she said she was moving away. And I was like 'You couldn't have dumped me on the phone?'"
He says he won her back by making frequent trips to New York to visit her. They ended up rekindling their relationship long distance and married in 2015.
"The best thing about her is she has just got the sweetest heart," David says. "She's incredibly funny. That's one of my favorite qualities about her."
"We laugh a lot," she says. "Yeah, we do," he answers.
They have two sons, Charlie West Arquette, 8, and Augustus Alexis "Gus" Arquette, 5. Charlie is named after David's grandfather, Clifford Charles Arquette, an actor and comedian who went by the stage name Charley Weaver. Gus is named after David's sister, Alexis Arquette, who was an actor and a transgender pioneer. She died in 2016, according to People magazine.
"She's an incredible mother, an incredible producer," David says of his wife. "She is incredibly smart. Her skill set and what she learned as a reporter fits in so perfectly as a producer and a businesswoman. I am amazed by her. She's beautiful."
With two boys, Arquette decided to take some time off because "I knew I couldn't sustain a career in news reporting and being a mom. I was on the road so often and traveling so often."
She got back into work when one of David's friends was having a hard time finishing "The Survivor's Guide to Prison" documentary. The project was at that half-way point when Arquette signed up as the producer.
"That was a very special experience for me and it sort of scratched the itch that I had for ... getting back to my roots and really restarted my second career which has been producing. ... You just have to do what makes you happy and what you are passionate about."
Her return to the South happened after she and David made two movies in Jonesboro where they rented a house with a ranch and horses and donkeys.
"To have a donkey looking in your window in the morning was just magical to us. We were like 'This is amazing.'"
She then took David to Hope to stay in the house where her father and uncle grew up where, again, it was "so sweet and magical to be." The couple decided to leave LA and look for somewhere they could have more space. They found it in Nashville.
"They are outside all day," she says of her boys. "I have to pull ticks off them when they come in. It's a totally different experience than being in a big city."
A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH
"I like to say she is a force and a force for good," Mack McLarty says of his niece, adding she is "living the dream."
"She's had such a great career but now with just two beautiful children -- just great, great young boys that we just love and she is building quite the life with her husband, David, in Tennessee but she still has some connectivity and roots to Arkansas which is great," he says.
"She is still traveling and just doing a lot of interesting and meaningful things that are just right in her wheelhouse, as the old saying goes. I think she is just balancing life and work in an admirable way and we greatly admire her," McLarty says of himself and his wife, Donna.
Arquette's introduction to the Arkansas Cinema Society came about when its executive director Katherine Tucker invited her to screen "The Survivor's Guide to Prison" at the society's festival. She came with her husband. She later joined the society's board of directors where her father, Bud, was already a member.
"We just had such an incredible experience screening this film and we were so impressed with all of the things Arkansas and the society is doing. And we were really inspired by all of the young film makers in the audience," Arquette says.
She and Tucker did not know each other before but now they are close friends. When asked to describe Arquette, Tucker debates two words.
"I couldn't decide if I would say stunning or brilliant first," Tucker says. "I would also say generous and effervescent. She is so full of grace with everything she does."
The two women have children about the same age and the families often take vacations together. Tucker is married to cinematographer Gabe Mayhan and she splits her time between Little Rock and California.
"She handles her career and her personal life and [Arkansas Cinema Society] all with such grace," Tucker says. "I really don't know how she does everything that she does. She is one of the busiest people I know and she is always making time to help ACS and me however she can."
Part of her passion is ending "mass incarceration." In July, she screened "The First Step" for prisoners at the Pulaski County Detention Center. The film, which Arquette produced, explores the justice reform bill called the First Step Act of 2018.
"To date, it has brought home more than 20,000 people from the federal prisons with the goal to reduce the federal prison population and end mass incarceration," she says of the act.
At this year's Filmland film festival, Arquette and her husband will screen "God Said Give 'Em Drum Machines," a film they produced that explores the 1980s electronic-music phenomenon created by Black artists.
"I think Filmland is a great experience -- four days of incredible curated films from all over the world. And then you have conversations about them and workshops around them. ... It is just a really community-driven experience and I love that," Arquette says.
Arquette is working to increase the number of movies filmed in Arkansas. She says the film industry is an "incredible industry that can provide and sustain a lot of jobs" for actors, carpenters, costume designers, caterers and more, she says.
"I do it because I love films and I love Arkansas and I think that it is a beautiful state to shoot in. ... The beauty of the art in filmmaking is that you can tell stories and change things and make a difference."
More information about Filmland 2022 is available at arkansascinemasociety.org/filmland-2022.