Arkansas film students aim to work in-state for upcoming projects

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SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA) — The entertainment industry continues to grow as production companies travel across state lines to shoot in the Natural State.

But, how viable are the careers in film that sprout up right here in Northwest Arkansas?

Skip Stone Pictures, known for its films Max Winslow and the House of Secrets and Fredi, has now built relationships with two universities in NWA.

This is in hopes of shaping the futures of young filmmakers and keeping them here.

“Skipstone reached out to us through their local representative, Robert Babcock, and said, ‘We’d like to establish an internship partnership relationship with John Brown University,’ and of course I said, ‘Absolutely,” said Steve Snediker, the associate professor of digital cinema at John Brown University.

It’s a lifeline straight to the heart of the entertainment industry.

“Students who have worked on Skipstone productions as interns are getting jobs in the area and as far away as Los Angeles,” said Snediker.

A bond, vital in a place where job security in the entertainment industry isn’t always guaranteed.

“Graphic design students; 100 percent of them, if they want a job, they’re going to get a job in graphic design,” he said. “Film’s a different animal.”

“They find out when they’re in California how difficult it is and how competitive it is and they come back here and unfortunately they change their vocation,” said Johnny Remo with Skipstone Pictures.

Remo is creating this program with not only JBU, but the University of Arkansas as well.

He wants to set college kids up for success in the film industry without having to cross state lines; something Snediker is grateful for.

“It is a difficult thing to go out from here and immediately have a job, immediately have a paycheck you can depend on,” Snediker said. “They work on a feature film, they might be 21 days employed and then: a month looking for work.”

A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows only 27 percent of U.S. college grads have a job related to their major.

Mark Landon Smith, part of that percentage of people working in their chosen field, said in his experience as a casting director, finding success is all about hard work.

“A lot of it is making your career and creating your own opportunities,” Smith said. “As a casting director, and as an agent, sometimes I ask actors why are you not creating? You have the ability to do that.”

Snediker said, “It makes me really hopeful now that I’m not just promising people something that I hope will happen, but I’m promising to students to say ‘Hey there’s work out there. You can do this work.’”

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