WATCH | Arkansas Shorts film fest wraps with Adams in spotlight

Members of the audience stand during the Filmmaker Spotlight to show that they had created short films with the Inception to Projection program. - Photo by Lance Brownfield of The Sentinel-Record

Sunday was a wrap for the 16th annual Arkansas Shorts Film Festival by Low Key Arts.

A highlight of the event, held at the Malco Theatre, was the Filmmaker Spotlight where actor and filmmaker Joey Lauren Adams, an Arkansas native, spoke with an intimate crowd about her process and experience in the business.

The event, which was extended to three days this year, featured 62 short films with the majority made in Arkansas.

"Church was kind of the first big moment," Adams said. "I got to play Mary Magdalene when I was like 6, and like huge applause, and it was like 'OK, I like this.'"

After answering several questions from Low Key Arts Film Program Director Jen Gerber, Adams fielded questions from the audience. She discussed her time in the Little Rock School District and how she didn't make the cheerleading team in seventh grade -- something that would prove pivotal in her direction in life.

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"Had that not happened, I think I would have followed in my sister's footsteps into cheerleading and that sort of world," Adams said. "And because of that, I went this way and then in eighth grade I was in the drama club, ninth grade I was president of the drama club.

"It was more out of like, 'cheerleaders aren't cool, drama kids are cool.' And, so, from then on, I was always heavy into drama all through school," she said.

Adams has since starred in hit films such as "Dazed and Confused," "Bio-Dome," "Mallrats," "A Cool Dry Place" and more. She has directed a movie, "Come Early Morning" and two episodes of a series called "Still the King."

Most recently, she finished directing a movie for Lifetime, "Betrayed by My Bridesmaid." Shot entirely in Hot Springs, it can be watched with a Lifetime Movie Club subscription.

"Then it was like I hated Arkansas, I hated all of that," she said. "I think you have to hate it to leave. But, at a certain point, I was struggling with, I guess my identity, so then I just decided I'm gonna be Southern."

After meeting lots of people pursuing the same goal as her on the West Coast, Adams said she noticed they talked about writing scripts more than they actually did it. Continuing to visit home every Christmas, she said she changed her style to reflect her Arkansas upbringing, wearing big belt buckles and listening to country music.

"Once I started writing about home," she said. "That's when I kind of fell in love with it again."

Now residing in Hot Springs, Adams brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the local film scene. Since returning to Arkansas, she has become invested in seeing local filmmakers thrive and supports the Inception to Projection program.

The program by Low Key Arts helps local aspiring filmmakers to create a work of their own. Taking the film from idea to finished product, participants are able to screen their film at the festival once it has been completed.

Opening a dedicated full-time studio last year, the program drastically increased the number of films to be finished in a year from around eight to 10 to 28 in 2022. Because of this and the steady growth of the festival, the decision was made to add a third day to the Jan. 6-8 event.

As the Inception to Projection program and Arkansas Shorts continues to grow and more directors come to shoot in Hot Springs, talks like this become important for fostering the budding film community.

Adams discussed how she took a chance and went to California after attempting college, the "perverts" she encountered in Hollywood circles and landing her first television and film roles.

Her film career, which spans decades and boasts a catalog of dozens of films and television shows, acts as an example that it is possible for people from Arkansas to make it to the big screen.

  photo  Jen Gerber, film program director at Low Key Arts, interviews Joey Lauren Adams on stage Saturday. - Photo by Lance Brownfield of The Sentinel-Record