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ACS BLOG
on the record

2.5.2024

Fort Smith International Film Festival expands with launch of MidAmerica Film Market

by
Kody Ford

The 4th Annual Fort Smith International Film Festival is entering the next frontier of the global movie industry with the launch of the MidAmerica Film Market, which will run alongside the festival, August 22 – 24, 2024 at TempleLive.

While the first two years focused on exhibition, in 2023 the River Valley Film Society added distribution, an economic component, taking the first steps in transforming the film festival into a movie market. Sgt. Major Keith L. Craig (Retired) and Jeff Porter with Porter + Craig Film and Media Distribution were keynote speakers, provided a workshop, and offered licensing agreements to five films from the festival (2 Arkansas, 1 Oklahoma, 1 Florida, & 1 Canada). In 2024, the transformation becomes a reality with the creation of the MidAmerica Film Market, which will alter the entertainment landscape locally, nationally, and globally.

“We finalized a multi-year agreement making Porter + Craig Film and Media the exclusive distributor for the MidAmerica Film Market,” explains executive director Dr. Brandon Chase Goldsmith. “Through this partnership we will bring in buyers who work with the major theatrical companies and streaming services around the world. Essentially we are bringing Hollywood to the middle of the United States!” A six-hour radius from Fort Smith includes Dallas, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Jackson, and Shreveport with the closest other film market being South by Southwest in Austin.

MidAmerica Film Market featuring Porter + Craig

In recent years, the world of cinema has seen a remarkable surge in independent film production. With advancements in technology and the increasing accessibility of filmmaking tools, more and more aspiring filmmakers are creating unique and thought-provoking stories outside of the Hollywood realm. However, despite this rise in indie films, the distribution process remains a complex and challenging task. This is where Porter + Craig Film and Media Distribution plays a crucial role, serving as a bridge between filmmakers and audiences.  

Sgt. Major Keith L. Craig (Ret.) served as the 12th Senior Enlisted advisor to the commander of Europe, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East. The former Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Distribution Executive is a multibillion-dollar media leader, driven to diversify storytelling around the world. “With countless films being produced each year, it becomes increasingly difficult for individual filmmakers to gain recognition and secure the right licensing deals on their own,” says Co-Founder Sgt. Major Keith L. Craig (Ret.). “That's why we will make sure that our expertise and industry connections will help them find the right audiences for their films.”

Co-CEO Jeff Porter having found distribution and/or financing for over two hundred and fifty plus films and television shows along with managing numerous production sets, overseeing the logistics of several theatrical releases in addition to cultivating relationships with all the major domestic and international distributors and sales agents.  Jeff Porter's drive and focus have been much fed by the unparalleled satisfaction of being able to help filmmakers and producers create the best content and find distribution and audiences for their opuses.  “By collaborating with Porter + Craig Film and Media, filmmakers can focus on what they do best – telling captivating stories – while leaving the intricacies of distribution in our hands” notes Jeff Porter.  “Ultimately, it is this collaboration that ensures that indie films find their rightful place in the global cinematic landscape and reach the masses.”

Porter + Craig Film and Media will identify the best platforms for distribution, whether it be theatrical release or streaming services and tailor your approach according to genre. They will provide an understanding of the intricacies of licensing, marketing, and revenue-sharing agreements, which can be overwhelming for independent filmmakers.  

Submissions Open February 2

Film submissions will open February 2 and run through May 24, with four deadlines (Early Bird March 1, Regular April 5, Late May 3, and Extended May 24). Three categories, Narrative Feature, Documentary Features and Episodic, will be eligible for both the film market and festival. The remaining categories are only eligible for the festival: People of Color Shorts, Indigenous Shorts, Music Videos, Animation, High School & College Student, and all genre of short film with no date limits on production. Everyone is welcome to submit at FilmFreeway or they can visit FortSmithFilm.com

Growing Global Event

Meltwater, one of the world’s top media analysis companies calculated the aggregate reach of all the online news, social media, print, and broadcast stories about the Fort Smith International Film Festival. The 2021 inaugural year reached 254 million, 2022 increased to 265 million, and the 2023 festival had a media reach of 827 million producing a total of 1.3 billion. “I had them rerun the numbers,” exclaims Dr. Brandon Chase Goldsmith executive director of the festival. “Our marketing team and media partners did incredible work. We implemented an international strategy sending out press releases to cities around the globe where we have festival winners and alumni filmmakers. The world is learning about Arkansas film and our region’s growing movie industry.” In the first three years, the festival has received 1213 film submissions from over 75 countries, nations, and tribes.

Arkansas Film Industry

The Arkansas Economic Development Institute recently released “An Economic Analysis of the Arkansas Film Production Industry: Impacts and Incentives,” which showed that for every $1 million spent on the film rebate, $4 million was returned to the state’s economy. It also revealed that there has been a lack of workforce development over the past 13 years as “employment in Motion Picture and Video Production generally trended downward from 2010 to 2020, rebounding in 2022 to total 260 employees,” with our best year being 2010 with over 300 employees. While Arkansas’ rebate incentive has had a significant impact on the economy, in terms of jobs the state’s film production industry has declined.

Acting as a regional film commission, The River Valley Film Society is working on partnerships to develop workforce programs to train film crews to help spur growth in the state’s movie manufacturing industry. “Students are our future filmmakers,” says Dr. Brandon Chase Goldsmith. “We are working with Keep Arkansas Beautiful and the Ozark Media Arts Festival to launch a statewide high school commercial contest. Small businesses and large corporations need content creators, and if we train students in video production, then they can graduate high school with employable skills and have a head start in college.” We are also educating city leaders throughout the river valley and beyond on the viability of local level incentives and rebates that can act as add-ons to the state’s incentive program. In order to compete around the world and in America’s competitive film market, Arkansas needs to invest in both incentives and workforce training.

About Sgt. Major Keith L. Craig (Ret)

Sgt. Major Keith L. Craig (Ret.) served as the 12th Senior Enlisted advisor to the commander of Europe, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East. Sgt. Major is a Hollywood Executive, an industry change-agent, and champion for filmmakers. The former Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Distribution Executive is a multibillion-dollar media leader, driven to diversify storytelling around the world.

The former combat hero turned media mogul, Sgt. Major earned 52 awards and decorations in his past life, but is now revered for his contribution to major studio releases such as Disney’s Oscar-winning Coco, and The Lion King, Marvel's “Best Film The Black Panther, Lucas’ film Star Wars: The Last Jedi, as well as Marvel's Guardians of Galaxy, and Thor Ragnarok. Sgt. Major is the Co-Founder and CEO of Porter + Craig Film and Media Distribution in Beverly Hills, California, and has forged strong partnerships with Escala Entertainment in Canada, Maverick Post- Production Studios in Mumbai, India. He came into prominence when he joined the Disney sales team that broke the industry domestic box office record of $3.7 billion in 2019, as Theatrical Sales and Distribution Manager for their Central Division.

As Executive Producer, Consultant and Investor, Sgt. Major strategies to ensure that the entertainment culture is equitable and inclusionary for promising media content producers. He is consulting new filmmakers and expanding inclusionary global partnerships dedicated to catapulting women, independent films and television programming for domestic, Nollywood, Bollywood, and Canadian movie-makers. Amongst a Myriad of new theatrical releases, via his newest ventures, Sgt. Major pursuits lead him to the American Film Market, Sundance, Cannes, Berlin Film Festivals, annually to provide advocacy for the independent filmmakers, while seeking fresh content, unique and colorful storytelling, for distribution.

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter has spent his years in Los Angeles furthering the ingenuity, creativity and drive which guided him through his collegiate career at UNLV, during which he founded the non-profit Music and Film Development Center which teaches youth about music and film production, as well as the business behind it. His passion for film, in its myriad facets, has exposed him first hand to the blood sweat and tears of running a set from the ground up as well as the countless hours spent as an editor for many projects.

It is what led him to Los Angeles, working his way up from scouting films to selling them. It was there, in a kind of baptism by fire, which Jeff learned about the distribution and financing side of film, working his way up from film scout to president. In the process; finding distribution and or financing for over two hundred and fifty plus films and television shows along with managing numerous production sets, overseeing the logistics of several theatrical releases in addition to cultivating relationships with all the major domestic and international distributors and sales agents. Jeff’s drive and focus have been much fed by the unparalleled satisfaction of being able to help filmmakers and producers find distribution and audiences for their opuses.

True to the ethos, which was the impetus for his non-profit, a part of the job that brings Jeff great satisfaction, has been traveling to the different film festivals and sales markets around the globe to provide a voice and audience for independent filmmakers, as well as educating them on the nuances of film distribution, finance and business development - via panel discussions and workshops.

About Porter + Craig
Headquartered in Beverly Hills, California with offices in Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA & New York, New York. Porter + Craig Film and Media Distribution is a worldwide film and television sales organization specializing in the financing, production, and distribution of commercial feature films; it also represents worldwide sales for both its own slate of films and third-party content with an annual slate of 50 to 100 films.

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At  ACS, we believe that if we provide filmmakers an arena to exhibit their talents, and film enthusiasts a healthy diet of quality programming, we can inspire more Arkansans to make and watch more films. By supporting filmmakers, festivals, theaters and young people interested in filmmaking throughout the state, we hope to create statewide network, pool Arkansas’s resources and be an umbrella organization that feeds all things film. We believe a rising tide lifts all boats.

watch,
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make.
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connect to create.

To be a filmmaker, we have to connect to create. A painter needs a brush, paint and a canvas. A director needs a writer, a cinematographer, a sound mixer, production designer, editor, actors, distributors, and an audience. We cannot do it alone. This art form forces one to collaborate and thus, creates jobs. Filmmaking is unique in the arts in this way. It takes an army.