Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
For all those who lament that Arkansas tends to export its artistic talent to more bustling metropoles, count Graham Gordy as an exception. Gordy is the co-creator of Cinemax’s upcoming TV show “Quarry,” which he created with Michael D. Fuller. This fall, Gordy’s feature-length script for “Antiquities,” will be shot in Arkansas on a 28-day filming schedule, to be directed by Daniel Campbell, another native Arkansan. Gordy and Campbell met at the Little Rock Film festival in 2010, when Campbell’s “Antiquities” — then only a short — won the Charles B. Pierce Award for Arkansas Film.
The two kept talking, eventually discussing the idea of expanding Campbell’s short into a feature film, prompting Gordy to ask an inevitable question: “Why did you set a comedy in an antique mall?” Compelled by experiences Campbell and Gordy had with losing their own fathers — and by Loudon Wainwright’s depiction of dealing with his own father’s death in a song called “Sometimes I Forget” (“Why would you leave your wallet behind/Your glasses, your wristwatch and ring?”) — the film’s script explores the life of Walt, a young man who’s returned home after his father’s death.” Walt, Gordy says, “wants to find out who his father was,” so he gets a job at the antique mall where his father worked as a teenager. “It’s a very full world. It’s either going to be a production designer’s dream or a production designer’s nightmare.”
After unsuccessfully pushing for “Quarry” to be filmed in Arkansas, Gordy and others turned to making “Antiquities” here in the state and to generating money to create a production company, rather than for a single feature film.
Gary Newton, the president and CEO of Arkansas Learns and a former executive vice president at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce who worked local film projects, called not getting “Quarry” in Arkansas “the worst disappointment.”
“The loss of [“Quarry”] was the catalyst for me. It felt like we finally had the Holy Grail, to have been the first choice of the studio, to be able to put Arkansans to work, and develop a crew base. The fact that we lost that was a gut-check.”
So Newton formed Mortuus Pater Pictures and raised $650,000 to support Gordy, Campbell and Arkansas film and TV projects.
“My ambitions are to make a living at this,” Gordy said, “and to do it from here, so we said, ‘Let’s try it. Let’s start out with a smaller film, it can be a very small budget, and 75 percent of the movie takes place in one location.”
Gordy’s been in the movie business long enough to temper his expectations, but he said the idea Mortuus Pater Pictures is “to set up the infrastructure so other films can come here. My personal ambition is that if the film makes any money, 100 percent of that goes into the next project.”