Film school proposed for Little Rock's Main Street | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Film school proposed for Little Rock's Main Street

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 6:44 AM

LIGHTS, CAMERA ....: News comes of an idea to put a digital film college program in the old Cohn building on Main.
  • LIGHTS, CAMERA ....: News comes of an idea to put a digital film program in the old Cohn building on Main.

I believe we mentioned in coverage yesterday and in an editorial on the decision that the push to get Pulaski Tech to put its culinary school downtown likely wouldn't be the last you'd hear about downtown sites for Tech programs.

I confess I was thinking mostly of talk of the seed of an idea to combine some signficant private interest with Tech and UALR participation in providing an accessible facility for downtown workers to acquire college credit during the work day. More on that some day as it evolves.

The following is more concrete, according to what I've been told:

A movement is underway to encourage Pulaski Tech to move into the former M.M. Cohn building with a new program in digital film. The Arkansas Film Commission and Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce reportedly are pushing the idea. Like the culinary school idea, it seems mostly idea and no significant financial support. Tech would have to come up with the money.

I think the existence of the idea could explain a little bit more about the fever pitch to the lobbying for the culinary school, with the chamber CEO paying individual lobbying calls on Tech officials and a who's-who list of backers putting a full-court press on the Tech board. Culinary school approval would have better set the stage — created a bandwagon — for approval of a digital film program, with sound stage, as a logical second step in the Main Street arts renaissance envisioned by Mayor Mark Stodola. Nothing sexier than a promise that Matt Damon and Reese Witherspoon might be lured to productions on LR's own Main Street.

Sure, there's a lot to like about this idea. Don't mourn. The idea of starting a Pulaski Tech program to train film industry workers is by no means dead. UPDATE: If approved, it will start next fall according to Gary Newton of the LR Chamber, which announced Pulaski Tech's plans to start such a program a few months ago. Also, Mayor Stodola tells me that, while the push for a Main Street location continues, he has heard Tech might be leaning to putting the program on its North Little Rock campus.

I can't help but note the irony. It would be another idea heavily lobbied by the chamber — think technology park, culinary school, the chamber's economic development operation, film school — to be financed by tax money or the tuition of college students. Wealthy conservative business people talk a lot about how government doesn't create jobs. But revitalization of Little Rock's Main Street has been seen, to date, as almost wholly a government-underwritten enterprise. If taxpayers pay enough money to build enough stuff, somebody might come. Too bad a sales tax on food and other necessities and struggling students are always expected to pay most of the freight.

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