Kathryn Tucker was living in the bicoastal world of film, her career in the movie industry revving along. She felt the pull of home, though, and decided to move back, bringing some of Filmland with her.
“I just felt disjointed not living here,” says Tucker, filmmaker and producer and executive director of the Arkansas Cinema Society. “I’m still trying to bring film here for me instead of me going to film. I want to bring the films here to Arkansas, and I want to make a difference and foster new voices and give a leg up to kids who don’t have a leg up.”
She and screenwriter and director Jeff Nichols co-founded the Arkansas Cinema Society last year, kicking off the nonprofit’s year-round programming with a three-day festival that featured a series of films and conversations with Adam Driver, who played Kylo Ren in Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, and David Lowery, director of Pete’s Dragon.
On Thursday, Aug. 23, Arkansas Cinema Society will kick off its second annual film festival, rebranded Filmland 2018, at the Ron Robinson Theater in the Little Rock River Market District. Richard Linklater, best known for Dazed and Confused, School of Rock and Boyhood, will screen his 1998 film The Newton Boys. Four feature films and seven short films will be screened Friday night and Saturday, including Antiquities, and there will be appearances by Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Campbell and Graham Gordy.
Steenburgen will be joined by The Last Man on Earth co-creators Will Forte and John Solomon on Saturday for a discussion on that show, and Forte will also screen MacGruber, based on the Saturday Night Live sketch that parodies MacGyver. There will also be a screening of Survivor’s Guide to Prison, a documentary on life in prison. Producers David and Christina Arquette will answer questions afterward.
“We have to have the filmmaker present to have a conversation after the film so people learn how it was done,” Tucker says.
Tickets to individual events range from $20 to $35 and include admission to after-parties. They are available through the website, arkansascinemasociety.org, and, if not sold out, at the door.
Tucker and Nichols bumped into each other at a screening of Loving, which he wrote and directed, through Central High School’s Tiger Foundation in 2016, and they began brainstorming about how to revive the Little Rock Film Festival — or create something different to fill the void left when it ceased.
“One of the more important parts of our mission is to provide an arena, a venue for Arkansas filmmakers to screen their films,” Tucker says. “If they have a place to screen their movies, they will make more movies. We’re doing that this August, and then we also have started this Homegrown Film Series. We did our first one Feb. 2.”
“One of the more important parts of our mission is to provide an arena, a venue for Arkansas filmmakers to screen their films. If they have a place to screen their movies, they will make more movies.”
Tucker knows the frustration of not being able to find a place to screen films in Arkansas, having produced two in the state — Antiquities and All the Birds Have Flown South.
She met Josh and Miles Miller, directors of All the Birds Have Flown South, through her now husband, Gabe Mayhan, a cinematographer.
“We had the script for All the Birds Have Flown South and Miles and I had been talking to Gabe and a few other people we knew about getting the film made but we were missing a producer, and Gabe said, ‘well, why don’t you talk to Kathryn about it,’” Josh Miller says. “She had just moved home from LA.”
Miller is hard-pressed to say what Tucker’s best production talent might be.
“She was a great producer in every way,” he says. “We raised money together but she was definitely a big, huge part of that. She had worked on some really big movies and studio-level films. We’d never been involved in a feature so having someone there who had been on a feature was very helpful.”
All the Birds Have Flown South will be screened during Filmland.
“This is our first time and we’re really excited about being a part of it. To have a public screening at home really means a lot to us,” Miller says. “Our family and friends will get to see it on the big screen the way it should be seen and heard.”
Tucker bought a house in Little Rock in 2010, shortly after her brother’s first child was born. She had just finished a job as second assistant director on the Adam Sandler movie Just Go With It, in Hawaii.
“I wanted to be close to my nephew,” she says. “I had friends who had bought houses in LA and their mortgages were like $8,000 a month and they were doing movies in, like, Timbuktu, to pay for their mortgages in LA and they never got to see their houses. It just made sense for me to do it here. I was having anywhere from two to three months off a year between movies.”
She met Gabe that summer, and in the fall she returned to Los Angeles to film another Adam Sandler movie, Jack and Jill.
A year later she worked on Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman.
“I was in Baton Rouge for three or four months and then New Orleans for almost three weeks and then in New York for a week — we shut down the top floor of the Empire State Building in New York,” she says. “They chartered a plane from New York to Iceland for this movie. They flew the whole crew on the same plane and there was Oblivion on the backs of the plane seats — it was so fancy. It was super cool.”
It was better than anything she could have imagined starting out.
She graduated from Little Rock’s Central High School in 1996 and majored in photography and communications at the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia.
She knew nothing about the movie industry as a child, but she liked theater and loved creating art.
“I used to love to paint,” says Tucker, whose free time is scarce now that she is mother to Tucker, almost 3, and Kathryn Clarke “Coco,” 6 months. “I do pour paintings — pour paint into shapes without a brush. And I still love to take pictures. My parents gave me a manual Nikon FM2 when I was 16 and I still have it and I order film and take pictures.”
DEALING WITH DYSLEXIA
She grew up in Little Rock, the daughter of Becky and Rett Tucker, co-chairman of Moses Tucker Real Estate and Moses Tucker Partners, and sister of Clarke Tucker, who is running for Congress. Her childhood, she says, was idyllic.
“My parents are my two favorite people on the planet,” she says. “I grew up with learning disabilities. I started stuttering when I was 5 or 6 and then they diagnosed me with dyslexia at 6. I wrote everything backwards, so if you put it in the mirror you could read it perfectly.”
She’s grateful for her parents’ advocacy.
“Had that been mishandled I might not have been a successful adult. They were always really great about helping me find solutions,” she says.
They had her tested and determined that her IQ didn’t match her grades and as a result of her parents’ advocacy, she was allowed to take the SAT without time constraints.
“I didn’t take any more time than what was allotted but untimed I scored about 400 points higher. It was just knowing that I had the time. That helped me get into better schools and changed, really, the path of my future,” she says. “I was also very artistic and they really helped me foster that growth.”
Lindsay Allen Jordheim of Denver grew up in Little Rock with Tucker.
“I always knew she would have a bright future,” Jordheim says, “but my first hint at her exciting future was when I came out to visit and I saw her photography exhibit on campus in Philadelphia, and my jaw dropped because I just couldn’t believe that she had created these pictures. It was the first time I had seen her artistic expression in a formal setting and that was very cool.”
When they were little, Lindsay tidied Kathryn’s room when she visited.
“It would be a mess,” she says. “We always laugh about that.”
Tucker describes herself as “notoriously messy.”
“When I do clean I’m wildly thorough, which is why I procrastinate it because I want to have time to do it correctly,” she says.
That thoroughness has extended to other aspects of her life as well.
She had wanted to live in a New York apartment since she was 7, so when she graduated from college she made copies of her resume and walked around that city, delivering them to 50 photographers whose work she had studied and admired.
“That took about a month,” she says. “One of the last places I went, the photographer happened to be in the lobby when I went in and we met and we talked and he didn’t have a personal assistant at the time and then he hired me, like almost on the spot.”
She worked for that photographer, Timothy White, for a year and a half.
“At his studio, I learned so much,” she says. “I learned all this stuff about medium format cameras and lighting and so much cool stuff. He shot Julia Roberts, and Harrison Ford was his best friend and was in there all the time, he shot Jennifer Lopez … it was just a crazy first year.”
She began to consider, though, that being a photographer could be a lonely job.
“I wanted to be in a more collaborative medium and so I just started thinking I want to work on movies,” she says. “I got on a few sets and just loved it and it felt so energetic and awesome and it just felt like home to me.”
White, along with a college friend of Tucker’s who worked as a photo editor at Miramax, helped her get hired at that studio as photo editor of independent films. She produced photo shoots for movie posters for Kill Bill and Chicago, among others. She chose photos taken on the set of Frida, and pulled stills from the films City of God and Amelie for marketing campaigns.
She left that job to be the associate producer on an independent film, Loggerheads, in Wilmington, N.C.
“I think the big turning point in her career was when she applied to the training program of the Directors Guild of America,” says Rett Tucker. “There are about 3,000 applicants for 15 or 20 positions.”
The Tuckers heard from their daughter at each stage of the competition — the field was cut from 3,000 to 2,000, then to 1,000 and so on.
“Then she said, well, they’re down to 50 and they’re going to interview 50 of us. She called four nights later and said, ‘I got in,’” he says. “It’s like graduate school. They train you and put you on movies and TV shows and they pay you and give you health insurance in the process. I think she’s the only active member of the Directors Guild of America who resides in Arkansas.”
As a trainee, Kathryn Tucker worked on Private Practice, Bones, Made of Honor and She’s Out of My League.
Her parents visited her after she completed the program and started a job as the second assistant director on the pilot episode and first season of Glee, watching as their daughter chose 25 people from a group of 300 to be background actors.
“If you got picked you got to A) be in the show and B) you got paid that day. I thought this kid’s got immense power,” he says. “The next day we were back at Paramount Studios where they were filming that day and they broke for lunch — they do that about 3 in the afternoon and they call that lunch. I looked up and there were about 15 people in line there to ask her questions.”
Dan D’Lauro worked with Tucker at Miramax before moving from New York to Los Angeles with a mutual friend, who then invited Tucker to stay with them briefly while she was looking for a place of her own.
“It was a two-bedroom with a loft, so she was staying in the loft temporarily and going back and forth to LA and New York and maybe Little Rock a little bit, too,” he says. “That’s kind of when she started to develop more of her film and TV career on the production side and she started to book more gigs and what started out as maybe a week here or there turned into this woman was living in my apartment.”
D’Lauro and Tucker became — and remain — close friends.
“She’s incredibly driven and creative,” he says. “She’s able to understand where people are coming from and their perspective and I think part of that is from her upbringing but also I think it’s her personality.”
Tucker remembers her father showing her the development progress in Little Rock’s River Market District during her trips home from college.
“He would say we’re doing this now and we’re doing this and this is happening and as a college kid I didn’t really grasp it,” she says. “He always said he wanted to make the city cool enough for me to live in it. It was such a moving thing to say and I just have tremendous respect for everything that he’s done.”
Tucker is working to make her own mark on the city. City Director Kathy Webb says Little Rock is lucky to have her. The Arkansas Cinema Society has the potential to teach young people about careers in the movie industry, spur filmmaking that will, in turn, provide jobs for Arkansans and increase tourism.
“To find someone like Kathryn who had this really fantastic background and all these contacts in the film industry and all this creative energy and wanting to use it in Little Rock, was very exciting,” Webb says. “It was just a wonderful opportunity.”
DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: April 6, 1978, Little Rock
THE PERSON I WOULD CHOOSE TO PLAY ME IN A MOVIE IS: Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
FIVE PEOPLE I WOULD INVITE TO A FANTASY MOVIE SCREENING ARE: my aunt, Marion Tucker Glatter; Francis Williams Tucker, my paternal grandmother; Everett William Tucker Jr., my paternal grandfather; Robert Browning Bost, my maternal grandfather; and Hattie Eustice King, my maternal great-grandmother.
MY MOST PRECIOUS CHILDHOOD MEMORY IS: Of snow days, when we would get out of school and go sledding.
I WISH I COULD: Direct movies — many, many movies.
I’M MOST COMFORTABLE: When I’m working on a movie.
MY FAVORITE PLACES ON EARTH ARE: London, Ojai, Calif., Venice Beach in Los Angeles, my parents’ house … or in my rocking chair with my kids.
SOMETHING I ALWAYS HAVE WITH ME: Above my grandmother’s bed was a little wooden gold prayer box with the St. Francis prayer in it. It’s on my nightstand and I take it with me when I travel.
MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE MOVIE IS: Amelie. That’s the movie that made me want to be a film director. I also love Gone With the Wind and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
ONE WORD TO SUM ME UP: Caffeinated.
“I wanted to be in a more collaborative medium and so I just started thinking I want to work on movies. I got on a few sets and just loved it and it felt so energetic and awesome and it just felt like home to me.”
Print Headline: HIGH PROFILE: Movie producer, director Kathryn Tucker wanted to be closer to her Little Rock family without giving up her career