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story.lead_photo.caption SkipStone Picture’s latest film, “Max Winslow and the House of Secrets,” filmed in Bentonville last year and is out now. The movie won Best Feature, Audience Choice Award and best Music Video for Emery Kelly’s “The Answers” at the Fayetteville Film Festival, among other festival awards. Gov. Hutchinson (from left), Kelly and producer and SkipStone CEO Johnny Remo attend the Northwest Arkansas red carpet event for the film. (Courtesy Photo)

SkipStone Pictures out of California began its relationship with Northwest Arkansas when the production team chose this corner of the Natural State for production on the family-friendly film "F.R.E.D.I." The community was so supportive of the project and of the studio, the decision was an easy one when it came time to choose the location of the studio's next project.

"Max Winslow and the House of Secrets" was filmed in and around Bentonville last year and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as a few streaming services, following a successful theatrical run and tour of the festival circuit -- successful in the age of a pandemic, anyway.

Despite many theaters during the film's release only hovering around 30% capacity due to the virus, "Max" still received impressive support, reveals Johnny Remo, the film's producer and owner and CEO of SkipStone Pictures.

According to a recent conversation he had with the manager of Bentonville's Skylight Cinema, when "Max" was still showing there in early September, it was outperforming new releases "Bill & Ted Face the Music" and Marvel Entertainment's "The New Mutants."

"That just shows you that when people know something was shot here, they really come out in droves to support that," Remo says.

But, of course, it wasn't just the positive reception to the finished films that bolstered him. Remo has been awed by the outpouring of community backing and aid during the production processes that made the films possible.

Local restaurants provided food; Sam's Furniture supplied pieces for the set; McLarty Daniel loaned vehicles during production; Visit Bentonville's Kalene Griffith assisted with the permit process to aid relations with police and fire and the logistical details surrounding access. Remo has even met with Gov. Asa Hutchinson multiple times to discuss the film industry's benefit to the state as a whole.

All these pieces would be nearly impossible in his home state of California, much less so eagerly provided, Remo says. That, ultimately, is why he brought his whole production company to Bentonville.

"I wanted to show the community how thankful and grateful I am for what they do, and I thought the best way of doing that was to move here and become a part of the community, not just personally, but in business," Remo reflects. "I am now a business owner in Northwest Arkansas. So they are supporting a local business instead of supporting business that's from out of state. I wanted to show them that since they accepted me into their community that I wanted to become part of the community."

And he's wasted no time in securing opportunities for the local infrastructure to get to work. In spite of the shutdown of projects across the industry, people are ready to -- cautiously, safely -- get back to work, Remo says. And SkipStone Pictures has three projects, with rigorous safety measures in place, coming down the pike.

Barring any other major complications, the first begins filming next month and will bring an A-list actress to Bentonville for the production. The second will commence in January, and the third, a live-animation project Remo is both producing and directing, gets under way early next year.

"I still have to bring a certain percentage of crew people in because they're just not here yet, but it's getting better. They're getting more experience, and they're getting to move from one position to another," Remo says. "I'm hoping within the next year or two, we don't have to bring anybody in, which would be great."

SkipStone's commitment to the community is cemented, Remo says.

"Couldn't do it" in California, he asserts. "Wouldn't want to do it, but just couldn't do it. We're here to stay and we're here to make good, clean family entertainment."

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‘Max Winslow and the House of Secrets’ is available on Blu-ray and DVD at Walmart, streaming on Amazon, and soon coming to more streaming services. Visit maxwinslowmovie.com for more information.

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