An August trip to Fort Smith inspired a new movie about a famous local lawyer.
TGE Inc. General Manager Giovanni Jackson and COO Keith Kaplan were invited to the Fort Smith International Film Festival in August as keynote speakers and were in town to explore when they stumbled upon the statue of Bass Reeves at Ross Pendergraft Park.
“We’re standing there in the front and our CEO says, ‘Hey, wait a minute, let’s make a movie about this guy,’” said J. Michael Smith, CFO of TGE Inc. and one of the producers of the movie. “He made a couple of phone calls and the next thing we knew the ball was literally rolling.”
For those who grew up in this area and learned about Reeves’ story, it’s exciting from a point of view to bring her home, Smith said.
The River Valley Film Society is working with TGE Inc. to help develop the film, said Brandon Chase Goldsmith, president of the River Valley Film Society.
“This is part of the mission of the River Valley Film Society – to grow, to develop the filmmaking networks and the creative economy in Fort Smith,” said Goldsmith. “Bringing a multi-million dollar film production to our region is a perfect fit for our mission. “
Others have tried to tell Reeves’ story, but Smith said he believes no one has really captured the authenticity of who he is.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Smith said.
Reeves was one of the first black deputy marshals in the west and was the longest serving federal court deputy to Judge Isaac C. Parker. He was also one of the first MPs hired by Parker.
TGE Inc. has brought other groups to town who will be involved in the film to give them insight into the town, Reeves’ story, and the community’s support for the story.
“It was one of the key things that will bring production to the River Valley area – now that everyone saw that this is where he was, it was his old playground so to speak, we can’t consider doing it elsewhere, ”says Smith.
The upcoming Fort Smith movie benefits not only the city but the surrounding areas, Goldsmith said. A project of this magnitude can only help the whole region.
“When people think of the movie industry, there’s so much more involvement than the actors and stuff you see on screen … there’s a whole industry behind it.”
Goldsmith said the film is a first step in building the industry in the region.
“It’s a way for us to highlight how amazing Fort Smith is and the talent we have here,” said Goldsmith. “But not only the talent that we have here, but we also have incredible locations.”
Abbi Ross is the company and featured reporter for the Southwest Times Record. She can be reached at aross @ swtimes or on Twitter at @__AbbiRoss