I know that you’re waiting on confirmation for Filmland’s Thursday night film and can’t talk about that. So let’s start with Friday. You’re hosting an Oscar-winning documentary.
We’re going to show “Free Solo.” It’s an amazing documentary. Arkansas has such a vibrant outdoor community, and we felt like it was a good fit. The process of making the movie, from what I know about it — these weren’t just filmmakers who showed up to document a climber; these were climbers who were filmmakers who documented their friend. The intensity of it all really comes across. It’s riveting. I’m excited to have a conversation about how a documentary like this gets made.
An Arkansas-connected film headlines Saturday.
Saturday we have Joel Edgerton coming in to show “Boy Erased.” It feels like necessary watching for our state. It’s a film we’ve been trying to get for a while [based on the memoir of the same name by Arkansas native Garrard Conley about growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family and being forced into gay conversion therapy]. We could have screened it sooner, but I really wanted Joel to be here. He’s a friend of mine; I’ve worked on two films with him. He’s an exceptional actor, obviously, but he’s also an exceptional writer and director. He’s a very astute artist. He’s got great insights. He’s also just a genuinely nice, good person. I think he’ll be an inspiration to people.
Then you’ve got Pixar’s Andrew Stanton on Sunday.
He’s one of the foundational members and creators for Pixar. With writing credits alone, we’re talking “Toy Story,” Toy Story 2,” “Monsters Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E,” “Finding Dory,” “Toy Story 4.” Then he directed “Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E,” and “Finding Dory.” He’s won two Oscars. It’s hard to quantify the impact this guy has had on popular culture. We’re screening “Toy Story 4.” Come see it again if you’ve seen it already and come listen to a person who has been integral in helping craft the storytelling principles of one of the most important studios ever.
He’s also had an interesting TV directing career so far.
Absolutely. We’re also screening two episodes he directed of “Stranger Things,” season two. And we’re going to hear about him directing episodes of “Better Call Saul” and “Legion.” Yes, you can come hear some factoids about being on the set of “Stranger Things,” but just as important is hearing about a guy who’s been integral to this industry in so many ways, to hear about how he’s navigating it today, weaving between live action and animation. There are a handful of conversations that we’ve had at the [Arkansas] Cinema Society where I don’t care if anyone is in the audience. I just want to have a conversation with this person and pick their brains.
Is the Cinema Society growing like you expected when you and executive director Kathryn Tucker co-founded it in 2017?
We’re slowly and surely building out our programs and programming throughout the year. We’ve got an amazing board that continues to add value to our ideas and programming. Graham Gordy is doing the [Little Rock] Youngstorytellers program. Kathryn did the Filmmaking Lab for Teen Girls. We have a lot of things cooking that, if it had just been the Jeff Nichols Society, I wouldn’t have put together. That’s been the most fun thing to watch: People on the board are starting to take ownership. It’s starting to become a little more pluralistic. We’ve got an African-American Filmmaker Series that other board members have started to put together. The hurdles then come with dates and timing and venues and other things. But we’re working it out.
So what’s next for you as a filmmaker?
I’m working on a lot right now, none of which I can officially talk about. It’s both an intimidating time because it’s an industry in transition, but it’s also fascinating. I spend more of my day excited than I do terrified.
Arkansas Cinema Society’s Filmland takes place Aug. 22-25.
Name: Jeff Nichols
Birthplace: Little Rock
Credits: “Loving,” “Midnight Special,” “Mud,” “Take Shelter,” “Shotgun Stories” and “Long Way Back Home,” a short film inspired by the song of the same name by the band Lucero, led by Jeff’s brother Ben Nichols.