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John Farmer de la Torre, left, and David Carr of Ozarks Film Foundry stand in the second floor of the Poplar Street warehouse that's being converted into a media production lab. Plans call for training around set building, prop production and video/lighting rigs.
Tawnie Wilson | SBJ
John Farmer de la Torre, left, and David Carr of Ozarks Film Foundry stand in the second floor of the Poplar Street warehouse that's being converted into a media production lab. Plans call for training around set building, prop production and video/lighting rigs.

Business Spotlight: Showtime at the Foundry

Organizers call upstart Ozarks Film Foundry a filmmaker incubator and film industry accelerator

Posted online

Beyond the hustle and bustle at Chestnut and Kansas expressways, a film renaissance is underway from a nondescript office warehouse.

It’s grassroots: Two organizers are walking out their vision to advocate for the local and state film industry, train filmmaking professionals and develop a community for video production right in their backyard.

It’s called The Ozarks Film Foundry. In their vernacular, it’s a filmmaker incubator and a filmmaking accelerator.

“We’re trying to incubate local talent and we’re trying to accelerate to build an industry. It’s like a three-legged stool: talent, industry, community,” says co-organizer John Farmer de la Torre. “The goal is to develop a regional production hub.”

It’s been a two-year labor of love that David Carr established on paper in May 2022. Last year, the organization began to pick up steam, with the addition of Farmer de la Torre as volunteer executive director and initial programming in place.

“The foundry was established to fill a gap,” Farmer de la Torre says, citing institutional representation for the opera, theater and fine arts. “There is nothing for movies.”

The year finished on a high note when Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc. approved the foundry as an agency partner. Then, in January, Hotel Vandivort came on as the first sponsor, a $3,500 executive producer level, and now there’s a film industry social each month at the downtown boutique hotel.

Last year’s slate of programming tallied 71 events in six target areas, such as free film school screenings, a creator series, community events for filmmakers and film industry socials. This year, Farmer de la Torre says 129 events are scheduled, and there’s a podcast running called Outland Filmmakers.

“That’s how the business works,” he says of the programming strategy. “Everybody’s dealing with pretty much the same issues – how to connect to L.A., to distributors, how to navigate the business and build a career.”

But there’s more to it for Ozarks Film Foundry – something akin to industry self-preservation.

“We’re trying to provide a robust enough industry so people don’t have to leave. We’re trying to deal with brain drain,” Farmer de la Torre says, noting the harsh reality that film program students usually leave the area for film jobs.

Rebecca Holopter is a case in point. The Rogersville native and Missouri State University theater graduate has been acting, writing and making art in Los Angeles for over 10 years.

Her career arc is dotted with playwriting, artworks and commercial roles – see ads for Ring home camera systems and Blue Bunny ice cream.

“I’ve hit my mom era, so I’m playing a lot of moms,” she says.

Holopter’s upcoming project is to produce a feature film co-written with creative partner Verity Butler. They’ve has chosen the Ozarks for filming of “Big Mike’s Cabin.”

“It felt supportive to bring my first feature directing film back home. It’s a place where my creativity was very nurtured and supported,” Holopter says. “I’ve just been grinding and working out here for a very long time.”

The work is well underway for her homecoming project. The team is scheduled to be in Springfield on March 23-27 for location scouts and production meetings, with filming planned in May.

Though Holopter wasn’t aware of The Ozarks Film Foundry, she and Farmer de la Torre are beating the same drum when it comes to film industry tax credits. Last summer, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed the Show MO Act to reinstate filming tax credits that were in limbo for 10 years.

“The tax incentives were a big bonus for shooting in Missouri,” Holopter says of her $1.5 million low-budget indie film. “Talking with other filmmaking friends, you go where there is a tax incentive.”

The state program, which sunsets in 2029, has a $16 million annual cap and generally can issue credits of 20%-42% of qualifying expenses, according to the bill language and the Missouri Film Office.

“For us, it’s about $600,000,” Holopter says, noting the project also will have a local economic impact, pointing to a production and cast crew of 25. “I’m excited to give back to where I’m from in the sense of hiring a local production crew and also catering and location and equipment. It’s awesome we get to be able to give back monetarily.”

Holopter is looking at an Airbnb on Table Rock Lake for the film’s home base, and local viewers might recognize a Springfield pizza shop when the film releases. She’s hoping to shoot a scene at McSalty’s.

“I worked there all through college and I loved it, and I love their pizza,” she says.

In his role, Farmer de la Torre sees the big economic picture. He’s jazzed about results of a Tennessee tax credit program that over a decade generated $656 million in economic output statewide, according to a 2019 analysis by the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee.

Through nearly 70 incentivized productions, including “Nashville” and “Still the King,” cited in the report, over 7,300 full-time equivalent jobs were created, providing an estimated $420 million in new income.

“These incentive programs are a massive engine,” Farmer de la Torre says.

“Other states have been eating our lunch. That’s going to end.”

For Carr, who also runs multimedia agency Creative Endeavors LLC, the incentive program is all about leveraging opportunity.

“There’s a lot of talent here, but people don’t necessarily think there’s opportunity,” he says.

The duo’s next goals are to open a media production lab in April on the second-floor warehouse and to create a regional database of set locations to be accessible in August. Externally, they’re working to gain Greene County Commission approval for a countywide film commission to funnel interest by studios to film in the area.

“We want to provide more opportunity,” says Farmer de la Torre, who has experience working for the California Film Commission, as well as stints with Miramax and National Geographic. “To do that, we’ve got to build all this stuff.”

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