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UM Cinema Faculty, Students Respond to House Bill 1523

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I have always told myself that I would never work outside the film industry. As a 12-year-old, I would walk in and out of different theaters until the building was empty. My mind was always filled with questions about everything I had experienced.

Directors introduced me to new ideas in a matter of minutes, and I had to become a part of the process. It took me a while to realize that Mississippi was not Hollywood. I kept telling myself that more projects would find Mississippi. Why would you decorate your sets to imitate my great state? Come to my great state! Recently, hope began to decline rapidly as Governor Bryant signed House Bill 1523. The idea of Mississippi being an open environment to paint new ideas through film had been diminished for me.

Allen Arrivee, head of the Cinema Department at the University of Mississippi, said he believes there should be more home-grown material in the state. This will hopefully lead to a growing community that will allow production to occur in the state.

“This has become a much bigger concern when you realize that people in the film industry – even those who are relatively conservative – understand that film is an art as well as a business,” Arrivee said. “Because of this legislation, Mississippi is a very unfriendly atmosphere even to moderate to conservative business artists.”

For the past two years, I attended the UM Film Festival that is held annually to promote student films. This year, there were seven filmmakers on the stage at the end of the festival discussing their films. One of the filmmakers was a gay director who is taking her talents to New York. Three of the filmmakers also have decided to leave Mississippi because of the absence of opportunities here.

Philip Mercadante, an independent filmmaker at Ole Miss, wants to show people outside of Mississippi that there are normal people here.

“In Mississippi there are filmmakers who want to make films about the LGBT community. We want to express that those people are in Mississippi, but the audience is dwindling due to legislation,” Mercadante said. “There is no encouragement for the LGBT to stay in Mississippi.”

With jobs growing more scarce in Mississippi, I will begin my career within the film industry outside of Mississippi. In the future, I hope the government can overturn legislation so that filmmakers feel more welcome to express their art within my home state.


William Frigo is a senior broadcast journalism major at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media. He can be reached at wcfrigo@go.olemiss.edu.

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