A Jacksonville dentist, who also is a filmmaker, along with three other filmmakers recently returned from the Discovery Channel SilverDoc Film Festival in Silver Spring, Md., with some awards to show off.
Dr. Jordan Cooper of Jacksonville partnered with three other Arkansans — Jack Lofton, Susan Altrui and Eric Wilson — to produce a documentary about Ann Richards, the late former governor of Texas, and took home a prestigious award from the SilverDoc festival, the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay.
Cooper also was in the area to accept the American Dental Association National Golden Apple Award. The award was granted to the state’s Outstanding New Dentist Committee on behalf of the Arkansas State Dental Association.
The Arkansas State Dental Association New Dentist Committee is the first recipient of this new ADA award. The committee is helping new dentists in Arkansas succeed through events like the Professional Development Workshop, leadership training, continuing education programs, community outreach, communications and the Everything You Need to Succeed packet, which compiles basic information a new dentist typically has to find on his/her own. Thanks to the committee’s efforts, ASDA is engaging new dentists and providing more member value at an earlier stage of a dentist’s career.
"Accepting one of the most prestigious awards for film along with another national award for dentistry was one of the best weeks of my life," Dr. Cooper, Executive Producer and Chair of the Arkansas State Dental Association’s New Dentist Committee said. "I would love to do it again. It has been a great learning experience and a lot of fun on both sides! I hope to begin the next film project in the next year or two."
Cooper’s film, "Ann Richards’ Texas," has won three awards, including an Epic Award and the WGA award.
"I could not be happier with our success so far," director Jack Lofton said. "We made this film in hopes of both educating and inspiring people to be better citizens and to get involved with our country and our states’ political scene. Receiving these awards has made the experience even better."
The film is set to premiere in Arkansas at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Oct. 12-21. Anyone interested in seeing the film can check www.hsdfi.org in October for a list of screening dates and times.
As executive producer, Cooper assisted in multiple aspects of the making of this film, including but not limited to providing and securing financial backing, assisting with creative development and providing business guidance. Susan Altrui also served as an executive director for the project, and Eric Wilson was a co-producer.
"Ann Richards’ Texas" is a documentary that celebrates the rise of the 45th governor of Texas. The film exemplifies the notion that Richards fought for people.
Cooper believes the late governor "changed the political landscape of this country in so many important ways."
"I think that people will be inspired by Ann to not only be better and more productive members of society, but also to hold their elected officials accountable for their actions," he said.
The film features interviews with Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and many others who knew and worked with Ann Richards.
Cooper said he cannot describe how wonderful it felt to be given the award.
"It really a great honor for me," he said. "Working on that project for 1.5 to 2 years and see it come to fruition was something you can’t explain."
He chose to highlight the life of Gov. Richards because he feels many politicians and other leaders would serve the people well if they followed her example, Cooper said.
"In the current political climate, Americans have less and less trust of their congressional representatives," he said. "Gov. Richards had motivation, honesty and integrity. Gov. Richards really represented someone who was unselfishly pursuing her political views. There is so much distrust in Washington. They are for themselves. Whether you agree with Gov. Richards’ politics, you can agree with her motives."
Today’s culture needs to bring back that attitude of serving others, Cooper said. He added that today’s politicians, athletes and movie stars should follow her lead.
He timed the release of the movie for the fall of 2012 because now is an election year.
"People focus on Washington and the values there. She was not in it for selfish gain. She didn’t get wealthy getting into politics. A lot of people in Washington look out for themselves and not their constituents. She had a sharp focus. Her goal was to make the country be a better place. She supported minority and women’s rights. She took hard steps forward for this country. She was a magnificent woman."
Another reason he chose Richards for the topic was because nobody had chosen to do a documentary on her yet.
"It is a great story that had never been told," he said.
Cooper has been for years an amateur student of art.
"I love movies, fictions and documentaries," he said. "This was a nice thing to be doing. It felt good. Sometimes you have to step outside of your normal comfort zone to grow. It was a new experience for me to open up a different world in arts and business. Hopefully, it will open some more doors for me."