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Chariot Producer Sasha Yelaun Talks Benefits of Filming in Arkansas

 April 11, 2022

With its beautiful landscapes and unique locations, Arkansas has become a hidden gem for filmmakers. Low costs and hassle-free resources have also made Arkansas an attractive alternative film production location.

Arkansas recently provided the backdrop for a new dark comedy sci-fi film called Chariot, which fully embraced the state’s production advantages.

Written and directed by Adam Sigal, the film centers on a corporation that oversees the process of reincarnation and a young man who is caught up in intrigue when he encounters a woman he loved in a previous life.

Chariot was filmed in Arkansas in early 2021, using locations in Little Rock and in Newton County over a 28-day period. The film stars John Malkovich, Thomas Mann, Rosa Salazar, Shane West, and Scout Taylor-Compton.

Chariot producer Sasha Yelaun said Arkansas offered multiple benefits for the film production. With more than 10 years of production experience and approximately 30 producing credits to his name, Yelaun has experience filming in major metro areas, including Los Angeles, and multiple states around the country. This production experience gave Yelaun a wide base of knowledge to make a decision on filming Chariot in Arkansas.

When Yelaun and the Chariot production team were choosing a location to film, they knew they wanted somewhere that would be cost-effective, had attractive incentives, had the necessary resource infrastructure, and had a small-town feel.

Arkansas landed on Yelaun’s short-list as a result of several filmmakers’ recommendations.

“Arkansas was always a state I was curious about. It had this small-town feel that we needed to achieve. I heard from fellow filmmakers that they had a great experience. There’s a local filmmaker – Johnny Remo – who told me how good his experiences were out there [in Arkansas]. When we came out there, the locations just made sense.”

“I was looking for a state that was competitive with all the other states that would capture that small-town feel and that would also had the resources, a good reference from fellow filmmakers that had already shot there. Those were the combination of things that led us to consider Arkansas and ultimately decide to shoot it there,” Yelaun said.

Once the Chariot team decided to film in Arkansas, they began the preproduction process and began scouting for locations in the state and securing all the resources they needed.

In Arkansas, filmmakers are not tied down by extensive red tape and film permits, enabling them to get into production quicker and operate more efficiently. Local officials, including Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane, are readily available to assist film production companies overcome any obstacles they may encounter

“In most places like Los Angeles which is where I’m used to applying for permits, that’s a very strict process,” Yelaun said. “But in Arkansas, they were welcoming and really made it smooth for us. We had no hassles and no headaches. I was surprised at how easy things were for us as filmmakers,” he said. “Everything was smooth sailing for us. Logistically, it was easy to figure out. Parking was easy to figure out. Housing was easy to figure out. The locations were easy to find. The crew was amazing. We were always ahead of schedule.”

“I had an incredible experience with Christopher Crane. I’ve shot in many states – Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana – and I have to say, I have to commend him that he was the most resourceful and accessible film commissioner that I’ve found. He came to Little Rock and would take us scouting at the various locations and helped us find them.”

Filming for Chariot proceeded smoothly even with the COVID-19 pandemic. The film’s producers arranged for COVID self-tests for the cast and crew and were able to operate with little disruption. Arkansas was one of the first states to resume film production during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the state has refined its procedures for managing the virus and limiting production shut-downs.

“I did three films during the pandemic, and I have to say, Chariot was the smoothest. That was in Arkansas. I shot in Los Angeles and Montana, and those did not come anywhere close,” he said. “Arkansas already had these built-in systems to give us what we needed.”

Part of the production’s smooth operation can certainly be attributed to the happiness of the cast and crew. The Chariot cast members enjoyed their time in Arkansas, and Yelaun noted that star John Malkovich even made a return trip to The Natural State to make another film.

“All the cast had a great time. The crew was local. We made sure to use mostly local crew. There were a few people who traveled, and all of them were glad to get out of Los Angeles. They were happy to get out of town and come to Arkansas,” Yelaun said.

One of the biggest surprises for Yelaun and the Chariot production was how helpful Arkansas business owners would be. Many business owners were enthusiastic about having a movie in the area and were willing to help the production.

“People are not trying to make a business off of you,” Yelaun said. “Here, people were so excited.”

For Yelaun, this helpfulness is the secret ingredient behind Arkansas’ film industry: “Arkansas tries to make things easier on filmmakers. They’re more excited for us to be there.”

Chariot’s production was a success, and production was quickly wrapped and moved into post-production. With the film now completed and ready for release, Yelaun is ready for audiences to see the magic that the Chariot cast and crew captured in Arkansas.

“Arkansas is almost one of those places that I don’t want every filmmaker to discover, because it’s the best-kept secret. Not many people know about it, but once they do find out about it and they shoot something, they’re like, ‘Why isn’t everybody coming to this area?’ because of the good experience they had. From the filmmakers I know who have made movies there, everyone has had an extraordinary experience,” Yelaun said.

Chariot is not the last production Yelaun is planning for Arkansas. Already, he has another film he is waiting to set up in The Natural State. “I’ll take any opportunity I can get to put something together out there,” he said.

For more information on filming in Arkansas, contact Christopher Crane at [email protected].