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Arkansas filmmaker Jeff Nichols will serve as the opening keynote speaker at the 50th annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism, taking place Feb. 25-27 in Jonesboro. The opening session is titled “Natural State Storytelling: A Conversation with Jeff Nichols.”

“Anyone who has seen one of Jeff’s films knows that he is a master storyteller,” said Shea Lewis, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “We’re honored to have him join this year’s Governor’s Conference, which brings together tourism partners from across the state to collaborate, network and learn. Jeff will inspire attendees to share Arkansas’ story in their own unique way. We want the world to understand what Arkansans have known all along – that The Natural State offers world-class outdoor recreation, authentic dining, culture, history and hospitality found nowhere else.”

Jeff Nichols, a feature film writer and director born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, started his career with “Shotgun Stories,” a southern revenge drama that premiered at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival. His second feature, “Take Shelter,” premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, won the grand prize at Cannes Critics’ Week, and was nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards. Nichols’ third film, “Mud,” starring Matthew McConaughey, premiered in the 2012 Cannes Official Competition, became one of the highest-grossing independent films of 2013, and was awarded the Robert Altman Award at the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards.

Filmmaker Jeff Nichols

In 2016, Nichols premiered “Midnight Special” at the Berlin International Film Festival. The same year, he directed the biographical romantic drama “Loving,” which premiered in Official Competition in Cannes in 2016. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for Ruth Negga, two Golden Globes, a WGA award and two Independent Spirit Awards.

Nichols’ newest feature film, “The Bikeriders,” starring Jodie Comer, Austin Butler and Tom Hardy, will be released June 21, 2024. Nichols is a graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking. In 2017, Nichols co-founded the Arkansas Cinema Society and serves as Chairman of the Board. He currently resides in Austin, Texas.

Tourism industry partners from across the state will gather at the 50th Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism Feb. 25-27 at the Red Wolf Convention Center in Jonesboro.

Additional conference sessions will cover creating passionate and engaged tourism champions in your community, outdoor recreation, music tourism and the 2024 eclipse. Secretary Shea Lewis will also update attendees about the latest tourism news and efforts from the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. Other topics include tourism’s economic impact, workforce building and developing an effective public relations strategy.

To view a full conference schedule, visit www.arkansasgovernorsconference.com.