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Arkansas new dentist debuts documentary at film festival

Image: Dr. Jordan Cooper, left, with movie director Jack Lofton at the 2012 Silverdocs Film Festival.
Executive producer: Dr. Jordan Cooper, left, with movie director Jack Lofton at the 2012 Silverdocs Film Festival.
Photo by Maddy Ruvolo
Silver Spring, Md.—Just before receiving the Outstanding New Dentist Committee Award at the 26th ADA New Dentist Conference, Dr. Jordan Cooper walked the red carpet June 21 at the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Festival for the worldwide premiere of a documentary that he co-executive produced, "Ann Richards' Texas."

"It's one of the best weeks of my life, all within 10 miles," said Dr. Cooper, chair of the Arkansas State Dental Association's New Dentist Committee.

The Hollywood Reporter calls Silverdocs the "premiere showcase for documentary film," and Dr. Cooper's film garnered its share of success by being named one of the best of the fest and receiving a documentary screenplay award.

The documentary celebrates the rise of Ms. Richards, the 45th governor of Texas who Dr. Cooper said "changed the momentum of the country in so many ways."

A Democrat, Gov. Richards served only one term before being ousted by George W. Bush in 1994, which ushered in a new era of dominance for state Republicans. But Gov. Richards left her mark as an outspoken feminist with homespun charm, and with her white hair became an instantly recognizable national figure. Those reflecting on her unique appeal in the film include Bill Clinton, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Lily Tomlin, Nancy Pelosi, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

Dr. Cooper came to movie-making through a friend who worked on the "The Firm" which was filmed in Memphis while he was a dental student at the University of Tennessee. When approached to participate in "Ann Richards' Texas" by his friend Jack Lofton, producer and director of the film, he jumped at the opportunity.

"Jack is a seriously talented guy, and he had a great idea for this film," said Dr. Cooper, a 2006 graduate of the UT College of Dentistry. "I knew I could partner with him.

"This is a story that's never been told," continued Dr. Cooper. "Gov. Richards was a very genuine person. In a world of politicians, not everyone is out for the best interests of their constituents. She didn't get wealthy. You can admire her character as a person."

Being an executive producer-Dr. Cooper is one of four associated with the film-means taking a chance on an unknown quantity. He provided funding and also helped navigate business decisions during the filmmaking process. Showcasing the film at Silverdocs was meant to draw interest among distributors.

It's a significant liability for a young dentist to take on, but Dr. Cooper said he has spent time planning and preparing for this opportunity.

"Coming out of school, my wife and I lived simply to create some opportunities to invest, and when those investments turned out to do well, they provided income for more investments," he said. "I don't believe in going into debt to make investments, but by living simply you can take that income and invest in yourself. This is one situation where I believed in something and took a leap of faith to do it."

Dr. Cooper practices general dentistry in Jacksonville, Ark., in a practice he bought from his father in 2011 and four other locations in northwest Arkansas. He also owns an ad agency, and 10 weeks ago became a father. "I like being busy; my wife says it keeps me out of trouble," he said. 

The ADA New Dentist Committee presented Arkansas' New Dentist Committee with the ADA Outstanding New Dentist Committee Award June 24 for promoting initiatives that engage new dentists and add value to membership. "It's a super fun job," Dr. Cooper said of his work with the New Dentist Committee.

Watch the trailer for "Ann Richards' Texas" at annrichardsmovie.com.