Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Movie Memories

We ought to be in movies.
Actually, Las Cruces has already been in quite a few, and now the odds of getting in more are increasing.
On a recent warm spring day, we watched a group of desperados shoot it our on Main Street, a High Noon brawl staged by Old West Thunder and Flying Cloud Productions. Then we ambled past a stagecoach, down a short red carpet and into the Rio Grande Theatre, where we heard about the latest development in the Wild West history of filmmaking in the territory.
New Mexico State legislators recently approved a $550,000 appropriation to build what various speakers referred to as the Las Cruces film backlot, a resource that is expected to help draw filmmakers and creators of commercials, videos and other multimedia productions to our territory.
Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, construction should be well under way by the end of the year at Corralitos Ranch, west of the airport.
It’s territory already known well by top filmmakers, and those of us who cover their location shoots. I was there during filming of Steven Spielberg’s last Indiana Jones epic (the one with the crystal skulls, ETS and that now-notorious marriage ceremony).
I was also in the vicinity, during a vicious sandstorm, for a location shoot of Steven Soderbergh’s critically-acclaimed 2000 film “Traffic.”
They were looking for a “third world airport,” I was told, and after scouting possible locations in Mexico and assorted other sites around the world, they were disappointed to find nothing that seemed quite third-worldly enough — until they discovered the Las Cruces International Airport.
Other big-time filmmakers were more complimentary.
Oscar-nominated writer and filmmaker Guillermo Arriaga likes us so much he said he’d like to have a house here, when he came to Las Cruces to make the 2008 film “The Burning Plain.”
He brought along the  likes of John Corbett, Kim Basinger, and superstar Charlize Theron, whose teenaged self was portrayed by now-hotter-than-Bhut-Jolokia-chile Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle,” “Hunger Games,” “Silver Linings Playbook”).
Of course, Tony Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated writer Mark Medoff actually DOES live here, and has taken his plays to Broadway from Las Cruces and made several movies in the Mesilla Valley and around the state, including “Refuge,” “Homage,” “Santa Fe” and “100 MPG.”
At the Las Cruces Film Backlot Kick-Off, Medoff praised the bipartisan efforts that are helping to increase resources to lure productions.
“We hope it brings some more movies here and helps movie people see our area is as attractive as other parts of the state,” said Medoff, a founder of NMSU’s Creative Media Institute.
He was among those who noted new resources could give talented students who train here more opportunities to stay, live and work here.
We’re a natural, as they say in the biz.
Our star quality has been obvious from the beginnings of the film industry.
Thomas Edison’s company, in fact, shot the first film in New Mexico Territory and one of the first ever in the American West in 1898. “Indian Day School,” according to, “shows a small group of Native American children and their teacher filing out of a Pueblo-style one-room schoolhouse, and then back in again.” Film pioneer D.W. Griffith’s “A Pueblo Legend,” was made around the time of statehood.
My first brush with New Mexico film fame came shortly after I moved to Santa Fe and was assigned to cover the filming of “Silverado.” It was old home week. The film’s still photographer was a photojournalist I’d worked with for years in Portland, Ore., and the writer was Larry Kasdan (whose credits include “Grand Canyon,” “Body Heat,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Accidental Tourist,” “The Body Guard,” “The Big Chill,” and screenplays for “Star Wars” episodes from 1980 to the newest episode slated for 2015 release).
I remembered him as the roommate of a hometown guy I dated at the University of Michigan. We talked about old times and mused about filmmakers’ fascination with the Land of Enchantment.
“Light photographs true here,” Kasdan said.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @derricksonmore on Twitter and Tout or 575-541-5450.

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