With the fantastic tax incentives, the cheap hotels, and cheaper food and supplies as well as a really well established filmmaking infrastructure and oodles of wonderful actors and crew, it’s hardly surprising that while we are here 9 other features are filming and some major TV shows like ‘Better Call Saul’, ‘Longmire’ and a couple of reality shows are all making New Mexico their home away from home.
But what does that have to do with very independent filmmaking I hear you mumble?
Well I’ll tell you.
Once you get out of you own backyard, once you commit to making a film that isn't about your dog or your kids or your wacky roommate who just happens to be your actual wacky roommate, then it’s really time to get a bit ambitious…
California is a great place to shoot. We have mountains, and beaches and deserts and crazy looking places in the Valley, but guess what, all that has been seen before…..a lot.
So given that your film is a series of pictures of what there is around you all stuck together with some dialogue, wouldn't it be a good idea to have those pictures be of something else?
Something we are all not so used to seeing over and over again?
And I’m sure the dialogue could use a bit of inspiration too.
This is where places like New Mexico come in.
Imagine setting your film in an alien environment, all red sands and jutting mountains and endless skies from another planet. Imagine taking yourself out of your comfort zone, well and truly, and traveling 12 hours in a car crammed full of equipment, crew and frosted flakes and letting the excitement, fear and discomfort actually effect the art.
Filmmaking isn't all about planning and writing and including all your favorite people all of the time.
Its also about taking risks and using your sense of adventure for more than a trip to yet another farmers market.
When people first came out to California to make movies back in the early 1900’s, they came to a frontier town. Los Angeles was a dusty, rapidly sprawling city full orange groves, and barley fields and vineyards, oh how the farmers marketeers must weep…
Hollywood was was the epitome of the wild, wild west. The unknown, and the underrehearsed.
It was the birthplace of truly independent filmmaking, and chock full of women writers, directors and cinematographers I might add…
Like so many other revolutions it has become the establishment it once sort to escape.
So let us escape ourselves, if only for a few short weeks, or even days.
Let us throw everything we have in our once unblemished prius and head out to find our own new frontier, which is what I did a few weeks ago.
My husband was hired as director on a low budget independent feature film shooting on location in New Mexico. He needed some help and I jumped at the chance to work with him and to shoot somewhere completely different.
The film was set in 1870 Palestine, so the deserts of the Zia Pueblo and the pine forests of the Sandia Mountains were a perfect setting for the tale of fleeing pilgrims and murderous bandits.
There were horses and wagons, mules and gunfire and a donkey. It was hot it was cold, it rained, it blew, a dust devil flung the crafty tent a hundred feet in the air, egos exploded and tantrums were had, the food was terrible and the food was sublime…in short it was complete bliss and we are all very lucky to have both survived it and been a part of it…
It was filmmaking in a microcosm…
But what we can’t risk we cant know, either about ourselves or our craft.
And everything, especially anything worth while, is a dusty journey full of packed cars and new best friends.