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Film Office Pitches Luna’s Landscape

July 21, 2008

By Matt Robinson, The Deming Headlight, N.M.

Jul. 21–Before the filming of the latest Indiana Jones sequel, Deming was no stranger to film crews and Hollywood producers. Luna County film officer Brad Barrett gave a presentation on the history of filming in Luna County during a Deming Rotary International meeting this past Thursday.

Barrett told the story of filming in Luna County, which began in 1953 with “The Tall Texan.” A local at the time, James Elmo Williams edited and directed the film. He later won an Academy Award for “Best Film Editing” for his 1953 film, “High Noon.”

“[The 'Tall Texan' crew] were having some problems in California with union workers, so they came here to use non-union workers,” said Barrett. “The story goes that about halfway through filming, Hollywood found out and shut them down.”

The film, starring Lloyd Bridges as Ben Trask, featured a band of travelers searching for gold on American Indian burial grounds.

“The Cowboy,” also directed by Williams, was a documentary shot in 1954 in Deming — and other western states — that detailed the daily lives of cowboys during the 1950s. The adventure/mystery “Ring of Fear” directed by James Edward Grant, was shot that same year in Deming.

The 1980s and early 1990s saw a spike in local filming with “Paris, Texas” (1984); “Sonny Boy” (1989) and “Gas, Food, Lodging” (1992).

“In 1989, we got to see David Carradine in a dress,” said Barrett. “It was filmed mainly around Columbus [N.M.].”

There was a break in local filming until the 2003 film, “Chooch,” a romantic comedy in which the main character finds himself mixed up in an adventure while trying to reunite with his love. After “Chooch” came the blockbuster Luna County had been waiting for, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” released in 2008.

Barrett hopes to build on the success of Deming’s appearance in Indiana Jones. His belief, and advertising catch, is that Luna County would make a great stage for productions that might depict landscape in the Middle East — considered a popular film genre in Hollywood.

“We’ve been scouted six times this year,” said Barrett. “A scout was looking for Iran/Iraq look-a-likes. When the war is over, there will be a lot of movies made.”

Barrett credits Gov. Bill Richardson’s creation of tax incentives, other film perks, great weather and beautiful New Mexican scenery for enticing Hollywood agents to scout the area. According to Barrett, “Transformers 2″ is being filmed now in southern New Mexico.

“Before I went to an international trade show in Santa Monica [Calif.], I knew New Mexico is the envy of the United States,” said Barrett. “At the trade show, I realized New Mexico is the envy of the world.”

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Deming Headlight, N.M.

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