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‘Transformers’ Making Return Trip to Holloman for Sequel

September 2, 2008

By Reel N.M. DAN MAYFIELD Of the Journal

It looks like Holloman Air Force Base personnel will again be part of a “Transformers” film. The second installment of the “Transformers” franchise, called “Revenge of the Fallen,” is going to be shooting soon in and around Alamogordo and this week. DreamWorks, which is producing the film, held a casting call at the base.

About 300 folks showed up at the casting call for extras, each hoping to get a spot on the film. The last “Transformers” film, which was a major smash last summer, was also filmed at Holloman and nearby White Sands Missile Range. Many of the military personnel in the film were people from the base, and several landed major roles in the film alongside Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel.

What makes a studio?

For several weeks now, the old Traditions! A Festival Marketplace and former outlet mall at the Budaghers exit on the way to Santa Fe has been flying a banner that says “Movie Studios.”

“Last year, we decided that retail is not ideal and converted it into a film studio,” said the facility manager Mohammad Haq.

Well, a studio is more than just an empty mall to be sure, but it’s a start.

The place does have a large parking lot for the big trucks, a large area that could be used for a backlot with a view west and plenty of walking area to stage an outdoor shopping mall, provided the script calls for a Southwesternthemed outdoor mall.

“There is a lot of interest. I think we can fill a void. There is the big studio in Albuquerque and we are a little smaller,” Haq said.

Maybe so.

A documentary was filmed at the old Traditions! site not that long ago. So far, nothing else has filmed there, Haq said, but he has hopes.

The old mall has been a bit of a haunted building.

It opened as a manufacturer’s outlet mall in the mid-1990s, then was turned into a tourist-friendly souvenir and art destination in the early 2000s.

As Traditions!, it even became the “permanent” home of the Bugg Family Light Display.

The lights have now been moved.

It’s not an ideal movie set; after all, each store had big display windows that would need to be covered up, all the woodwork at the site has a decidedly Southwestern flavor to it, and the ceilings might not be tall enough to hang the rows of lights a film crew would need.

Still, maybe Haq is on to something with calling the old mall a movie set. It certainly has the squarefootage.

But how many times can we just call a big empty building a movie studio?

A whole new scene

An astute reader sent in a newspaper clip from 32 years ago that really shows how far the state has come on the film front.

In 1976, the short-lived newspaper the Albuquerque Independent ran a story under the headline “Assessment sees little hope for future of film making in the state.”

By Nels Winkless, now a writer in Corrales, the story recounts how, in 1976, the state was offering small incentives for filmmakers and a return at the time of Larry Hamm to head the state’s Film Commission.

“Everything we offer here, except the scenery, is halfbaked,” Winkless said in the story.

At the time, New Mexico was on par with California in offering tidbits of production incentives, but we had no actors, no crew and no sets.

The story from 1976 points out that, if we had more aggressive film incentives, a crew base and some infrastructure, like a movie studio, we could bring some films here.

Well, since then a lot has changed, and thanks to a major studio – - Albuquerque Studios — a concerted effort to bring more crew into the union, and some aggressive incentives, we’re there.

And we’re now a threat to California.

(c) 2008 Albuquerque Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.