Friday, June 27, 2008

Variety (heart) New Mexico

The Hollywood trade paper Variety has really taken a shine to New Mexico. Today's edition is only the latest of several featuring several stories about movie production work here in the Land of Enchantment.

A few snippets are included below, but please visit the links -- it's great seeing NM get such positive coverage out in LA.

New Mexico has Oscar-worthy year
Strong infrastructure, striking locations lure shoots
When it comes to justifying to taxpayers why their money is helping to subsidize local film production, it helps to have an Oscar winner you can point to.

In New Mexico's case, 2007 was an especially good year. The state can claim partial responsibility for 14 Oscar nominations, including best picture honoree "No Country for Old Men" (with "3:10 to Yuma," "In the Valley of Elah" and "Transformers" rounding out the ballot).

For Gov. Bill Richardson, that kind of performance is a point of pride, not because he likes winning (he does), but for the simple fact that it indicates progress.

"New Mexico used to be very prominent when it came to filmmaking, and then for the last 20 years, we fell asleep," Richardson says, sitting comfortably in his Albuquerque office (his real base of operations is 45 minutes north in Santa Fe). "We started out slow, but now it's reached the point where we've made about $1.8 billion in state revenues."

Richardson's office just announced the 100th film to collect on its 25% rebate ("Run for Her Life"). Twenty-two of those pics further benefited from the state's no-interest production loan. And though other states have stepped in with more aggressive programs (most recently Connecticut, New York and Michigan, whose tax credits range from 30% to 42%), Richardson isn't fazed by the competition.

New Mexico was first, and the state's plan was engineered to create a long-term, sustainable industry, with extra incentives for productions that advance local talent. As a direct result, an entire infrastructure has sprung up where only a loosely organized wisp of film professionals existed before, many of them refugees from Hollywood who'd taken to the more relaxed New Mexico way of life. Today, the state boasts more than 1,800 professionals and the largest crew base outside Los Angeles and New York, a community deep enough to support at least six productions.

There's much much more in this article... take a look here.

New Mexico aims for more local pics

..."One piece of good news is the incentives are available to everybody. If you spend $100 on your film, we're going to send you a check for 25 bucks," explains Jodi Delaney, director of the New Mexico Filmmakers Program. Among the plans she oversees are the Governor's Cup Competition and New Visions Contract Awards, both of which look to cultivate new local voices by awarding modest grants toward the making of short films.

Among the state's innovative programs is a new mentorship arrangement with "Crash," the Lionsgate-produced TV series based on the Oscar-winning pic, which offers above-the-line mentorships for such positions as director, producer, production designer and d.p.

According to Lisa Strout, director of the state film office, partnering with a TV series makes all the difference: "Trying to do this on a movie that's only shooting 30 days is not really long enough to get into it." But 20 days of hands-on experience is another story. "That's like going to graduate school, watching all the thinking and decisions that go on," after which the production can rotate in a new mentee.

And once native New Mexicans have picked up directing and producing experience, it's only a matter of time before additional talent joins Koch in representing local stories. The governor, for his part, is trying to promote film culture by sponsoring festivals around the state and has even set his sites on Robert Redford.

"I'm trying to lure him to come establish a Sundance 2 in New Mexico," Gov. Bill Richardson says. "We've even purchased an old historic ranch in northern New Mexico for him to bring his seminars."

Albuquerque Studios Lure vxf Shoots
The gritty urban tales that Will Eisner brought to life in "The Spirit" comicbooks of the 1940s are a world removed from the desert charm and sweeping vistas of Albuquerque, N.M.

But technology brings even the strangest bedfellows together, as shown by Albuquerque Studios' state-of-the-art soundstages, which made it possible for the city to attract Frank Miller's effects-heavy adaptation of "The Spirit."

Producer Deborah Del Prete had previously filmed in New Mexico and liked working there, but it took the kind of technical facilities that could handle the greenscreen-heavy virtual shoot planned for "The Spirit" to bring her back. "Without them having built that studio, they couldn't have attracted a movie like ours and a lot of the other movies that have come in after us," she says.

Jeremy Hariton, senior VP of the facility, says that was a major motivation for building the studio, which opened in June 2007 and welcomed "The Spirit" as its first feature film production. "Rather than being a location destination, we're able to attract films like 'The Spirit' that aren't here to shoot the vistas," he says.

Like the film adaptations of Miller's own comics in "Sin City" and "300," "The Spirit" is a cutting-edge virtual movie that needed the kind of large space and technical requirements only a studio can provide.

...

Having such facilities bolsters the state's contention that its financial incentives are paying off. While "The Spirit" is completing more than 1,800 visual effects shots in Santa Monica and San Francisco, Albuquerque Studios is hardly standing empty: "Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins" has since swooped in to occupy all six of the facility's existing stages, and two additional 18,000-square-foot buildings are set to accommodate season two of AMC's "Breaking Bad."

Filmmaking Focus Shifts to Santa Fe
Boasting a major airport, Hollywood-caliber studio facilities and a full third of New Mexico's 2.5 million residents, the Albuquerque area seems like the natural hub for the state's filmmaking operations.

But plans are under way that could shift a significant amount of production to the Santa Fe area, widely recognized as the creative culture center of the Southwest. In addition to the many artists and musicians represented there, the capital (with its relatively modest 80,000 population) is home to nearly half the state's crew base. In the past, those pros have had to commute to Albuquerque (a 45-minute drive) or far-flung outdoor locations like Ghost Ranch or White Sands for work, with gas and lodging eating into production budgets.

That may change thanks to a number of major initiatives in the works. Earlier this month, local government gave the Hool family, established players in the Mexican and independent film scene, the greenlight to proceed with building Santa Fe Studios, their proposed 600,000-square-foot, six-stage facility just south of the city...

By the time Santa Fe Studios' projected late-2009 completion date rolls around, Angelenos should be able to fly directly into Santa Fe with the same 90-minute terminal-to-terminal convenience currently available between the LAX and ABQ airports.

"American Airlines and Delta are in the process of getting clearance from the FAA," claims Eric Witt, head of Gov. Bill Richardson's media arts development initiative. "They're looking to direct 70- to 100-seat passenger jets from L.A., Denver and Dallas.

To make things even more accessible, construction is already under way on a high-speed "Rail Runner" train between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. At this rate, crews could be commuting effortlessly between the two cities by the end of the year.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

State Loans $15M to Lionsgate for Crash

One of the lessons we learned a few years back is that having a successful TV show shooting here is a wonderful thing, providing cash, experience, longer term jobs and even some celebrity sightings now and then. After Wildfire's cancellation though, the production of pilots and actual TV series is something that's really picked up, with shows like the Sarah Connor Chronicles, Breaking Bad, In Plain Sight, and now Crash -- a show with impeccable credentials.
Lionsgate EntertainmentImage via Wikipedia
From the NM Business Weekly...
State Loans Studio $15M for 'Crash' TV Series

The New Mexico State Investment Council agreed to make a $15 million loan to Lionsgate during its meeting this week, which is filming the television series "Crash" in New Mexico. The SIC also negotiated a deal to share in any profits from the series at the rate of 18 percent, said Charles Wollman, spokesman for the SIC.

The loan is backed by a corporate guarantee from Lionsgate, he said. Wollman characterized the loan as an extension of an existing loan to Lionsgate. The studio obtained a $15 million loan for the TV series "Wildfire" and is paying that back about 27 months early.

Lionsgate has been shooting "Crash," based on the film of the same name, in Albuquerque since early June. It stars Dennis Hopper. Paul Haggis, who directed the film, is the executive producer. Haggis also made "In the Valley of Elah" in Albuquerque.

When profits will actually kick in for the series is another question. Wollman said it varies with each project, but usually a TV series must last at least 50 episodes before it sees profits. "Crash" will air on the Starz cable channel.

The SIC had a similar agreement with "Wildfire," with the state sharing 11 percent of any profits. That show will most likely go into syndication, Wollman said.

"That's probably going to help our chances to see profits from that show," he added.

The state offers film productions a zero percent loan, with participation in lieu of interest, for up to $15 million per project. There must be a guarantor for the principal amount of the loan. The film must be wholly or substantially shot in New Mexico and 60 percent of the payroll for below-the-line crew must be allocated to New Mexico residents. (Below-the-line means technical crew working in temporary positions and who do not have creative or financial control of the project or receive residuals.)

Wollman said of the 260 below-the-line crew members on "Crash," 239 are New Mexicans, or about 92 percent, and about 84 percent of the payroll for those crew members is going to New Mexicans. There are also 40 key crew positions, which are more advanced positions requiring more training, held by New Mexicans, he added. The state's film incentives offer partial reimbursement of wages for on-the-job training of state residents...

Also... from the Albuquerque Journal:
State OKs $15M Loan for Show
...Though it was a banner year for film and television production in the state, the loan is only the second made to film producers by the council this fiscal year. The state has used permanent funds to help finance more than 25 locally filmed movies and television shows since 2003.
Like the movie, “Crash” the television series will have a diverse cast of characters dealing with bigotry, prejudice and other social barriers in a series of intertwining stories. Peter Dekom, an attorney who advises the council on film-related investments, said the show will be a high-quality, adult-themed show along the lines of “The Sopranos.”
Lionsgate Entertainment and its subsidiary, Lionsgate Television, will produce a 13-episode first season for Starz. “Crash” will be the first original drama for the premium cable channel.
The series’ producers will include Paul Haggis (“Valley of Elah”), who wrote and directed the film version, and Lester Berman, who produced the locally filmed hit Lionsgate show “Wildfire” for ABC Family.
The state Investment Council has had a long relationship with Lionsgate — it helped finance the pilot and four seasons of “Wildfire” for the company, as well as the studio’s 2006 comedy “Employee of the Month.”
...
Dekom said the project had a good chance of making a profit, based on the popularity of other high-end premium cable series such as “Sex and the City.”
“Typically, the edgier the series, that equals more (sales of) DVD units,” he said. “Also, international interest will be much higher.”
The loan principal is guaranteed by Lionsgate itself.
New Mexico Film Office director Lisa Strout said “Crash” is an R-rated type show and is being entirely filmed in New Mexico. The series began shooting in early June in Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Rio Rancho, Cochiti Lake and other locations.
...



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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spore Galactic Edition Announced!

Spore (video game)Image via WikipediaNew Mexico news? I'm not sure. Something that changes (yet again) the face of the electronic game industry? Possibly.

Their Creature creation tool was released last week or so (check out Kevin Rose' creation here) or a brief Kotaku write-up here.

But now the new masterpiece from Will Wright is finally on sale (well, as of September 7th). Here it is from Gamestop:
Breaking News: Spore Galactic Edition Just Announced!

If you've ever witnessed the majesty of a breeching Humpback Whale, or the delicate beauty of a Monarch Butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, and thought to yourself, "Hey, I can do better than that," then you need the newly announced Spore Galactic Edition, which gives you the power to create and guide your own species through your choice of five different evolutionary phases.

The Spore Galactic Edition features a Making of Spore DVD, a video by the National Geographic Channel, The Art of Spore mini-book, a fold-out Spore poster and a premium 100-page Galactic Handbook. Available September 7th for PCs and Intel-based Macs. Pre-order online now or reserve at your local GameStop.
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

NM & Bollywood in the News

Bollywood goes to Hollywood with some Tinsel of its Own
NEW DELHI — Hollywood loves to show outside investors just how the movie business really works. But some of the people behind Bollywood in India believe they have something to teach Hollywood about making movies.

Reliance Entertainment, part of an Indian conglomerate controlled by the telecommunications and finance mogul Anil Ambani, is in talks to finance Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in a new venture. The company has also recently signed production deals with several Hollywood directors like Jay Roach and Chris Columbus and stars like Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Jim Carrey.

Unlike other foreign investors who have stepped toward Hollywood — and taken some grief for their efforts — Reliance has deep experience in the film business. Mr. Ambani is a relative newcomer to the movie game, but his wife, Tina Munim, is a former Bollywood star.

Reliance Entertainment’s chairman, Amit Khanna, a Bollywood director and producer, and the company president, Rajesh Sawhney, a former newspaper group executive, have laid out ambitious plans that include creating a $10 billion entertainment company that would be one of the world’s largest. They envision nothing short of remaking Hollywood.

...

Whether the company can change the inward-focused culture of the American movie business is an open question. Directors that have worked in both Hollywood and Bollywood say that the Indian emphasis on autonomy and innovation could have a strong impact on Hollywood.

“I have complete and total creative freedom to do what I’m doing,” said Vidhu Vinod Chopra, director of “Eklavya,” an Indian entry in the best foreign-language film category at this year’s Academy Awards. Mr. Chopra recently signed a two-movie deal with Reliance Entertainment for close to $100 million. (Mr. Chopra’s wife, Anupama Chopra, writes occasionally about film and Bollywood for the Arts section of The New York Times.)

“Could you think of a studio in the United States that would give me $100 million and give me creative freedom?” he asked. “Even if they wanted to, I don’t think they could. I don’t think the system would permit them to do it.”

For one of the Reliance projects, “Broken Horses,” an English-language film set in New Mexico, Mr. Chopra has written the script and is directing, and may even pick out the poster, he said. “This kind of thing is a director’s heaven,” he said.

But the flip side is that the recipient of this type of hands-off funding is expected to be more aware of risk than one might be with Hollywood studio money. “I’ll be far more responsible than I would with five suits telling me what to do,” he said.

Reliance Entertainment executives have promised to cut through the “bureaucracy” of Hollywood — in some ways a remarkable goal, coming from a country known for the bureaucracy of its government.

The fast-growing entertainment and media industries in India and other developing countries are attracting capital and building audiences in ways their Western counterparts have not. Revenue from India’s movie industry hit $2.2 billion in 2007, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, less than a 10th that of Hollywood. But Bollywood is expected to double in size by 2012, thanks to 13 percent annual growth, versus less than 3 percent in Hollywood.

...

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Our Neighbor's House: TX

A nice review of how Texas' "Moving Image Industry Incentive Program" is working for our neighbors from the online magazine SHOOT. SHOOT covers production pretty much across the board, but its main topic appears to be the kind of production and post houses that serve movie-making and advertising equally.

This article makes a few points about how Texas continues to build its commercial work as part of a diversified portfolio. There's also mention of how their targeting of the game industry is working for them too.
Incentives And Infrastructure Are Deep In The Heart of Lone Star State
June 20, 2008, A SHOOT Staff Report --- While the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in September 2007, it wasn't until March of this year that the full rules for that measure were adopted. At press time, there were 120 total applications filed--primarily by production companies--for the five percent cash back incentive on expenditures in Texas. Bob Hudgins, director of the Texas Film Commission, estimates that the first checks will go out this month.
Until they do, he can only speak in broad-stroke terms about the impact of the grant-based incentives. Suffice it to say that commercials represent the lion's share of those applications, according to Hudgins. To date there have been 89 applications relative to spots shot in Texas, all but one filed by production houses. The applicants have been a mix of commercial production houses in Texas and from out of state. The one spot application not from a production company came from an advertising agency.
Hudgins projected that thus far the incentives payout will be just over $1 million on some $20 million spent in Texas on commercials.
In order to qualify for the program, a commercial or package of commercials must spend at least $100,000 on Texas talent and resources. Hudgins noted that the average thus far of the spot applications is at about $200,000 per project or package. (The minimum threshold must be met by a single commercial or package of commercials. The incentives measure does not recognize the cumulative total of a production company's projects shot in Texas over the course of a year.)
Another requirement per commercial or package of commercials is that at least 80 percent of production days must be completed in Texas. And a minimum of 70 percent of the total number of paid crew, cast and extras combined must be Texas residents.
The same prerequisites also apply to theatrical features and TV programs, except that for these two categories, the minimum in-state spending must be $1 million (for episodic TV series, that's $1 million per season).
Furthermore, projects that complete at least 25 percent of their total production days in underused areas may receive an additional 1.25 percent of total in-state spending. That extra 1.25 percent (making for a total 6.25 percent incentive) applies to spending throughout Texas, not just in the underused areas. The so-called underused areas are defined as any part of Texas other than the metropolitan areas of Dallas and Austin.

Traction
Hudgins thinks the incentives program will attain "more traction once we start to write checks." And he envisions the most traction happening in the spotmaking community.
"On the film and TV side, New Mexico and Louisiana are ahead of us in terms of incentives that are five times what we offer," said Hudgins. "But we don't face the same level of competition for commercials."
Hudgins noted that commercials are perhaps the most attractive kind of filming for Texas. "The commercial industry keeps more businesses viable, keeps more people working in the state than any other [filmmaking] sector," he observed. "Commercials have a lot of resources, tap into a lot resources and thus create resources within the state. Commercials do the most when it comes to building infrastructure. And infrastructure is essential to being competitive for all kinds of filming business."

Game face
Hudgins noted that video games also represent a burgeoning business sector for Texas, which is ranked as the country's third largest game development state. He reported that there have been 14 applications relative to video games thus far in the incentives program, representing in-state expenditures of some $17 million.
This activity, Hudgins continued, has generated 180 jobs in Texas. "And these are full-time, longer-term jobs--not the temporary employment normally associated with filming," he affirmed. "We have companies here such as Reel FX that have diversified significantly into video games. This projects as being a huge growth area for us."

Dallas
Janis Burklund, director of the Dallas Film Commission, observed that a lot of production companies are waiting for incentive checks to be issued.
"I think the attitude has been to wait and see, and once the process is working, more companies will apply," she said. "Companies don't want to go through all the work until they know everything is running smoothly. Once those initial checks are cut and the process is figured out, we'll see an increase of applications. More people will avail themselves of the incentives."
While she views the incentives as a major plus, Burklund noted that discerning feature, TV and spot producers should analyze their bottom line when it comes to competing incentives in different states and for that matter countries. Texas and Dallas/Fort Worth are very cost effective, she said, in terms of variety of locations and infrastructure ranging from crew talent to production houses to animation studios, post and audio facilities, film labs and so on.
"In a lot of ways, we're cheaper already," affirmed Burklund. "You don't have to bring much in, all the resources are already here. Panavision has a major operation here [in Irving, Tex.], for instance. And you have to remember there's no state income tax. Lots of incentive programs in other states give back their state income tax. We don't have that tax to begin with. Dallas/Ft. Worth is two cities for the price of one, and represents the fourth largest metropolitan region in the U.S.--and the fastest growing. Commercials, TV and features are shot here consistently. And there's a healthy Latin market here as we're drawing both English and Spanish-language work."
On the spotmaking front, Burklund cited such Texas production houses as Sugar Film Production, Directorz and Stone Core Films. The latter, she noted, does a heavy volume of work for Hasbro, which is perhaps the largest commercialmaking client that comes into the state.
In terms of diverse filmmaking disciplines, Burklund related that animation studios Janimation and Reel FX in Dallas are active in TV, features, direct to video, commercials and video games.
Out-of-state production houses and agencies are also being drawn to the Lone Star State--in some cases due to not only longstanding locations normally associated with Texas but also new sites that are emerging, and which will continue to surface in the coming years as assorted buildings and attractions are in development.
Relatively new, for example is AT&T's Victory Plaza, a venue with large mobile screens that float alongside the sides of buildings. Victory Plaza is also a gateway to the American Airlines Center, a sports complex which is home to the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and the NHL's Dallas Stars.
There's also a new Arts District and slated for completion in '09 is the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, a multi-venue center for music, opera, theatre and dance.
Indeed future locations are already eliciting interest from the filmmaking industry and scouts. Burklund related that a commercial production house saw a rendering of the Calatrava Bridge which is being constructed across the southern sector of downtown Dallas and asked when it would be available for filming. This breathtaking span is being eyed by car shooters and figures to further boost an already robust automotive commercial lensing business in Texas.
Projecting further down the construction timeline, Dallas plans for 2011 to mark the debut of Woodall Rodgers Park, a 5.2 acre urban park uniting uptown, downtown and the Dallas Arts District. The $70 million project is being compared to such projects as Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Yerba Buena Park in San Francisco and Bryant Park in New York. The Woodall Rodgers Park will include an acoustical performance stage with lawn seating for up to 3,300, a dog park, a children's garden with a playground and discovery area, and a 25-foot high glass water sculpture.
And looking at the calendar in 2011, consider that by then the Dallas Cowboys new stadium in Arlington (midway between Dallas and Fort Worth) will be completed. That stadium will be host that year to an event that looms large in the advertising industry--the Super Bowl.
As for the sports complex that the Arlington facility will replace, the Cowboys current stadium in Irving, Burklund is already contemplating the filmmaking implications. Plans call for that Irving stadium to be imploded, an eye-popping event which could make a nice fit for the right lensing project be it a feature, TV program or commercial.
Looking further down the timeline, another prospective attractive filming site includes the $2.4 billion expansion of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system, scheduled for completion in 2013. Ninety miles of light-rail lines will be added to the system, doubling its reach.

Survey
SHOOT surveyed a cross-section of the Texas community for its take on the potential effect of the state incentives as well as a rundown of recent activity. A question was posed and a request made.
The question, request and a sampling of the industry feedback we received follow:

1) What impact has the state's production incentives program had on the commercialmaking business and industry infrastructure in Texas?

2) Provide a brief overview of the advertising-related work your company has been involved in most recently (you can cite significant projects): National TV campaigns, regional spots, broadband video/mobile content, sponsored web films, etc.

Jeremy Besser,
executive producer,
Directorz, Dallas.

In terms of activity, director Jeff Bednarz shot the national campaigns for Conoco Philips, EDS, Michelob Beer, and Colonial Life.
He also wrapped egional spots for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Whataburger and the Mayo Clinic of Jacksonville.
David Wild has shot for national campaigns for Shell Gasoline and Nick Jr. Parents Connect as well as the regional campaigns for Baylor Hospital and Food Lion Supermarkets.
Tom Ryan continues to shoot the food for Denny's national TV, as well as Taco Cabana, Joes Crab Shack, Publix Supermarkets, Taco Bueno, Chic Fil A, Zaxby's and Captain D's.
Stewart Cohen has shot for Sylvan Learning Center and Publix.


David S. Friedman,
partner, Dallas Audio Post Group, Dallas.
Board member and North Texas regional representative for the Texas Motion Picture Alliance.

1. Overall, the Texas Moving Image Incentive Program generated $143,096,143 in new production (spanning such areas as features, TV, commercials, games) within Texas and is making $7 million of incentive payments as of 6/3/08. Of 120 applications, 89 are commercials and the remainder is split between feature films, TV programs, and video games. A key difference is that Texas offers a grant-based program in which incentive payments are in the form of cash instead of less favorable tax-based programs such as the Michigan program that anticipates $183 million in production and $73 million in refundable tax credits. The impact is the creation of hundreds of new jobs that fuel the Texas economy.

2. Dallas Audio Post Group's recent advertising-related work includes projects such as Sony, radio spots and globally deployed in-store media displays; Pepsi, web site audio; Schlotzsky's, TV spot; Plant Tan, TV and radio spots; Arby's, web site audio; Pharma, TV spots; and Freddie Mac, TV and radio spots.
Services include sound design, original music, voice recording, editing, stereo and 5.1 surround mixing.


Jason Needleman, senior VP/general manager, Radium, Dallas (company also maintains studios in Santa Monica and San Francisco)

1. I think it is still a little too early to say how big of an impact this program has made on commercial production in Texas. The rebates have definitely had a positive financial impact for production here, but as far as attracting outside production into Texas, we wish for a greater impact.
One way to increase the impact is to promote awareness of the rebate to the appropriate clients to make them aware of the available funds.

2. Radium has been involved in high end visual FX, animation and design projects, including national and regional campaigns such as Nextel, Zaxby's, Nationwide, Lowe's, Home Depot and Coors.
We have also been involved in major campaigns, including Target's "Global Bazaar" launch as well as the recent launch of Steven Spielberg's first game for EA, "Boom Blox."


Elaine Sibert,
executive producer, Stone Core Films, Dallas

1. The tax incentives program is truly in its infancy.
They began accepting applications during the summer of 2007 and will hopefully begin making disbursements very soon.
There has been a great deal of excitement that commercials were included in the incentives package. We were the first company to submit an application and are looking forward to our first check.

2. During the first half of 2008, Stone Core Films has worked with The Richards Group, Uproar, Doner and HBO as well as a number of other advertising agencies.
We have produced more than thirty commercials during this time period. The majority of this work has been airing on a national level. And many of these projects were multi-commercial campaigns.
We are gearing up for another busy month in June, with 10 projects already on the books [as SHOOT went to press].



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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Breaking In...

From the Valencia County News-Bulletin:


Breaking into the movies


With his face on the cover of the DVD in his first big job, Nathan Sanchez is on the verge of

Jackie Schlotfeldt News-Bulletin Staff Writer; jschlotfeldt@news-bulletin.com

Bosque With the film industry making its mark on New Mexico, more and more Hollywood hopefuls have been given the chance of a lifetime to get their feet wet in the filming industry.

While many residents can say they have been cast as extras in movies being filmed across the state, there are some who have taken it a step further and captured principal speaking roles.

Nathan Sanchez is one of those lucky ones. Without a shy bone in 15-year-old Sanchez's body, it's easy to tell the "acting bug" has bitten this young actor in a big way. Sanchez's enthusiasm fills the room as he talks about his latest role in "The Price of the American Dream II" that was filmed in New Mexico last May.

"I've wanted to be an actor for a long time," Sanchez said smiling. "This is what I want to do."

Sanchez's latest movie tells the story of a family who moves to New Mexico from Los Angeles after his on-film mom loses her job. The family, whose father was murdered, tries to make a fresh start in the Land of Enchantment, but Sanchez's older brother Manny, played by Luis Arrieta, soon gets caught up with a gang, which starts to unravel the hopes and dreams of the family.

Sanchez, who plays Manny's 10-year-old brother Carlos, said acting in this film was a lot easier than he imagined it would be, but that may be because of what he learned from his debut in the silent movie "I AM," in which he appeared in 2005 for the Duke City Shootout.

"It's (acting) just kind of in you," Sanchez said. "You just put yourself into the character."

"He's a natural," said his mother, Melissa Kuehne.

With the support of his family, who have also all had the experience of being extras on films produced in New Mexico, Sanchez and his younger siblings have been busy taking acting lessons and securing an agent to help them further their dreams. Although this film went straight to DVD, Sanchez, with Arrieta, graces the cover of the movie's jacket.
...

For now, Sanchez is determined to continue pursuing his dream regardless of how many nos he gets on some auditions. He stays positive and tries to learn as much as he can from the other actors he's acting with.

"If you want it bad enough, you'll get it," Sanchez said. "You'll get something. It's a challenge, but you have to put yourself into it and you have to put your heart into it. It's hard work, but it's a relief when you land a part."

"The Price of the American Dream II" was released in February and is available for rent. The film was directed by Michael Amundsen and is not rated, but does contain some adult language.


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Saturday, June 14, 2008

NM News Round-up

Somewhat random, but... there sure are a lot of cool people and interesting things happening in and around New Mexico...

Governor Announces 100th Major Film
Gov. Bill Richardson announced Friday that the production company 26 Films will commence principal photography in New Mexico for "Run For Her Life", a feature film starring Dermot Mulroney and Diane Kruger, marking the 100th major film production shot in the state during his administration.

Transformers Begins Production at White Sands

Will Eisner's The Spirit has recent blog entries from Frank Miller -- and a new poster of Scarlett Johannson. Cool stuff at http://www.mycityscreams.com/

I thought there was news about "Sunshine Cleaning" with Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin... but there wasn't. It was picked up by Overture Films after Sundance, and we hope to see it sometime soon.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

New Mexico's 100th Major Film Production

From the New Mexico Film Office:

Governor Bill Richardson Announces 100th Major Film Production for New Mexico

SANTA FE—Governor Bill Richardson today announced that the production company 26 Films will commence principal photography in New Mexico for Run For Her Life, a feature film starring Dermot Mulroney and Diane Kruger, marking the 100th major film production shot in the state during his administration.

Run For Her Life will be directed by the acclaimed Icelandic director, Baltasar Kormakur, with Michelle Chydzik Sowa and Nathalie Marciano of 26 Films producing along with Jennifer Kelly.

Principal photography begins June 15th in Santa Fe. The production will employ approximately 90 local crew members and 300 local actors.

Run For Her Life is a dramatic thriller about Paul Stanton (Mulroney), a successful D.A. on the path to political office who becomes entrenched in a dangerous situation while trying to save the life of his 8 year-old daughter in desperate need of a lung transplant.

Run For Her Life marks the fourth feature for 26 Films whose credits include The Wedding Date, Starter for 10 and My Life in Ruins, starring Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss and Rachel Dratch, due out later this year.


##

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Santa Fe Studios Moves Forward

From the Santa Fe New Mexican...

County, studio owners reach deal

Santa Fe County finalized its deal with Santa Fe Studios on Tuesday to collaborate on a film studio project that will be built near the Penitentiary of New Mexico.

The proposed project — a four-stage film production studio and auxiliary buildings — has qualified as an official economic-development project eligible for incentives from the county and the state.

Under the terms of an agreement approved Tuesday, the county will furnish the project with 16 to 25 acre-feet of water, pay to bring broadband service to the site, make traffic control improvements on N.M. 14, and pay for water and sewer infrastructure upgrades on the property.

Santa Fe Studios has pledged to purchase the 65-acre site from the county for $2.62 million, provide 500,000 to 800,000 hours worth of employment that pays more than the city of Santa Fe's minimum wage and participate in work force training programs. The production company is also obligated to start construction within three years.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Channel Seven Steps Up

For the number 2 income generating industry in the state (I think I have that right), the movie industry has generated surprisingly little coverage by the broadcast media. Thankfully that's starting to change.

Whether it's their expanded nightly newscast, new staff or something else, our local ABC Affiliate, KOAT has been producing a series of news stories featuring aspects of our state's film and media industries.

They covered Gloria Martinez' recent trip with her film to Cannes, and filed three more stories (at least) in the last two days.

Preparing for Duke City Shootout Film Festival
The Duke City Shootout Film Festival is getting ready for another summer.
Founders Tony DellaFlora and Jim “Grubb” Graebner have 300 decisions to make—choosing from hundreds of great scripts.
“The quality is much better, more professional,” Graebner said. “We're getting less amateur scripts, more professional ones now.”
...

Santa Fe County Gives Go-Ahead for Studio Project
"Terminator 4" has booked Albuquerque studios from wall-to-wall but relief is on the way.
Tuesday, the Santa Fe county commission green-lighted a studio project just south of the city.
The facility will eventually have 10 sound stages and the promise of some big budget films.
Santa Fe Studios is targeting an open date at the end of 2009.
Once complete, the studio estimates it could bring $300 million a year to the local economy.
___

After years without all that much coverage, it's refreshing to see one station stepping up.

Monday, June 9, 2008

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" Announced

Governor Bill Richardson Announces Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to be filmed in New Mexico

ALAMOGORDO -- Governor Bill Richardson today announced DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Pictures and director Michael Bay will return to New Mexico to film major sequences for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The next installment of the box office hit Transformers is expected to hit theaters next summer.

Transformers was a huge success and I am pleased that Dream Works, Paramount Pictures and Michael Bay have decided to return to New Mexico to film the second installment,” said Governor Richardson.

The first film, starring Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Megan Fox and John Turturro, grossed more than $700 million worldwide.

The current production has been prepping in Alamogordo since April and expects to begin filming in the fall.

Since Governor Richardson took office, over 95 major feature film and television projects have shot in the state, adding over $1.6 billion dollars to New Mexico's economy.

Zemanta Pixie

Sunday, June 8, 2008

NM Online Video Roundup

There are quite a few sites with New Mexico Made content out there these days.

The other day, the folks at Santa Fe Community College posted some videos about the new Santa Fe Studios (aol video):





More about Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe Studios, videos, etc. at the Santa Fe Community College site.

Over on YouTube, the Duke City Shootout's Tony Dellaflora has done a great job of bringing together the themes and visuals of Maggie Macnab's "Decoding Design" for this promotional video:


I haven't been a huge fan of Facebook, but Maggie's stuff is up there and there's a nice group for the "Easier with Practice" production that's been here in Albuquerque, featuring on set videos with a nice combination of visiting and local talent (like the inimitable Brian Wenrich and Marcus Montano).
Visit the "Easier with Practice" Facebook Group here.

The Duke City Shootout is up on MaxCast with previous films out on Sony's Crackle.

A lot more out there, of course, but one last site for the moment. Trifecta+ (who recently went to Cannes with their 48 Hour Film Project success story "Sweetie") have a nice page up on MySpace with video, previews, and info on their next few projects.

Lots of good stuff happening here in NM.

Zemanta Pixie

Saturday, June 7, 2008

NM Production Update: McG, Terminator & Crash



From the Terminator Salvation Blog, a second update from the Director, "McG" includes this:
Also, I realize my name is ridiculous. I was born Joseph McGinty Nichol. McG is short for McGinty. I have been called this since the day I was born to create separation from my Uncle Joe and Grandpa Joe. I realize it sounds like some Hollywood nickname, hip-hop choice. But the truth is, this is simply my name - for every day of elementary school, every zit-filled day of high school. I have been taking shit for it ever since. I get it, I would think it's lame too. But it's just a name, and to change it now would seem fraudulent.
A few more details about the storyline too...
This movie takes place several years after Judgment Day, but prior to 2029. Just like it took a long time to get an HD plasma screen in our world, it took Skynet a lot of research and development to get to the T-800, and this movie explores that "space between." We have all been fascinated with the world after Judgment Day. Here it is.

In this film, there are Hydrobots that patrol the water, Transports that move human prisoners around, Harvesters that collect human beings as lab rats for Skynet and Aerostats that survey all that is going on with the resistance the world over.

We've started shooting the T-600 - the bigger, grimier, nastier version that preceded the T-800...
Read more at the Terminator Salvation blog.


With Crash, the public news is of new cast members (from Zap2it.com):
Dennis Hopper has joined the cast of "Crash," the Starz television adaptation of the Oscar-winning film.

Starz says that Hopper will play a veteran, maverick music producer looking for his last big score.

The two-time Oscar nominee (for acting in "Hoosiers" and co-writing "Easy Rider") joins the previously announced Clare Carey, Luis Chavez, Ross McCall, Jocko Sims, Brian Tee and Arlene Tur in the small screen version of Paul Haggis' film.

While all of the characters in the future are original creations, the new "Crash" will have a similar structure to the feature: A multi-ethnic ensemble of Los Angeles characters will deal with the harsh realities of everyday life, mostly that people in LA can't drive and are frequently racist.
Dennis Hopper was in New Mexico not all that long ago for his role in Swing Vote, which comes out real soon.

From TV Squad:
According to the press release, the show "will continue to focus on an ensemble cast of characters" and "will explore the complexities of social tolerance in contemporary America by digging at the meaning of what it takes to reach the American dream."

...Watch your backs, HBO and Showtime! This show looks good. And Paul Haggis is on the team of executive producers. He didn't just give us Crash. He gave us thirtysomething and The Black Donnellys. Don't mess with the Hag.
Zemanta Pixie

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Update from Zane's World -- and the "t" word


There's a nice update at Zane's World in the Santa Fe Reporter today, remarking on film industry growth, and what sets NM apart from other states working on getting a piece of the production pie. But... one comment: if we want people to stop using the "t" word, we actually have to stop using it ourselves.
Tamalewood Works

...The city and Santa Fe Community College continue to do good work with certificate programs for sustainable energy industries, but the real standout is the New Mexico Film Office. The oldest such state office in the country, NMFO is celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer. It also happens to be the 20th anniversary for the IATSE Local 480 union for New Mexico-based film and television workers. Add the Screen Actors Guild’s 75th and, well, you know there’s gonna be a party somewhere. But it’s what the NMFO has done since the implementation of New Mexico’s famous (and occasionally maligned) incentive program to lure film production that is genuinely impressive.

Productions are incentivized to hire locals, which requires training. Since mid-2003, 66 projects have participated and 710 people have participated in the Film Crew Advancement Program. This includes individuals who may have returned for the training necessary to advance their skill set and vie for higher paying and more challenging jobs. Four years ago, 150 people worked in the film industry in New Mexico. Now, including SAG members and film-support businesses, that figure is closer to 3,000.

With the advent of Albuquerque Studios and the impending studio project in Santa Fe County, one aspect of making that workforce expandable and sustainable is provided. The other big push to keep the film industry growing here is workforce. For NMFO, the next big strategy is mentorship, for both technical and creative jobs. There are already several programs to reward creative potential, including the New Mexico Filmmakers Showcase and the Governor’s Cup Awards. But placing aspiring filmmakers, storyboard illustrators, costumers, camera operators, etc., in working productions among experienced professionals is the goal.

No one knows yet if it will prove to be a good idea to make a television series of the Oscar-winning film Crash, but we do know that the Starz series is going to be made in New Mexico with Don Cheadle, star of the original film, and director Paul Haggis. Crash, the series, will be the crown jewel in NMFO’s mentorship program kick-off. Film Office Director Lisa Strout says 24 people will be placed during the first run of the series for 20- to 60-day periods.

Some people are still skeptical about the longterm survival of New Mexico’s film industry, but not Strout.

“It sounds arrogant, but when we meet with other members of the international film commissioners network we belong to, they all want to know how we’re doing it, especially the training programs. Other states are trying to compete, like Michigan, and giving away huge rebates, but that’s just desperate. Our model is based on our people and our resources,” Strout says.
New Mexicans who have worked up the ranks are now turning around and hiring more New Mexicans. The one thing nobody has the answer to, not even the ghost of Andy Warhol, is whether we’re stuck forever with Tamalewood as our moniker.
Read the full article at:
Tamalewood Works

Monday, June 2, 2008

Crash, Governor's Cup Animation in the News

From the NM Business Weekly:

Gov. Bill Richardson says the television series "Crash" will begin filming in New Mexico this month.

Based on the Academy Award-winning film of the same name, the series will be produced by Lionsgate and Starz Entertainment. Paul Haggis, who co-wrote and directed the film, will be the executive producer, according to E! Online. Don Cheadle, who starred in the film, will also produce.

The TV story picks up where the original ensemble left off, but will introduce new characters and delve into more than race relations in Los Angeles.

The production will wrap in October and will hire about 145 New Mexico crew members, as well as local actors and extras.

Some 95 major feature films and television projects have shot in New Mexico since Richardson took office, adding $1.6 billion to the state's economy.

Richardson also announced the winners of the 2008 Governors Short Animation Competition.

Jeff Drew of Albuquerque won the Pangea Pictures prize for "One Square Mile of Earth," which features the Albuquerque comedy duo The Pajama Men (Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen). He describes it as a "cut-and-paste moving collage world filled with an array of furry, scaly and sometimes slimy characters."

The winner of the National Geographic All Roads category is Frederick Aragon of Taos for his "Coyote Tales: Mystery's Night." It tells the story of Coyote, who has never been able to make someone love him and his attempt to change that. Aragon is a musician and storyteller.

The competition is financed by Pangea and National Geographic All Roads Film Project. Each winner will receive a $10,000 budget toward the creation of their short animated project, use of software, trainees and equipment from state schools and Pangea Pictures.

Eric Witt, director of media arts and entertainment development with Richardson's office, said the annual competition brings the work of New Mexicans to a larger audience and has repeatedly discovered some of the most promising media artists in the state.

For more information on Frederick Aragon and his Coyote Tails project, visit his blog.
For a trip to Jeff Drew's world of animation, visit his site here.

Terminator Update: Bryce Dallas Howard replaces Charlotte Gainsbourg

I have to admit, I was scratching my head a bit about Charlotte Gainsbourg in Terminator 4. It was an interesting choice, and I like that she seems real and encourages empathy (I certainly liked her in Science of Sleep), but... this is going to be a blockbuster movie, right?

Apparently the response to that announcement -- and perhaps the availability of Ms. Howard -- led to some reconsiderations, and... Albuquerque is a little more exciting already.

From Slashfilm:

Bryce Dallas Howard is Kate Connor in Terminator 4

Warner Bros has decided to replace Charlotte Gainsbourg with Bryce Dallas Howard in Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins. The official reason for the change is a schedule conflict. If the actors strike were to happen the restart of Terminator 4 shooting would conflict with a French comedy Gainsbourg is attached to. Howard is now in negotiations to play Kate Connor, the wife of human resistance leader John Connor, played by Christian Bale.

The character of Kate was introduced in Terminator 3 as Kate Brewster, played by Claire Danes. If you remember correctly Brewster was actually the one who sent the last terminator (played by Arnold) back in time to protect John, as Connor was said to have been assassinated on July 4th 2032 by the same T-850. The film begins 14 years before his assassination.

McG is certainly “casting UP” for this film, and at least Howard doesn’t have to dye her hair for the part. Bryce Dallas Howard, the daughter of Ron Howard, is a classically trained sctress with a theater background. An alumna of Steppenwolf and The Actors Center, Howard is probably best known for her film roles in the M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village and Lady in the Water, and as a supporting role as Gwen Stacy in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Series in 2008 for As You Like It.

Principal photography began last month and the movie is currently filming at the Albuquerque Studios and on location throughout New Mexico. Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins hits theaters on May 22nd 2009.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Las Cruces Area Update

Things are really happening in the Southern part of the state. With NMSU's Creative Media Institute, a new area film liaison, and production facility ideas percolating, we're seeing more and more action -- helping make film (and media) truly a statewide industry. Here's a brief update from the Las Cruces Sun Times (visit the article for more):

Searching for Hollywood? It's closer than you think

By S. Derrickson Moore Sun-News reporter

LAS CRUCES —It was a very big week for Cruceswood, aka Hollywood on the Rio Grande.

It started with a private screening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" May 22 at Telshor 12, many hours before the "official" movie opening.

The invitation-only event was packed with assorted state dignitaries, New Mexico Film Commission staff members, regional film liaisons and people from all over New Mexico who had been involved in some way with the long-awaited production.

As fate would have it, I sat next to Brian Foster, manager of the Corralitos Ranch, 15 miles west of Las Cruces one of the film's locations. He was able to clue me in when scenes shot in familiar local territory popped up.

...

Next up was the private premiere of Shawn Darling's "Grave Mistake," May 25 at the Rio Grand Theatre.

Shawn described it as a zombie movie, with scenes filmed in Las Cruces. He's looking for an independent distribution deal, so maybe the world will soon be able to see zombies cavorting in the City of Crosses.

"We're trying now to arrange a local showing that will be open to the public," said Darling, who wrote, produced, directed and did the score for the film.

Finally, erstwhile Las Cruces resident and OƱate High School teacher LouAnne Johnson is back with a new film project. Johnson had already made the big time before she moved here with her bestseller "My Posse Don't Do Homework," which became the basis for the 1995 blockbuster film "Dangerous Minds," starring Michelle Pfeiffer.

Now she's working with indy filmmaker and Creative Media Institute professor Rod McCall, on CMI's first feature length film, "Becoming Eduardo," based on Johnson's book "Alternative Ed," which McCall said "is about a kid in danger of becoming a gangbanger who ends up being saved by poetry."

Kids at Alma d'Arte, Las Cruces' high school for the arts, auditioned this week for parts in the movie, which will be filmed in Hillsboro and other regional locations. McCall hopes to have it ready for the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January.

They are looking for help with everything from cars and trucks to fashions. For more information on how you can help with the community-based film effort, check out my blog. Go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on blog zone and then Las Cruces Style.

And maybe we'll see you — both in and at — the movies sometime soon.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com