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Weekly Alibi Enchantment Pictures

Homegrown Hollywood

By Devin D. O'Leary

AUGUST 31, 1998:  New Mexico has always been an appealing backdrop for Hollywood. The early '90s were a boomtime for local production. With TV series (both mini- and maxi-) like Buffalo Girls and "Earth 2" and high-profile feature films like Wyatt Earp and Natural Born Killers, New Mexico's film professionals--from cameramen to lighting technicians to actors--were luxuriating in a steady workweek. Despite certain tax initiatives and a hard-working State Film Commission, the windfall ended in the later half of the '90s, and the flow of feature film production in the Land of Enchantment has slowed to a trickle. Seven years ago, New Mexico ranked number three in film production among the 50 states. Today it's much lower. A new New Mexico-based company called Enchantment Pictures, however, hopes to turn this trend around.

Enchantment Pictures Inc. was created to promote, develop and fund the production of films and various media in which the human resources, cultural aspects and scenic locations of New Mexico are utilized to the greatest extent possible. The idea is not just to lure productions to the state but to exploit local talent. Enchantment is based on a simple DIY ethic--if Hollywood won't come to New Mexico, we'll bring New Mexico to Hollywood. Pete Alexander, vice president of marketing and one of the four original founders of Enchantment Pics, explains: "Our primary focus is to get more business going in the state. Whether it be homegrown or imported is almost irrelevant in my mind. Because if it's imported, they're still going to utilize local assets. We like to think of ourselves as a lobbyist for homegrown capabilities when those people come knocking on our door."

Enchantment has several films in preproduction right now, including Xavier's Folly, a "lyrical romance of wishful fantasy based on a true story set in Taos, N.M., circa 1950." Based on the novel by local author Max Evans, Xavier's Folly tells the story of a man obsessed with bringing a famous ballerina to the town for a single performance. The estimated budget is $2.5 million--not much by West Coast standards, but quite respectable for an independent film. Evans--whose novel The Hi-Lo Country was shot here last year and will hit theaters on Dec. 18--has just turned in a final script, and Xavier's Folly could begin principle photography as early as Spring of '99.

In addition to pushing their production slate forward, Enchantment Pictures has started their own weekly radio show. "Reel 2 Reel" brings the listener news and stories from the film industry in New Mexico and around the world. It can be heard every Thursday morning on Hot Talk 920 KHTL-AM from 9 to 10 a.m. The show features interviews with film professionals like Jack Palance and Edward James Olmos who have shot films in our state and who still maintain strong connections to the area. Others, like actor/director Campbell Scott, hope to lens future productions here. In addition to celebrity chit-chat, "Reel 2 Reel" does its best to explore employment opportunities within New Mexico's film industry. As host, Charlie O'Dowd explains, "Each week we do a piece on New Mexico film industry news that lets people know what work is out there, what work is coming, what auditions are coming, that sort of stuff." Call-in segments allow listeners to find answers to questions like "How do I become a Screen Actors Guild member?" For O'Dowd, who has worked as an assistant director in the film industry himself, "R2R" is "sort of a clearing house to help put together different resources in the community that don't know of each other. Like this week we were talking about the Southwest Writers Workshop, which is going to have some stuff about screenwriting. We talked about the Southwest Institute for Film and Television. There are a lot of resources in this town that aren't communicating with one another."

So far this year, New Mexico has hosted major productions like John Carpenter's Vampires and Barry (Men in Black) Sonnenfeld's update of Wild, Wild West. But as O'Dowd is quick to warn: "I wouldn't say we're there yet. It's very nice that we have Wild, Wild West here, ... but I don't know of anything that's following it." If New Mexicans are lucky, maybe an authentic homegrown film will be next on the agenda.


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