This article first appeared
in a February, 2005
email newsletter of the
Film Festival Reporter
|Made in New Mexico . . .|
PART I: Warm Lattes, lots of
Green Chili Stew and Great Filmmaker Incentives make a Sundance Fond
Farewell . . .
BY SHIRL A. STEWARD
eople were saying that no one knew or even cared that New Mexico had any incentives. Others were saying that it would be a lousy night for a party. So, on both counts, the New Mexico people knew it was important to put a lot of extra effort into networking with filmmakers and making sure the word got out around Sundance. Of course, they didn’t miss checking out the ski resorts and all the local hotspots for signs of filmmakers, either. Then, there was New Mexico’s brand new tourism promotion van. All week at Sundance its presence graced the streets of Park City. Covered with beautiful New Mexican landscape images, it’s rather conspicuous appearance drew thousands to its side where 2005 New Mexico Vacation Guides, also available atwww.nm.org, were being handed out.
Apparently, the no-stone unturned and putting their best foot forward approach really worked. . .
It was one really awesome party, New Mexican-style! The Bad Ass Café/Coffee Company was filled with over 250 people who came in from the cold the last Friday night of the Fest to warm themselves with a mug full of hot latte and a heaping helping of good ole’ green chili stew. While feasting, they listened to New Mexico’s representative, Jon Hendry, introduce the many incentives that New Mexico has to offer filmmakers. Last but not least, and, to top off a great evening, some New Mexican-made film favorites were also thrown into the mix.
In speaking of New Mexico’s incentives for Indie filmmakers,Hendry, Marketing Director for the Tourism Department and head of the Film Technicians Training Institute, also addressed concerns about filming in New Mexico. "No longer should there be any apprehension about lack of trained crew in New Mexico. We are ready to meet all your needs. A complete training program to train crew members is already in place at the College of Santa Fe and each semester a college in another part of the state will be added so that there are rotating program start dates. Both the Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute and the University of New Mexico will be among the schools participating. It’s also very affordable for both students and those professionals who just wish to brush up on their skills. Funding has also been allocated to purchase high-end cameras and editing equipment," explained Hendry.
Additional incentives for filmmakers in New Mexico include up to $7.5 million in interest-free loans, up to 15% in special tax rebates, 50% wage reimbursements for using trainees from the New Mexican training programs, and fee-free use of over 800 state-owned buildings. Included among the structures available is "Old Main," the now-closed State Penitentiary. This maximum security 1950's-era prison has a
wealth of possibilities for filmmakers. It has open cellblocks, a hospital facility, tunnels, a dining hall and several vacant buildings that could serve as offices, storage, stage, or construction areas. It is also the site of a new low-cost prop house facility for filmmakers.
Jon Hendry was really excited about the idea of sponsoring a party at Sundance Film Festival to introduce his state’s incentives for filmmakers. "This will be an excellent opportunity to meet with the Southern California media market, all of whom will be at Sundance," he had commented. All the agencies joined together to make this happen. "This is a joint state effort to reach out to our core constituencies – filmmakers and Southern California tourists," said Mike Cerletti, secretary of the Tourism Department, prior to the event. Well. It’s over now. Hendry and others in New Mexico seem pleased that their efforts to reach these core groups was successful. As an adline in the last issue of FFR states, "New Mexico . . . warmer, closer. Welcome Home (Indie filmmakers)."
Noted films that were shot in New Mexico since the incentives were introduced include: THE LONGEST YARD, SUSPECT ZERO, THE MISSING, ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING, 21 GRAMS, LOCKDOWN, OFF THE MAP, and COYOTE WAITS.
PART II: Ad Incites New Mexican Outrage
Cockfighting & Filmmaking in New Mexico: Who in their right minds would think these two things are related? . . .
BY SHIRL A. STEWARD
h? What’s that about cockfighting in New Mexico? Hey, it’s a damn good reason to start the NM cameras rolling but certainly NOT to stop them!
Despite the success and the partying, there was only one lingering thought that bothered New Mexicans. It was the only fly in the ointment. When Jon Hendry got to Sundance and opened the event’s lavish program guide, he could hardly believe his own eyes! In a half-page ad, there it was . . . a horrifying full-color depiction of cocks fighting and the words, "In New Mexico, 'Entertainment' Includes Watching Animals Fight to the Death," The ad, placed by The Humane Society of the US, further suggested that filmmakers should boycott the state and not make films in New Mexico!! Hendry’s blood boiled with outrage!
In their press release dated January 20, 2005, Ann Chynoweth, director of The HSUS' animal
cruelty and fighting campaign is quoted as saying. "The Humane Society of the United States is asking the film industry to consider taking a pass on New Mexico as long as the barbaric and cruel practice of cockfighting remains legal there."
"Aside from the fact that filmmaking and cockfighting have no relationship to each other whatsoever, it is a real kick in the teeth for all New Mexicans. This will be seen as an attack on our culture as a whole," says a very angry Jon Hendry. "The predominant cultural grouping in New Mexico is Hispanic and cockfighting is not part of the Hispanic tradition as it developed here in New Mexico. Cockfighting came from the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other cultures. It’s crazy to make such accusations about a culture they obviously know nothing about! There are lots of archaic laws on the books of all states that people don’t even know are there. The media has brought a lot of attention to the fact that cockfighting is STILL technically legal ‘on the books’ (while, by the way, New Mexicans patiently wait for the Senate to vote it forever illegal.) What most people, even those of the media, fail to understand is that the important issue here is not whether it is legal or not," explained Hendry. "Just because cockfighting is legal doesn’t mean people are actually doing it! A reporter at the Albuquerque Journal told me recently, he tried to find a cockfight to write about but couldn’t find one happening anywhere in the state!," stated Hendry, now a bit calmer and recovered from the initial shock.
"Besides," says Hendry, "how is running an ad in a Utah Film Festival Guide going to change anything in New Mexico? And, why is only New Mexico cited? How about Louisiana, the other state where cockfighting is still legal? In most of New Mexico there are bans in place but it is still totally legal statewide in Louisiana."
"And, too," he continues, "filmmakers are just people just like everyone else. Most of them don’t want cockfighting legal. Suggesting that they film in a different state would, thus, mean nothing to the cause anyway. It seems to me it’s just a cheap shot from someone who wants to throw suggestions of improprieties and ill-bred associations onto New Mexico that simply don’t belong there. Could this be about creating a certain image to satisfy some sort of media agenda? It certainly has nothing at all to do with trying to stop the inhumane treatment of fighting cocks!"
As far as the actual issue of cockfighting in New Mexico goes . . . although there is no statewide ban as yet, cockfighting has already been successfully banned in 13 New Mexican counties and 28 municipalities. This includes most of the major populated areas in which filming would take place such as Santa Fe, Taos, Las Cruces, Silver City and Albuquerque. In addition, New Mexico’s Senators, Jane M. Garcia, and Nancy Rodriguez have been working furiously on getting Senate Bill #65, and Steve Komadina on Bill #66, through the 47th Legislature this past month. The purpose of both bills is to make cockfighting and other cruelties to animals forever illegal in New Mexico. The fate of the bill is now in the hands of the New Mexican Senate Conservation and Senate Judiciary Committees. The legality of cockfighting in New Mexico seems only a lingering technicality at this point.
And, to those at the Humane Society responsible for placing this ad in the Sundance Program book, I have a few suggestions. Firstly, please make sure that next time you have all the facts straight before launching such an expensive campaign and then, put your advertising dollars into real animal rights issues. Both time and money are wasted in placing an ad that only serves to condemn innocent people for doing things they haven’t done or for thinking something that they have never even thought to contemplate!
Secondly, whether you’re with a nonprofit organization that protects animals or not, I would highly recommend, you seriously consider issuing, in print, a formal apology, at your own expense, to the people you have wrongfully indicted here . . . the people of New Mexico. They are the ones whose cultural integrity your ‘request’ has compromised. They are the ones who will suffer leaner paychecks and whose children will go hungry if filmmakers were to actually boycott their state.
Asking filmmakers to boycott the state is not the answer. After all, NM Senate Bills #65 and #66 are already on the table as I write this! Instead, put those dollars to work making a great film about the dangers of cockfighting . . . Maybe there’s a New Mexican animal rights filmmaker out there who could tell the story of cockfighting wrongs-needed-to-be-righted through film. That would be a great visual message to viewers, but it should be about cockfighting worldwide, not just about what’s happening within the borders of any one state.
In an internet search for suspected cockfighting arrests, we found reports for all the following locations: Vancouver (2001), Kentucky (2001), New York (2003), New Jersey (Oct, 2004), California (Feb, 2004), Illinois (June, 2004), Wailuku, Hawaii (Dec 2004), North Carolina (Jan, 2005), South Carolina (July, 2004), Georgia (2004), North Carolina (Jan, 2005) and . . . the most recent, last week in Orange County, Florida. Also searched for, was any news of current cockfighting ‘activity’ . . . Louisiana, and the Philippines came up in addition to the areas just mentioned. New Mexico did not appear at all! Lots of reports were found about people screaming and demanding that cockfighting be banned in New Mexico but not a single word about any actual existing cockfights! This reporter will let the reader judge for themselves what this very interesting phenomenon might indicate.
And, if, for some reason these bills before the NM Senate do fall short of being passed, anyone who really wishes to see cockfighting banned statewide in New Mexico has only one choice left but it has nothing to do with a boycott. They need to write a letter to Governor, Bill Richardson at the State Capital (4th Floor) in Santa Fe or call him at 505-476-2200. He’s ‘the buck stops here’ person on the NM cockfighting issue.
As a last reflection, my publisher, Scott Bayer, suggests that the robber barons of Indie film take the place of cocks in the ring to battle out the issue for themselves. Perhaps, Harvey Weinstein and John Sloss could duke it out in the Egyptian Theatre. This would be far more interesting to filmmakers than overly aggressive chickens that have no green lighting power. He suggests a new organization . . . the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Indie Filmmakers!!?? Any takers for the SPCIF??
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Photos are from the New Mexico Department of Tourism and The Film Office. For information on copying and use of images, contact www.nmfilm.com