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'100th film' hits snag in Las Vegas

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By Tom McDonald

Gov. Bill Richardson’ office boosted on last week that the movie “Run For Her Life” will be the 100th major film production shot in New Mexico during Richardson’s time in office.

What his office may not be aware of, however, is that the production hit a snag recently in its plans to shoot some scenes in Las Vegas.

Last week, the city held a meeting to review plans for shooting sequences of the movie in Las Vegas. In attendance were several city officials — including the police and fire chiefs; councilors Cruz Roybal and Andrew Feldman; Martha Martinez, the city’s liaison between the community and moviemakers; the city’s Community Development director, Elmer Martinez; and several concerned citizens.

Also in attendance was the movie’s location manager, Sam Tishler, who submitted the plan for shooting scenes in town, including a plan to redesign Moreno Street so it would appear as Jurez, Mexico. There are also preliminary plans to stage an explosion somewhere on Pecos Street near the railroad tracks.

“He submitted the plan and we commented on it,” Elmer Martinez said. “Now we wait on the permanent application.”

Old Town businessman John Martinez — who, along with his wife Leith Johnson, owns Art & Stones, the back of which faces Moreno Street — also attended the meeting. He said the movie company was told it will have to modify its plans and get the property owners to sign off on them before the city can approve anything.

Martinez said the plans were to redesign Moreno Street into a dirt road and paint some of the buildings to make it resemble Jurez. Movie representatives have reportedly promised to restore the properties to their original form but, apparently that wasn’t enough.

Elmer Martinez said that, on historic buildings, “They can’t paint over what hasn’t been painted before.” Also, the city “can’t issue approval to work on private property” without the property owner’s approval, he said.

The company originally wanted to film in late June, but city officials asked the company to delay the date because of Fiestas de Las Vegas, which will be held in the Plaza on July 2-6.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, location manager Tishler said Las Vegas residents are getting more receptive.

“I think some people were cautious at first, maybe because of their experiences in the past with other movies ee but I think everyone is coming around now,” he said.

As for Moreno Street, he said the plan isn’t to create a dirt road but to have “an unmaintained paved road ee that includes a light dusting.”

And regarding the explosion on Pecos Street, Tishler said that’s pending notification of the residents. “They’re the ones that are really important,” he said. “We don’t want them to feel slighted in the process.”

According to information from the governor’s office, “Run for Her Life,” is the fourth film for 26 Films, whose credits include “The Wedding Date,” “Starter for 10” and “My Life in Ruins.” The latest film is a thriller starring Dermot Mulroney and Diane Kruger. Principal photography for was scheduled to begin Saturday in Santa Fe.

New Mexico offers tax credits, loans and other incentives to companies seeking to film on location, and New Mexicans also are guaranteed jobs working on film crews. But some Las Vegas residents, including Leith Johnson, contend the benefits don’t necessarily outweigh the negatives.

Earlier this month at a City Council meeting, Johnson said movie making in town costs businesses and residents in a number of ways. She presented a petition signed by Plaza-area merchants and residents expressing concern with the number of taxpayer-subsidized film projects. Las Vegas has hosted three movie projects so far this year.

Johnson suggested the city develop a more sophisticated regulatory system for films productions — and Mayor Tony Marquez appears to be embracing the idea. He has hinted at the creation of a committee to examine the issues surrounding movie productions but has not yet taken any action on the matter.