RIO RANCHO, N.M. — It’s just after 11 a.m. at El Zocalo Event Center in Bernalillo as newly appointed Sandoval County Tourism and Event Coordinator Belle Allen continues to settle into her role.
It was Day Eight for Allen, who has a vast history of jobs that range from working for the State of Georgia’s environmental agency to being behind the scenes on films and shows shot in New Mexico.
The Observer sat down with Allen to ask about her background, transition to New Mexico and plans for the county tourism department.
Observer: What was it like transitioning from Georgia to the Land of Enchantment?
Allen: Well, I always have good hair days now (laughs). The landscape here is just breathtaking. It changes depending on the light. I can look at the Sandias in the morning and it looks like one thing, and in the evening, it looks like something completely different. I love it here.
Observer: You said you’ve worked in the film industry here. What was that like?
Allen: I took some classes in film writing, and I very quickly found myself working on sets and moving up, doing a lot of first AD (assistant director) work. I’ve worked on commercials, music videos and a lot of feature films.
I was a locations manager on the CBS TV show “Vegas,” which was actually shot in Las Vegas, N.M. We turned Bridge Street into 1967 Las Vegas, and I am still recovering from that shoot.
I worked a bunch of independent features that have come through. I also helped make a film with (movie director) Steven Soderbergh on a film I can’t remember the name of right now. (Editor’s note: That movie was “Haywire.”)
After my stint in the industry, I ended becoming a professor at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design for four years.
Observer: How are you able to transfer that knowledge into this position here?
Allen: Being in film, I’ve been in parts of this state, gotten into communities and become familiar with groups of people that I otherwise wouldn’t have known. I can use my connections with these networks to help further Sandoval County’s importance to them.
So for example, productions, whether it be a movie, a show, what have you, need places to read and go over scripts. Aside from El Zocalo being an incredible location for business meetings and weddings, I thought this could be a great place for table reads.
It could be used for executive dinners, like NBC is coming in, etc., and they are bringing a bunch of bi-wigs, but they don’t want to be in a restaurant off in a corner. They’d have the run of the place here.
They could set it up with the caterers, have a great dinner, everyone can relax, mill around and really get that New Mexico flavor. Also, if a production wants to get off site and kind of get away to do table reads, that’s another option.
Also, we could cater to those productions having wrap parties; there are plenty of other options we can look at to boost tourism. I am looking at this from a revenue standpoint, how Sandoval County can become a partner with the film industry.
Observer: What initiatives do you have in mind for the everyday person to visit our county?
Allen: I believe the natural beauty of the county speaks for itself. We have many tribes here, which are organically ingrained in our society, which is something you cannot invent or buy.
I mean, from a film-making standpoint, it’s kind of a no-brainer. There is really a lot of potential to attract tourists here, as well. If we can get tourists interested in visiting El Zocalo, for instance, then we tell them Tent Rocks or the Village of Jemez Springs is just up the road 30 minutes; we can create a flux of interest in the county, and that’s my goal right now.