ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Wes Ball didn’t know New Mexico would be so cold – weatherwise.
“We thought, we’re in the desert and it’s going to be hot,” he says. “But we’ve had some very cold nights of shooting.”
Ball is at the helm of “The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials,” which has been filming in and around the Duke City since October.
The sequel is the next in line in the book series written by James Dashner.
“The Maze Runner” was released in September and earned more than $140 million at the box office. Its sequel is slated for a September release, so there’s plenty of work to do for Ball and crew.
“We’ll be out here until the end of January,” Ball says of filming in the state. “Then it’s off to get the editing done.”
Ball says he was handed Dashner’s book by the studio and that’s how he was introduced to the series. As he read the book, he latched onto the story.
“All these visuals came into my head,” he says. “It was a great opportunity for me and now I’m working on the sequel. They trusted me with getting it all done.”
“The Scorch Trials” screenplay is by T.S. Nowlin. The film will follow the “Gladers” from the first movie, who must survive in The Scorch – a futuristic wasteland ravaged by solar flares.
Ball says moving from the first movie to the sequel was smooth and left little time for anything else but filming.
He says while in New Mexico, the cast and crew have been able to move through a lot of scenes. The movie has filmed in Downtown Albuquerque, Mesa del Sol and at Winrock mall.
Taking on such the best-selling series did come with some anxiousness. Ball didn’t know what to expect from the fans.
“It felt very validating to have their support with the first film,” he says. “That’s where most of the nerves came. It’s difficult enough to make a book come to life on screen, much less a book that has sold millions of copies.”
Ball always wanted to be a filmmaker and decided it was going to be his career of choice when he was 13. He says growing up on “Alien” and “Star Wars” made him want to push himself when telling stories.
“I tend to enjoy films that have heart and ‘Maze Runner’ has plenty of heart,” he says. “Some movies are empty calories and I never wanted to make that kind of film. I want a film to speak to the audience, while providing some great action scenes and storytelling.”
Ball says filming in New Mexico has been exciting and he is glad the project is here.
“When we were scouting we realized that New Mexico has everything we needed,” he says. “Awesome locations, great people and the crew base is so talented, it makes it an easy job to film.”
While the project moves forward Dashner recently visited Albuquerque for a set visit. He says he enjoyed the few days in New Mexico and mostly came to see how the production is going.
“I’m only coming out here a few times and that’s much less than the first film,” Dashner says. “I have all the confidence in the world with Wes. Seeing the sets and the locations have really brought to life the atmosphere of the second book.”
OSCAR BUZZ: Bradley Cooper’s latest film, “American Sniper” opened up on Christmas Day and is starting to get some Oscar talk.
The film is based on the true story of Navy S.E.A.L. Chris Kyle, played by Cooper, who experiences flashbacks of him with his father, played by Ben Reed, which prove to be monumental moments from his youth.
As Cooper recounts the Navy S.E.A.L hero’s amazing and gruesome military career throughout the film, the vivid memories of father and son give the audience a glimpse of the values and discipline which inevitably shape Kyle into the man that he has become.
Reed drew inspiration for the role from his brother, who in real life is an esteemed member of the Navy’s Special Forces. To read more about Reed and making the film visit ABQjournal.com/reelnm.