New Television Series to ‘Crash’ Into Duke City This Summer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —    Last Saturday, at the Arts Alliance Awards, Judy Anderson, president of the association, heralded Lester Berman, a local producer who brought the hit show “Wildfire” to New Mexico, and city of Albuquerque film liaison Ann Lerner.    Lerner won the Alliance’s President’s Award, the association’s highest award, for her work over the past five years on helping the state’s film industry get a foothold in Albuquerque.
Anderson said Berman will be working on a new television show, a small-screen version of the hit movie “Crash,” in Albuquerque.
    Berman later confirmed the show will shoot in New Mexico.
    Of course “Crash” the movie dealt with pretty heavy issues — prejudice, bigotry, hatred, the worst side of society.
    Los Angeles was the setting of the movie, but Albuquerque is the choice
of setting for the new television version. Not because we’re horrible people, but because all of our lives seem to intertwine here in the desert. My buddies often call it “Smallbuquerque.”
    Variety reported in January that the show has been picked up for 13 episodes by the Starz network as its first original drama.
    The TV show is an adaptation of the 2005 movie.
    Berman said details are still scarce
from Lionsgate, the production company.
    If Berman’s name rings a bell, it’s because he’s been in the film business for decades, but most recently as a producer of the hit TV show “Wildfire” for ABC Family network. “Wildfire” was filmed in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Algodones and because it was canceled earlier this year, it has been
the subject of many “Save Wildfire” campaigns.
    Because of Berman’s experience making four seasons of “Wildfire” here, he said he pushed to have “Crash” made here as well.
    We don’t know where the new show will take place. In the movie, it was L.A., but it wouldn’t be the first time Albuquerque has doubled for the City of Angels — as it did in the pilot for “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”
    
Just as lives collide in the movie, the TV show has some interesting connections. Paul Haggis, director of the movie, also directed  “In the Valley of Elah,” filmed in Albuquerque. The rapper Ludacris, who was in “Crash,” made a cameo appearance in “Game,” filmed in Albuquerque last year. Don Cheadle, who acted in and produced “Crash,” has been reported to be producing the TV version.
    MORE CRASHES: Lionsgate’s movie arm also made “Will Eisner’s The Spirit,” which filmed most of last year at Albuquerque Studios.
    “The Spirit” now has a release date and a trailer on its Web site, which looks a lot like director Frank Miller’s other film, “Sin City.”
    Lionsgate will release the movie Jan. 16, 2009, Miller announced at last week’s New York ComicCon — where Miller is a superstar. The Web site (mycityscreams.com ) has a trailer, posters and a synopsis.
    The movie stars Scarlett
Johansson as the femme fatale Silken Floss, Samuel L. Jackson as villain The Octopus and Gabriel Macht as The Spirit.
    Though the trailer looks a lot like Sin City, in simple black, white and red, the final project is expected to look nothing like Sin City. The movie was made entirely in front of a green screen at Albuquerque Studios. Though it takes place in a city, no buildings were actually shot. It’s all fake. Miller wrote and produced “300,” wrote the “RoboCop” sequels and is expected to direct two “Sin City” sequels. He’s also an accomplished comic book writer.
    SANTA FE MEGA-STUDIO: There are just a few loose ends to tie up, but Santa Fe is on track to get a large studio complex of its own. Soon.
    It’s great news for everyone north of Albuquerque, where the only large indoor studio space has been the College of Santa Fe’s Garson Studios.
    The family of Lance, Jason and Conrad Hool of Santa Fe Studios make a good business case for it.
    “It’s become clear to me that what we need is infrastructure,” Lance Hool said.
    Albuquerque Studios south of Albuquerque is quite the place. One tour, and your mind would be blown by what a competent director can do there. One look at the trailer for “The Spirit” and you’ll be convinced. That entire film was made at Albuquerque Studios.
    And, with that comes a horde of people wanting to make movies there. Right now, Albuquerque Studios is pretty much all booked up
with “Terminator 4,” and that leaves very little largestudio space here for other pictures.
    So, the Hools figure, the time is right to build another giant studio, and they’re probably right. Several major projects — television and film — are expected to shoot in the state soon. And in 2009? What about 2010? New Mexico’s film industry, if it continues its recordsetting pace through then, will absolutely need a second major studio space.
    Of course the Hools aren’t the only ones trying to build a studio. A while back, Lionsgate announced it was trying to build a studio in Rio Rancho. There’s been talk of several others as well — in Budaghers, in Midtown and maybe even another in Rio Rancho. But, Santa Fe Studios is much, much larger — up to 500,000 square feet.
    The Hools have friends in high places — from the Governor’s Office to Gary Credle, executive vice president of administration and studio operations for Warner Bros. — who came to speak on their behalf at Tuesday’s Santa Fe County Commission meeting.
    Lance Hool has been an actor, producer and writer and was chairman of a film distribution company and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. Conrad Hool has worked with several big name stars but is a production professional. Jason Hool has an international business background, who’s worked with FIAT Auto, Nokia and the London Underground.
    But, of course, there’s some city-to-city competition here.
Santa Fe doesn’t want to see Albuquerque take over the market for all the upcoming films that need studio time, even though Santa Fe stars in plenty of films that have used the mountains and deserts around the City Different — from “The Missing” to “Beer for My Horses.”
    
Best-case scenario, the Santa Fe Studios could be built and open for business in about 20 months, according to the company.
    The county commission gave preliminary, and unanimous, approval on Tuesday for the project.
    The County of Santa Fe has stepped up to make this one happen. The county is using several economic development tools to get the studio going, from industrial revenue bonds to tax increment financing to its one-of-a-kind media district south of Santa Fe, created last year.
    The media district, an ingenious idea, allows the studios to build outside of traditional Santa Fe-style, erect giant lights or make a whole lot of noise. The district’s only neighbors are prisoners on the other side of Interstate 25.
    For Albuquerque, though, this could be the start of a sea change. Though Albuquerque has become a major center of production, this could transfer major films to Santa Fe and northern New Mexico.
    And that’s not lost on Santa Fe.
    SEND US YOUR TIPS: If you know of afilm in the state, or are curious about one, e-mail Film@ABQjournal.com .

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