ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Just call him The Film Guy. Charles L. Ashley III doesn’t quite have a title yet, but he’s Bernalillo County’s new film liaison.
As cities across the state have added film liaisons to their staffs, Ashley is working to make sure that Bernalillo isn’t left out. Ann Lerner at the city of Albuquerque, for example, helps films find locations, get permits and puts them in touch with all the right folks in town. Though Bernalillo County hired Ashley as only the second employee in its Economic Development Department this August, he’s already full of big ideas, even if he doesn’t have business cards.
“We’re trying not to just do movies out here. We want to be players in the industry,” he said.
Ashely said it’s not enough that productions come here. He’s taking a larger view and wants to recruit some postproduction facilities and develop our local talent pool of directors, writers and producers.
His ideas certainly echo those of the New Mexico Film Office and others.
He’s starting with the small stuff, such as establishing a streamlined policy for film permits. The county needed to have every agency sign off on permits, Ashley said, which took up to five days. With new policies, he said, the Bernalillo County permitting process for films now takes, at most, three days. By next year, he said, Bernalillo County should have a new Web site up for FilmBernco, which is what the county is calling its film office.
Ashley owned an entertainment consulting firm and worked in student retention at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, before his wife brought him to New Mexico. He’s settled in quickly, and leaned on his chops as a college bas ketball star in Colorado and this fall started a second job as coach of Albuquerque High School’s varsity basketball team.
But the learning curves in the film and economic development worlds are as hard as learning a three-point jump shot.
“I’m just now meeting everybody and learning all about it,” he said. “I’ve reached out, and I hope people will do the same. I don’t want to sit here and wait. I want to recruit films now.”
Forget about all of the rankings. Forget about the lists.
Finally, New Mexico’s film industry is getting attention from where it’s deserved: airlines.
Starting Thursday, American Airline’s American Eagle will begin nonstop jet service between Los Angeles and Santa Fe.
It doesn’t sound huge, but this may be one of the biggest things to happen to the local film industry since Gary Johnson discovered tax incentives. This means that enough people have asked for the flight that the airline gave it the go-ahead, though the flights are on small, 100-seat jets.
Santa Fe’s small airport has never been the site of major jet service. The folks who fly here have had to come through Albuquerque then drive an hour to Santa Fe. The two-hour flight certainly beats the six-hour flight that American has offered, which goes through Dallas, of all places, after leaving Albuquerque.
Funnyman in town
If you’re in on the joke, Zach Galifianakis is funny.
If not, watch out.
But Galifianakis, while in town to film parts of the movie “Due Date” with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, is becoming quite the local. After shoots he’s been stopping in the Downtown watering hole Blackbird Buvette. If you missed Halloween at the bar, Galifianakis hung out and posed for pictures with the rowdy crowd of ghosts, goblins and Obi Wan Kenobis.
“I recently discovered him, and I think he’s really funny,” said Blackird co-owner Dandee Fleming, who has some shaky pictures with the comedian from Halloween on his iPhone.
Galifianakis rose to stardom after he was in the surprise hit “The Hangover” this summer and for his role on the HBO comedy detective show “Bored to Death.”
But for years he’s been an underground comedy sensation for his goofy humor. He’s an artist of the awkward and an inelegant virtuoso.
But at the Blackbird, he comes in late after shooting, Fleming said, and just chats with the staff and the regulars and has a couple of beers. He doesn’t pull any of the awkward jokes he does on his Web series “Between Two Ferns” or try to make anyone uncomfortable, like he did on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Instead, Fleming said, he seems happy to talk about movies, acting, music and booze, and doesn’t trade on his celebrity for free drinks.
“He wouldn’t let any of us buy him a drink,” Fleming said.