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By Stephani Dingreville

Lights, camera, action in Corrales!

Corraleños are learning that one side effect of living in a picturesque place is the presence of film crews. Three productions recently have been filmed in Corrales, filling our little village with trucks and trailers full of lights, cameras and actors. One of Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin’s jobs is to grant permits to production companies who want to film here. The permit process is fairly simple, but quick turn-arounds make it difficult to warn all Corrales inhabitants of traffic or noise trouble.

Permit applications must be submitted a minimum of five days before filming begins. The application is for a specific location; this information is public domain, and all residents and businesses within 300 feet of the filming are to be alerted. The Village application fee for a film permit is $100, and companies pay $250 per day of filming. That money goes directly to Village government, as well as any rental fees if the production companies use public land or parking lots.

Many of the productions that come to Corrales are based out of one of three nearby studios, I-25 Studios, Nob Hill Studios and Albuquerque Studios, which was bought by Netflix in 2018. Often, production companies rent studio space at one of these large studios and from that home base, they come to Corrales for location shoots. In fact, Albuquerque Studios has three different Corrales locations featured in the “Location Book” they provide to production companies, enticing them to come to the Albuquerque metro area to film.

Other times, production companies set up a “base camp” in Corrales, as the Twentieth television series Big Sky has recently done in the parking lot of the Cottonwood Montessori School.  Big Sky is an American crime drama thriller series created by David E. Kelley and based on The Highway series of books by C. J. Box. The ABC series will present its second season at the end of September.

The hustle and bustle of the Wednesday Growers’ Market recently was less fruit and vegetable, more film crews whipping about, their huge rigs parked in the recreation center parking lot on Corrales Road.  Growers’ Market chief Al Gonzales wondered how long they would be there and how much they were paying the Village to use the space, but he was equally concerned that the sweet corn sellers from Moriarty, Schwebach Farm, had not shown up with product. After filming the first season of Big Sky in British Colombia, the second season is being filmed in New Mexico. Gjullin asserts that as of September 17, all of the permits filed have been for the so-called Sears House location, at 4036 Corrales Road.

John Perea, owner of Perea’s Restaurant and Tijuana Bar, has mixed feelings about the film industry. Perea’s Bar is one of the locations featured in the location book offered by Albuquerque Studios. A quintessentially Corrales locale, Perea’s Bar is a favorite place for Corraleños to grab lunch on the patio or a drink at the bar. The dark, historical interior and thick adobe walls make it a desirable location for film crews. In the last month, the horror movie 312, which is still in production, filmed inside the bar. “It was a learning experience,” Perea says dryly. The bar had to be silent for the filming, so the air conditioner had to be turned off, and all the windows had to be blacked out. The crew also used a smoke machine to set the stage. “As a result of all the smoke and heat, one of the cast member’s wives, who was pregnant, passed out,” Perea recalled. The Corrales Fire Department had to be sent for, and the woman was revived. When asked if he thought his business benefited from the presence of film crews in Corrales, Perea says “maybe a little bit. Most of the film crews bring in their own catering, so I don’t seem to see much extra business when the crews are in town.”

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Tijuana Bar once even hosted a wrap party after filming, however the production company brought in their own food. “The film industry is kind of bizarre,” John concludes. Corrales Elementary School teacher Ursula Kelly generally concurred, “I think the film industry is a double-edged sword. They come here for that rural feeling, but just being here they lessen what attracted them in the first place.”

Some villagers are happy to see the film industry’s presence in Corrales. Stevie Kuenzler lives on Priestly Road, off of Corrales Road just north of the Sears house, where Big Sky was being filmed. In his words, the filming “has all been positive in our eyes. Exciting too!”

Kyle Caraway is a life-time Corrales resident who has been working in the film industry for 14 years, giving him a unique perspective on this topic. He believes the film industry “provides opportunities to young New Mexicans who may have never had the chance to better their lives through a steady high-paying job with benefits and a retirement.” Caraway works as a “leadman” in set decorating, and so has lots of opportunities to shop locally for objects used to decorate the set. He says he always tries to shop within the host-community when possible. “We as a village should be welcoming more income for our small village businesses, not trying to push it away.”

According to Jennifer Esquivel, senior manager of marketing and communications for the New Mexico Film Office (NMFO), there are many different opportunities for villagers who would like to be directly involved in filming. They can list their property (homes, land, buildings and/or cars) in the NMFO’s location database which is found at http://www.nmfilm.com. Also found on this website is information about casting calls for anyone who would like to audition for a role. Esquivel advises checking out casting agency websites or their social media feeds. Lastly, she suggests Corrales business owners visit the website to become qualified film vendors and offer goods and services to the industry.

As the film industry grows in New Mexico, Corraleños may need to get used to seeing even more lights, more cameras and more action.

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