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Movie officials give Los Alamos high marks

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By Carol A. Clark

Movie production officials for “Brothers” are praising local residents, churches, businesses and Los Alamos County for the warm reception they have received since scouting locations here in September.“So far it’s been great — I really love it here,” Producer Zach Schiff-Abrams said during an interview Monday. “Whenever you leave California you’re always concerned with the depth and training of local crews but so far it’s just been a dream.”Brothers tells the story of a highly decorated Marine who goes missing overseas while his black-sheep brother becomes caretaker to his wife and children, said Unit Publicist Wolf Schneider of Santa Fe.The film, directed by Jim Sheridan, is a Relativity Media/Michael De Luca Productions/Palomar Pictures production starring Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal. It is scheduled to be shot in and around Los Alamos, Las Vegas, Abiquiu, Glorieta and Santa Fe through Jan. 30, according to the New Mexico Film Office website.People in the movie business told Schiff-Abrams the film shouldn’t be shot in northern New Mexico because of the weather, he said, adding that so far it has been just fine.This is the first time he's filmed in the area and he credited Unit Manager David Manzanares of Santa Fe for his help. Manzanares provides production coordination and management services as well as location services and recommends crew, transportation, catering, accommodations and equipment.“I was contacted by Relativity Media in late August through early September,” Manzanares said, adding that between the assistance of Lisa Strout at the New Mexico Film Office, Jon Hendry from the union and support of the governor, the movie came together.“I want to thank Kevin Holsapple and his staff (Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation and Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce)," he said. “They have been an incredible source of information and support in getting locals together from police to utilities and everything we needed. I will be back just because of Kevin and what he's been able to do.”He also praised Kelly Stewart and other county staff for their efforts. “With that kind of support, this community will get many more features filmed here,” Manzanares said.Schiff-Abrams agreed, saying, “We really appreciate the good will and support of locals to the production crew — it’s a film-friendly community.”Holsapple described the interaction with movie personnel as an organizational effort. “It’s been fun and interesting working with the film people on this,” he said during an interview Thursday. “The film people have been great and I also want to compliment our citizens. For every location the movie people are using to film, we probably knocked on 10 or 20 or 30 doors and without exception, we had very positive reactions. Everyone was so welcoming.”Holsapple wants people to know if they were contacted about possible location sites and have not heard back it is because it’s not yet known if their location will be needed.Holsapple discussed the economic benefits the movie production is bringing to the area. While it’s hard to get a true measurement, he said, many local businesses have seen an increase in sales.Hundreds of New Mexico crew members and more than 250 extras, many from the local area, are being employed.Irene Zaugg of White Rock described her experience working as an extra on the film as being “really positive ... They were incredibly nice, friendly and professional,” she said of the movie people she met on the set. “They were always willing to stop and answer questions. I would encourage everyone to step forward to be an extra, especially anyone interested in becoming an actor because as an extra, you get to see the movie making process. It’s a great way to spend the day.”Zaugg, 28, is deeply involved in the Los Alamos Little Theater as an actress and said this is her first experience in the movie business. Her day job is with the Los Alamos Historical Museum.Extras typically receive $9.50 per hour with overtime after 8 hours, according to the New Mexico Film Office website.Schiff-Abrams expressed concern with turning many reporters and photographers away this week because Brothers is a closed set. “The amazing thing about a movie — it really is a massive, massive experiment and that’s why we have a closed set,” he said. “It’s not to keep people out but to maintain the best sense of that experiment.”Manzanares addressed incentives that entice movie production to New Mexico including a 25 percent tax rebate and a loan of up to $15 million per project.More than 85 feature film and television projects have been shot in New Mexico since Gov. Bill Richardson took office in 2001, adding more than $1.4 billion dollars to the state’s economy.Thursday, Richardson announced that “Beer For My Horses”, a feature film starring country music star Toby Keith will be shot in northern New Mexico Feb. 10 through March 13. The film tells the story of two best friends who work together as deputies in a small town. They defy the sheriff and head off on an outrageous road trip to save the protagonist’s girlfriend from drug lord kidnappers. Some 75 New Mexico crew members, 25 SAG principal roles and 350 background talent are expected to be hired.For information about Brothers and other movies produced in New Mexico, access the New Mexico Film Office at www.nmfilm.com or call 505-476-5600.