Sjon Ueckert doesn’t look like an ambassador. He doesn’t wear a three-piece suit, he wears a corduroy jacket instead. He’s not cleanshaven; a thick crop of bangs hangs almost to his brown eyes and the rest of his face is covered with a dense beard that would be envy of Gabby Hayes.
And he doesn’t talk in those carefully measured, meaningless phrases that diplomats like to use—he’s straight-forward and to the point.
Yet, Ueckert (he pronounces his name, which is Bohemian in origin, "Shawn Eckert") is indeed an ambassador for New Mexico. He's our ambassador to that fickle kingdom where palace coups happen with the suddenness of a summer thunderstorm, where you can be a hot property in May and be totally out of it by December. Sjon Uekert is our ambassador to Hollywood: He's the director of the New Mexico Film Commission.
Despite his "unambassadorial" presence, however, Ueckert has been getting rave notices from the New Mexico film-making community for the job he's done. In fact, according to JW Eaves (the man who owns the movie ranch south of town) and Booth Gallett (the president of Multimedia International), he's the best man ever to be cast in that role.
Since Ueckert took over the Film Commission in April 1983, movie-making in the state is up dramatically (so far this fiscal year, $9 million has been spent by film companies in New Mexico, as compared to $400,000 in all of 1981); 13,000 workdays of employment have been secured for New Mexicans; Studio A, the sound stage behind the Armory for the Arts, is booked through the summer; Lust in the Dust is currently filming at the Eaves Movie Ranch; and Ueckert estimates that 90 film- and video-makers are considering coming to New Mexico to shoot films, documentaries and commercials in the near future.
"It's been a strange year," Ueckert said as he tried to field questions and answer the phone at the same time in his office on Old Pecos Trail. "I don't really know what is going on, but all of a sudden, New Mexico is hot property."
…Ueckert began to tick off the reasons why a film or video company might want to come to New Mexico to shoot exterior scenes.
"New Mexico has six of the world's seven topographical regions. We have everything from the Alps to the Sahara; we have futuristic cities, we have prehistoric cities. We can give you LA, but we can't give you New York. If you are looking for another planet, we have places like the Bisti Badlands and the Valley of Fire. If you're Jacques Cousteau, we can't help you, but everyone else, we can."
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