The signs mark active film sets—in this case, we figured, the lettering stood for Jane Got a Gun, the Western due out in 2014 featuring Natalie Portman as a sexy-but-badass frontierswoman. The signs frequently decorate Santa Fe, particularly in summer—“LM” for Longmire, the Western-themed TV crime drama, “ODD” when they were filming Odd Thomas (Willem Dafoe in a supernatural thriller-mystery—yes, you read that right), and so on.
Sure enough, as we pulled off Hwy. 84 and onto the dirt road that led to our destination, we saw the movie set. Anxious to get on the river, we didn’t stop. But it seems apt timing to mention the New Mexico Film Office’s new venture: NM Film Trails, an extensive map of past film sites around the state that allows curious locals and tourists to check out past (and likely future) real-life film locations.
Nick Maniatis, the director of the New Mexico Film Office, says his staff has been working on the idea for roughly a year. The end product: a glossy map brochure, as well as an online database of movie locations around the state.
Maniatis says the goal was to create something “for New Mexicans [but also] for everyone,” in turn helping generate tourism to the state’s lesser-known spots.
“Even if someone added a day to their trip, that would be a win,” he says.
Northern New Mexico boasts a bunch of sites; Santa Fe, in particular, can lay claim to parts of Lonesome Dove (1989), Crazy Heart (2009) and 3:10 to Yuma (2007). Zia Pueblo gets Cowboys and Aliens—sorry, Zia Pueblo—and Taos has Easy Rider. Pity poor Madrid, though—forever pigeonholed as the site for that Travolta classic Wild Hogs.
But Maniatis says that even if people roll into Madrid expecting to join the Del Fuegos, there’s still potential gain for New Mexico.
“As long as they come and buy a sandwich or some cowboy boots, there’s a benefit,” he says. “Our goal is to spread the economic benefit of the film industry.”
He mentions other, similar attempts to capitalize on film tourism, like the boost New Zealand got from The Lord of the Rings (funnily, he can’t remember the name of the series).
“And that field, in that baseball movie…you’ll have to help me again,” he laughs.
“Field of Dreams?”
“Yes! That was nothing—that was a cornfield no one went to. They built it, and [after the movie came out], I think they had 30,000 visitors a year to that site.”
Which just proves that if you build it, they really will come.