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Magazine cites Mexican sites

Its national film commission launches a glossy publication touting the country's photogenic locations to industry professionals.

September 20, 2006|Reed Johnson | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — Mel Gibson liked doing it. So did James Cameron and Tony Scott, among other Hollywood heavyweights.

The activity in question? Making a movie in Mexico.

Over the last decade, an increasing number of Hollywood filmmakers have been looking to America's southern neighbor in search of alluring locales, skilled labor crews and technical backup that won't bust a studio's budget. A short list of movies filmed here during that period would include Cameron's "Titanic," the swords-and-sandals epic "Troy," Scott's kidnapping thriller "Man on Fire," the comedies "Bandidas" and "Nacho Libre," and Gibson's saga about the sagging Mayan empire, "Apocalypto," due in December.

With filmmaking now a highly competitive global enterprise, you'd think Mexico would be bragging to the world about its recent track record. But until last summer, not a single regular publication existed extolling the benefits of shooting a film south of the Rio Grande.

That changed two months ago with the launch of Locacion Es Mexico (Location Is Mexico), a 72-page, slick-paper magazine put out by Mexico's nonprofit, government-sponsored national film commission, which goes by the acronym Conafilm.

Sporting the piercing-eyed visage of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu on its premiere cover, the new glossy hopes to fill a void, both with movie professionals as well as with Spanish-speaking cinephiles in search of something other than trashy dispatches on stars' dirty laundry.

"This was a niche that hadn't been taken advantage of," says Sergio A.R. Molina, 61, Conafilm's president. "Here in Mexico there's an editorial vacuum that we had that there wasn't a specialized magazine for people that are already working here on location, or it could be a director or a producer, etc., of all that had to be known in order to film in our country."

Though the first issue's cover opts for the sex appeal of a well-known feature film director, Molina and editor Patricia Blasio emphasize that the new magazine will address all types of movie and video production, including commercials, short films, documentaries and telenovelas.

Judging by issue No. 1, Locacion Es Mexico will mix promotional stories on various aspects of the Mexican film industry, such as festivals and expos, with articles offering practical advice for would-be movie makers on how to obtain permits or obtain services. The first issue includes a story on "some points to consider" when working with Mexican cinematographic labor unions. One of the magazine's regular features will be lavish pictorials touting film locations.

Blasio points out that some of these photogenic spots are less than an hour's drive from the magazine's offices in the nation's sprawling, congested capital. Asked whether the new publication is following any particular model, she cites American Cinematographer and Variety. "They're not like the gossip magazines that are like, 'Look at that actor.' I don't care about that," she says. "The only thing I want to know is your work."

But Blasio believes the magazine's appeal can extend beyond its professional target audience to general-interest readers, as well as tourists looking for off-the-beaten-path escapes and adventures. Blasio says that in addition to promoting Mexico's filmmaking infrastructure -- which includes equipment rental companies, film developing labs, actors and extras -- the magazine seeks to portray Mexico as a convivial place to work and/or play.

Operating under the aegis of the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia (IMCINE), 11-year-old Conafilm works with regional field offices in 23 of Mexico's 31 states, plus the Federal District of Mexico City. Some of these states have long traditions as filmmaking centers, such as Durango, where dozens of both homegrown and Hollywood westerns ("The Sons of Katie Elder," "Goin' South") have been made.

Parts of more remote states that were hard to access in the past are just beginning to be discovered by film location scouts, always on the lookout for visual virgin territory. Among them is rural Veracruz, on the Atlantic coast, where much of "Apocalypto" was shot last winter.

In 2005, Mexico hosted 14 foreign feature film crews, the vast majority of them U.S. productions. This year, the total is expected to be about 11.

Though initially the magazine's circulation will be low, at 5,000 copies, its creators hope that number will grow as filmmakers come to appreciate its usefulness and spread the word to their industry colleagues.

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