A New Baja California Location Facility to Service Hollywood

By Kader, Don | American Cinematographer, October 1975 | Go to article overview

A New Baja California Location Facility to Service Hollywood


Kader, Don, American Cinematographer


Just South of the Border lies a new movie town, Cine Pueblo, built with backing from the government of Baja California to provide a complete and varied location filming facility

Most U.S.-Mexican border towns conjure up one impression: sidewalk hawkers, runny-nosed kids selling chewing gum (or what-have-you), and a plethora of squalor.

However, crossing the border at Tecate - 30 miles east of Tijuana belies that picture. After winding across the picturesque back country of San Diego and passing through such wide spots in the road with equally picturesque names - Jamul, Dulzura - you approach a neat, mission-styled building housing both U.S. and Mexican customs and immigration offices. As you are courteously waved through by the Mexican officials, you enter a paved, clean, wide street bordered with small businesses that leads you to the town plaza. Here, amid manicured lawns and shade trees, the local populace meet to exchange gossip and let the children enjoy the oasis-like quality of the place.

For years, Tecate's main source of income has been the Carta Blanca brewery and the affluent Beverly Hills ladies who come to La Puerta variously referred to as "The Golden Door" or "The Fat Farm" - to expensively rid themselves of excess suet.

Now, however, Tecate has changed from the traditional "manana" attitude to a vibrant, "now" atmosphere. The cause of the excitement is the creation of a new industry for both the city and the State of Baja California - motion pictures.

Spearheaded by Baja Films, S.A., and its dynamic president Octavio Elias, in consort with Alfonso Sanchez Tello of Mexicali Films, S.A., and with backing from the government of BaJa California, a complete motion picture location facility is emerging.

On June 14 last, more than 100 invited guests (and nearly half again as many uninvited) toured the facilities of Baja Films (located in a compound on the outskirts of Tecate) and roamed the streets of Cine Pueblo - Movie Town.

Cine Pueblo is a uniquely designed cluster of outdoor sets depicting from one angle a complete American mid19th-century western town, and from another, a typical Mexican village. Presently in the design stage is an Indian village replete with teepees, ceremonial firepits and totem poles which will be located on the shore of an artificial lake.

Nestled in the center of historic Rancho Las Juntas, some 18 miles southeast of Tecate, Cine Pueblo offers movie-makers an almost infinite variety of terrain to choose from. As we toured the 5,000 acres devoted to Cine Pueblo in this beautiful mountain valley, we could easily envision not only western locales, but sites for war films (the steep hills were reminiscent of parts of both Italy and Korea), and sci-fi epics (some rock formations looked almost moonscapish). And within easy reach of the ranch lie both the arid desertland around Mexicali and the awe-inspiring beaches and coastal cliffs between Tijuana and Ensenada.

But what about equipment, shooting facilities and accommodations? Baja Films seems to have the total answer to those questions. Elias has equipped his company with just about every item needed for location shooting.

The wealthy Sonora cattle rancher and Mexican film backer went to Roy lsaia, president of Matthews Studio Equipment, Inc., in Burbank, to have his fleet of camera, grip, electrical and projection trucks designed and built, lsaia, formerly a key grip for Paramount, acted as a consultant to Elias in determining the optimum equipment list for Baja films. The list is quite impressive, and is being added to daily.

Okay, so much for the facility and capability. But what's the real reason for Baja Films and Cine Pueblo, and how does this venture propose to compete with Durango or Tucson or New Mexico?

According to Elias, the consortium was formed for four primary reasons: (1) to create jobs for Mexican citizens along the California-Mexican border; (2) to provide a low-cost location site and production facility for Hollywood producers; (3) to establish a new credibility with those producers; and (4) to improve the competence of Mexican movie technicians. …

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