I possess a picture of me sitting on Alan Ladd’s lap, both of us on a Warner Brothers camera truck. I was eight or nine years old, and Ladd was at the height of his career. That day he was in Sedona, Arizona, filming the movie “Drum Beat.”
I spent most of my youthful summers with my grandparents in Sedona. I watched many films being made. I met Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge, and watched Tommie Rettig (of “Lassie” fame) flailing helplessly as he floated down Oak Creek in the movie”The Last Wagon” with Richard Widmark. College students flocked to Sedona to serve as extras, especially in the mass cavalry scenes. My grandmother worked the lunch line for all the actors and even took in washing (Joan Crawford again).
Arizona plays a large part in film history, both in the past and also today. After a lapse of several years, two years ago the Arizona Office of Film and Digital Media was reorganized and is beginning to get its feet on the ground. This past week, in Superior, the Rural by Choice group, in cooperation with Arizona Public Service, the Copper Corridor Economic Coalition, the Gila County Economic Development Corporation and the Town of Superior offered the opportunity to meet with Matthew Earl Jones, the Director of Arizona’s film commission.
It was a very good opportunity for those of us who live in rural areas. Films are increasingly being made by independents rather than by big film studios, and they favor the flavor of Arizona’s rural areas. Recent films have been made in Prescott, Holbrook, and Bisbee, as well as Tucson and Phoenix. The film commission is developing a photo catalogue of suitable locations and identifying Film Resource Coordinators (FRCs) who will help studios explore our area for potential use.
Veronica Bracamonte, director of the Copper Basin Chamber of Commerce, joined Gerry Kaufhold of Kearny and myself at the meeting. The Copper Basin is filled with desert scenery, desert animals, and picturesque towns. It also boasts the resources to support short- or long-term stays by movie personnel.
When movies are filmed locally, money comes into the area. But more than that, the release of the film brings interest in the area, often encouraging economic development. I hope that all of us will work together to take good advantage of this opportunity.
Speaking of opportunity, last month it was announced by the Arizona Commerce Authority that much of the Copper Basin and Eastern Pinal County has been designated as an Economic Opportunity Zone by the federal government. This involves tax rebates for new business development. This year, most of the opportunity zones are rural, which is a good thing for Arizona. New businesses who qualify for these rebates are also likely to qualify for other forms of assistance over a ten-year startup period. I will try to report more on this in a future column.