Nuevo Laredo

For those who had’t heard already, I’ve accepted a job on the new film by director David Riker. We’ll be preparing the production in and around Nuevo Laredo for the next two months or so, and possibly, if the remaining funding comes in, through filming in October and November. The producers feel that even if all the funds don’t materialize, they still want us to prepare the groundwork for possible production in the spring of 2009.

I will be in charge of casting the film in Nuevo Laredo. One reason for the unusual amount of time being taken is that Riker prefers to use non-actors for as many roles as possible. In other words, the job I usually do (as on the Sayles and Linklater pictures I worked on) is finding local actors and amateur talents to fill supporting roles. Riker’s approach is to take an extra step and find people who actually are the sorts of people the story deals with and take them through dramatic workshops, giving the whole film an added level of “reality.”

He used this formula in his film La Ciudad (1998), featuring four twenty-minute stories about Latin American immigrants in New York City. The project we are working on now is called “The Girl”, and it concerns a woman name Ashley from South Texas who attempts to trasport Mexicans to the U.S. to make some much-needed extra cash. The plans go terribly wrong, the migrants scatter or are caught and Ashley, who will be played by Emily Blunt, is left with a young Mexican girl whose mother was lost in the chaos. In a sort of reverse-immigration tale, Ashley decides to takes the girl into Mexico to find her family.

Of course this all depends on the funding coming through, and I never believe a film will happen until the first frame is exposed. There are too many maybes, we-will-sees and it-sure-looks-good-at-the-

moment. So I may be back in San Francisco in a few weeks, no one knows.

But as always when I have taken such jobs there is an open invitation for any and all friends and comrades who may find themselves in Northeastern Mexico and/or South Texas (same place, sort of) to pass by, say hello, and check out what we’re doing. Aqui tienen tu casa, siempre. We’re four hours from Austin, three from San Antonio, two from Monterrey, Mexico, and twenty hours from Mexico City by land.

Also the mercury is dancing around the 95 – 105 degree mark down here in Nuevo Laredo, and this is a town where no less than 12,000 semi-trailers cross town every day into the U.S. It’s also sometimes known as”Narco Laredo” for the audacious drug cartels that operate in the area.

It’s still Mexico though. There’s a thriving newspaper scene, bizarre and intricate local politics, plazas and old houses, maquiliadoras along the Rio Bravo, and (unlike in San Francisco’s Mexican restaurants) you have to watch how much salsa you put on your chilaquiles in the morning if you want to have any taste buds left by the afternoon. In a few weeks I hope to know the city well and so any visitor will get a personal tour by DMZ. And if anyone comes to visit in October-November, the weather will be cooler and we’ll be actually shooting on Oct. 6th (ojala) so it will be a bit more interesting to be around, even if I will be working like crazy.

I’ll be writing and posting photos here. Myself and Becky, the line producer, are already running into absurd and hellacious problems with moving equipment and people back and forth across the paranoid and heavily militarized U.S.-Mexico border so there’ll probably be more than a few observation to report.

I leave you with this video if the late, great, and aforementioned-in-this-blog Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet, rocking through a rendition of their excellent song Nuevo Laredo. You know it’s a South Texas band cause there’s so may Mexican musicians on stage. And there’s a whole verse in Spanish.

Enjoy!

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