Today, instead of focusing on a series, we’re going to talk about where one was shot: New Mexico. This name resonates after hundreds of recordings, as it has given us some of the best sceneries in front of the silver screen. Longmire knew how to take advantage of all the beauty and I want to explain to you what is behind the famous landmark.
Let’s start off with Longmire.
Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is the sheriff of a small town in Absaroka County, Wyoming, a place dominated by long, dusty roads, mountains on the horizon, and could be the setting for a western. Walt, in fact, is a bit like one of those typical western sheriffs; is a man of few words who prefers to do the important or unpleasant things himself, who finds it difficult to let people into his life, and who drags the shadow of the loss of his wife, of whom it is one year since the series Longmire began. Even the hat and the star he wears on his coat’s lapel refer us inevitably to the Wild West.
Longmire takes the series to the rural environment of a state known for its natural parks (such as Yellowstone) and its history in the nineteenth century of struggle against the Indians and prosperity brought by the construction of the railroad that linked the two coasts. Its open spaces (which in fact belong to the state of New Mexico, where the series is filmed) are one of its most interesting assets, something that gives it a certain personal touch and the conatus of a certain atmosphere. But for now, he stays in the attempt, because Longmire is still no more than a well-done and worthy detective series, but too conventional.
The Famous Location
A Landscape Guide to New Mexico
Longmire has managed to transmit a certain atmosphere and make us understand what it’s like to live in that rural environment where many people have their houses in the middle of nowhere and where you can’t say that there are many outlets, and those that there are, are related to livestock or land exploitation. Or gambling, in the case of the casino that can become the main source of income for the impoverished Indian reservation. It is an old school series made without fuss, which makes the landscape shine, incorporating it into its essence. So let’s get straight to the point: New Mexico.
There are many reasons why film directors and producers love New Mexico. The same goes for painters or photographers. The reason is very simple, and it is that the light that New Mexico offers, does not exist anywhere else. Many were looking for something exotic and innovative, which brought the most famous figures in the film industry to this state. The technology to reach and shoot in New Mexico was enough to venture into classic and dramatic locations of both the Old West and today’s movies and series such as Longmire. That’s why it has such a powerful history in the field of filmmaking.
How the fruits of the cinema began to appear
Until the late 1890s, the entire territory of New Mexico was still truly the Old West. Hundreds of writers, poets, and privileged minds from the East came to discover the land and were left speechless when they saw how wild the environment was. Entering these lands was almost insane, as the small American republic was dominated by six-bullet guns and sometimes even cartoonish characters.
Almost half a century later, photography finally managed to capture the beauty of the land, without relying exclusively on the words of outsiders. One of the greatest impacts was Mathew Brady‘s ethnic photographs of the Native Americans that became known throughout the country.
Nevertheless, the American West was a place unknown to most people. Even the famous Thomas A. Edison took until 1898 to explore the territory of New Mexico, arriving by train to Albuquerque. The Indian War Council recording of that year shows a small group of native children and their teacher in a traditional village classroom. That little documentary or “actuality”, as it was known at the time, was the first to be shot in New Mexico and is even the first visual display of the Old West.
It was not until 1912 that California became a niche for film companies that had fled the norms and costs of the East. Among them was also the famous Edison Company.
Albuquerque on the other hand became more known among film experts with the arrival of the famous David Wark (D.W.) Griffith, during the shooting of his controversial 1915 film with The Birth of a Nation. The director took advantage of his stay in New Mexico to shoot two films. One was a love drama and the other a small comedy.
After Griffith came Romaine Fielding, known as the creative director of the Lubin Company. Fielding not only played a role in the company but was also in charge of being on many occasions the main actor, a character actor, set designer, cinematographer, screenwriter, and even director. Romaine was eccentric, which was famous throughout the industry, and used his imagination to fill any minute of the screen. That’s why he managed to settle in Las Vegas to release more than twelve pictures in a matter of two years. Las Vegas was practically his own, buying the famous Plaza Hotel and calling it Hotel Romaine, where he set up his production company.
He was joined by Selig Polyscope, who saw the potential of both New Mexico and Las Vegas. His star and director Tom Mix was instantly impressed with the population and the personalities that represented the wild state.
Time for the Talkies
When New Mexico began to talk
It was right at the end of the silent film era that two giant productions put New Mexico on the map. A western about Native Americans and an extensive documentary on the same subject. This was an anthropological documentary-drama that resembled Nano of the North from 1922, directed by Robert J. Flaherty who had invented this format.
The Navajo Nature Reserve bumped into Richard Dix who starred in the film Redskin in 1928. This film drastically innovated the environment known in New Mexico, for the first time highlighting the natives as heroes and for the fact it was recorded in technicolor to highlight the colors of the different characters in the film.
What is curious about these last two periods is the fact that the unknown Native Americans turned from villains to good guys, thanks to the romantic perspective of some directors. However, over time, the spotlight was turned on the cowboys and the tourism that attracted them, returning the Native Americans to their established role as antagonists of the old America.
The Power of Money
How money impacted the state
Jumping a handful of years ahead, New Mexico began to be a heavyweight in the lands of cinema. The state has become one of the most desirable locations for production companies as it offers a 25% refund for all film shoots shot within the state and loans of up to $15 million without interest. That is why, since 2002, more than 200 projects, both films and series, have taken advantage of this offer.
Of course, the most desired city by filmmakers is Las Vegas, highlighting in recent years films such as The Hangover trilogy, No Country for Old Men, The Longest Yard, and even Wild Hogs. But New Mexico is not limited only to Las Vegas, because if we take into account the most recent movies that were shot around the state, we have big-screen hits such as Captain Fantastic, Crazy Heart, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Thor, or Sicario.
In the world of series, the most notable names are of course Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, who originally opted for the state of New Mexico due to lack of budget, as mentioned by actor, director, and producer Bryan Cranston during a podcast. But apart from Longmire or these two series, New Mexico was also the home for the shooting of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey & Possible Worlds or the famous Preacher.
Here’s the official New Mexico Film Office Sizzle Reel of 2017:
Because unlike other series that come, shoot, and then leave in a heartbeat, New Mexico does everything to hook the big names in Hollywood, supporting the industry’s economy with studios and support in all areas. That’s why the state attracts more and more followers year after year who come with their suitcases from Los Angeles.
A clear example is Sony Pictures Imageworks that moved most of its visual effects business, along with hundreds of jobs from Culver City to Albuquerque Studios.
Close to them in Rio Rancho, Lions Gate Entertainment leftover $15 million in a production center that consists of 20 acres, given by the city. In addition to financing more than $10 million in loans to locate everything needed.
The Most Outstanding Places
The Three Kings of New Mexico
You may want to follow the footsteps of Walter White or our beloved sheriff Walt Longmire. Well, there are several places that stand out and look more colorful and exciting than others. Here are the three most symbolic of New Mexico, which will not only take your breath away because of their beauty but will also resonate with you right away:
The White Sands
A few hundred miles from the Mexican border is a historic place called White Sands. This small treasure in southern New Mexico has sand so pure and white that it looks like snow, creating a mystical landscape that has captured the fantasy and creativity of directors, producers, and filmmakers alike.
New Mexico’s Madrid
For fans of the Disney movie Wild Hogs, this place will look very familiar. These sets and filming cities are only the beginning of the relationship that was established between New Mexico and the big screen. You can watch the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or moments from The Muppet Movie from 1979 to see how incredible Madrid is.
The Tales of Taos
Last but not least, many know New Mexico as the Land of Enchantment and Taos might even be responsible for it. Surrounded by other iconic landmarks, Taos seems to be the most climax scene of thousands of Westerns.
With the sun baking the landscape, this place came to life for decades on the big screen. Movies like Easy Rider, Terminator Salvation, or No Country for Old Men took it to give a home to their locations and even some scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were hosted by this fantastic place.
You see, Longmire’s series had an impact both on its quality and on what it managed to capture on the small screen: New Mexico. The production team did an exceptional job in bringing out some of the most beautiful landscapes and I personally couldn’t resist learning more about this beautiful state, just like you just did right now.
Luckily, New Mexico is currently reviving thanks to the strong impact it has had on the world of the series. Even names as remote as Stranger Things have already ventured to film there to give it like many other creative projects, that mysterious essence that grasps the state.
If you want to discover more about the landscapes, the sunsets, the rivers, and the heat of New Mexico, I recommend that you take a look at the films that I have mentioned during this article so you can relive the landscapes that Walt Longmire encountered.
Answer: The Valles Caldera and downtown Las Vegas Plaza feature prominently as the home and workplace of the eponymous sheriff, played by Robert Taylor.
Answer: There are many interesting things about New Mexico, but here’s one of the best: In New Mexico, there are only about 12 people per square mile. There are many more sheep and cattle in the state than people. At 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe, New Mexico is the highest capital city in the United States. New Mexico has one of the greatest temperature ranges in the United States.
Answer: New Mexico is renowned for its low cost of living and filming. It’s about 3.1% lower than the national average and the state even helps out with loans and production costs.
Answer: The show got canceled in 2017.
Answer: The producer’s John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin were grateful to this service for interest in their work and they were able to give the fans such an ending that they deserved, but not a break in the storyline. Now it is already known that there will not be the 7th season of Longmire, so don’t look for the release date.