Independent movie, ‘Sun Belt Express,’ currently shooting in Valencia County

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With a little imagination and a lot of movie magic, the Hub City is transforming itself into the third movie backdrop of the summer.

“Sun Belt Express,” an independent movie, follows “Transcendence,” starring Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman, and “Enemy Way,” starring Forest Whitaker.

In “Sun Belt Express,” Allen King, an ethics professor, finds himself at a crossroads in his life while running across the Mexican border with his conservative teenage daughter and four illegal immigrants.

The New Mexico Film Office describes the film in a news release as “a family road trip gone completely off the rails.”

The film touches on what it means to be an American and highlights humorous and unfortunate stories from those who are set on joining the land of the free.

“It’s a really special (film). No one’s ever really approached this subject through a lens of humor,” said executive producer Noah Lang. “That’s why we all think it’s so important and we’re really excited to finish it and get it out there.”

Producers will wrap up three weeks of filming in Valencia County on Wednesday, July 3. Starring in this dark comedy are actors Tate Donovan, Ana de la Reguera, India Ennenga and Rachael Harris.

The idea behind the movie sprang from a conversation director Evan Buxbaum had with an undocumented immigrant, who told humorous stories about crossing the border. Buxbaum turned those stories into a short film, “La Linea,” where his first feature film, “Sun Belt Express,” was born.

While looking for places to bring this story to life, movie producers found La Mirada RV Park on Camino del Llano, which was the “perfect thing for us,” Lang said.

The movie’s base camp, set at La Mirada, is close to movie locations needed for the film, restaurants and lodging, making it easy for crew members to get their job done efficiently for their three-week stay.

“It was a perfect storm of things that happened, where we found this place and were able to work off that to make everything else work,” Lang said. “All the other (filming) locations we found them close by and it matched perfectly with the writers’ and directors’ creative decisions for the film.”

Although the film will incorporate shots from Los Lunas and Albuquerque, Belenites will recognize the familiar Hub City as the background for the film’s story, Lang said.

“We’re really excited to be here and to be able to do this in New Mexico,” Lang said. “We’ve been consistently impressed by the New Mexico community in general.”

Film crews received “a very supportive” and positive response from locals, Lang said.

Since making a movie is a meticulous process, resources on the ground and cooperation from city government, as well as locals, is key in creating a quality product within the allotted amount of time.

“It seems like a very seamless process, but what people don’t see behind the curtain is the huge number of departments working together,” the executive producer said. “They all need to be doing different things and completing different responsibilities that all lead toward the same goal.”

For one shot, the camera angles need to be prepared, lighting needs to be set up and actors need to know where to position themselves while maintaining continuity throughout each scene and proper sound levels within the story.

“A lot of people think shooting films happens chronologically, but it doesn’t. It happens with a very fine-, fine-tooth comb that we have to go through to make sure things match up correctly,” Lang said.

Although the film-making process is emotionally draining, it’s “very rewarding” and incorporates the hearts and souls of the masterminds behind the film, he said.

The film is produced by Iyabo Boyd and Jake Pokluda. It will be released next year.

For more information about “Sun Belt Express,” check out the film’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sunbeltexpress.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.