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Locally produced film shoots on NMSU campus

A terrified young woman is running for her life. The moonlight and the trees create a strobe effect as she weaves through the dark pine forest. She can hear the footsteps of a monster crunching in the pine needles close behind her - and the sound is getting louder.

Local film director Aron Hethcox explains his perspective to actor and film-project partner Marcela Salmon. They were in a pine grove at NMSU's Fabian Garcia Research Center recently, shooting a moonlight scene for their film "Quimera." (NMSU photo by Jay A. Rodman)

Cut! Cut!

OK, maybe she wasn't really terrified; she was an actor playing her part. And the moonlight was created by six-kilowatt studio lamps since the third-quarter moon wasn't due to rise until 2:10 a.m. The actor playing the monster wasn't even on the set yet, they would shoot him later. And the forest was actually a grove of Afghan pines and related tree varieties on the grounds of New Mexico State University's Fabian Garcia Research Center in Las Cruces.

It was the final night of filming "Quimera," a short-film project of the "horror" genre, directed by local filmmaker Aron Hethcox. "Quimera" is a PRC Productions and Wide Awake Productions film. Hethcox, a graduate of the film program at Dona Ana Community College, is a founding partner in PRC with Troy Scoughton Sr. and Troy Scoughton Jr. He is also a partner in Wide Awake with Marcela Salmon, who played the fleeing woman in the forest scene. Salmon moonlights on film projects when she isn't at her day job in NMSU's College of Engineering.

Over the previous week, the cast and crew had shot scenes at a local residence, the PRC studio, Lorenzo's de Mesilla, and most recently at the Corralitos Ranch west of Las Cruces.

Tracey Carrillo, NMSU's assistant director of campus farm operations and superintendent of the research center, was enthusiastic about hosting a film project. "This test grove was established for research purposes 30 years ago," he said, "and while we are still learning about the hardiness of these tree varieties, it's great that we can use this little piece of forest for other purposes."

Hethcox and Salmon are collaborating on every aspect of the "Quimera" project. "We co-wrote, produced, cast and filmed the movie, and will be doing everything else, like editing, scoring and marketing," Salmon said.

"Quimera" is Spanish for "Chimera," a mythical monster sometimes depicted as having heads of both a lion and a goat and a tail ending in a serpent's head. Other hybrid combinations also exist, and the term sometimes just refers to imaginary monsters.

The premise of "Quimera" is that a team of five mercenary ex-soldiers have a contract to capture a "creature" that, in their minds, may or may not exist. But they are getting paid, so why worry? Maybe because it might kill them? Not to give away too much of the plot, but the fleeing woman might not be the first casualty...

In addition to Salmon, the film's lead actors are Jason Baldwin, Eric Owens, Caleb Sokoll and Mark Vasconcellos. Baldwin, Owens and Sokoll are NMSU students and Vasconcellos is on the Dona Ana Community College creative media technology faculty.

More than a dozen people showed up for the March 26 nighttime shoot before the sun was even down. In anticipation of an all-nighter, many of them sipped on caffeinated beverages. On hand were assistant director Keagan Karnes, cameraman Jonas Huerta, key grip Dustin Richardson and production manager and actor Lilia Rosa Salmon, as well as local soundman Dave Wheeler, owner of Studio 603, who was providing sound equipment and even a trailer. There were also additional students from NMSU, DACC and Las Cruces High School - it's no accident that the filming took place during spring break - and a few friends and family members. Hethcox said close to 30 individuals have been involved in the project.

Mark Medoff is the artistic director of NMSU's Creative Media Institute and a well-known writer and director. He knows and has worked with many of the individuals involved in this project, including Hethcox and Salmon. "The goodwill and dedication I observed among the whole team reminded me that making movies is a team sport and these folks seem a good team," he said.

Hethcox and Salmon are ardent supporters of Las Cruces as a place to make films. "Wide Awake and PRC share the goals of promoting the exceptional local technical and creative talent and showing that Southern New Mexico can produce high quality films," Salmon said. She and Hethcox noted that local film and media programs are full to capacity and graduate enthusiastic and well-prepared actors, writers and technicians, but most of the jobs seem to be in Hollywood or at least up north in Albuquerque.

Medoff agrees. "With each independent movie we make in the Mesilla Valley, we expand our crew base and alert film companies in and out of state that we have all the requisite talent and support personnel to support any movie production smart enough to come here and use us."

In terms of "Quimera," the Hethcox-Salmon team plans to have a 20- to 30-minute version of the film in the can in time for regional late-spring and summer film festivals. Their hope is that it will attract enough attention to generate funding for a feature-length version.

For more about "Quimera" and Wide Awake Productions, visit the website at www.wideawakeproductions.com

The PRC Productions website can be found at http://www.prc-productions.com/prc-productions_003.htm