Mexico serves as the land of Milk & Honey

Mexico serves as the land of Milk & Honey

ilk & Honey Films is tapping its well-established Mexican connections to produce its first longform project, “Operation Sandman,” for UPN.

M & H’s Jose Ludlow, pic’s producer, credits Mexico’s National Film Commission and Mexico City’s Film Commission chief, Jorge Santoyo, with easing the production process.

Government assistance was nonexistent five years ago, Ludlow remembers, requiring a production company to acquire needs on its own. How things have changed: Now most Mexican states have commissions; a bilingual production/location film guide exists listing political, geographic, customs and services info; a digital and photographic locations archive is available; and there’s now an experienced, yet inexpensive, crew base.

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According to Ludlow, the film commission has become an effective liaison between production companies and government offices such as immigration, customs and even the Secretary of Defense.

“Operation Sandman,” the story of a military experiment involving sleep deprivation and virtual reality gone awry, has elaborate art department and special effects needs, a high-tech underground military complex that takes on a war zone-like appearance as the story unfolds, and a desert location in which the compound is set.

M & H recruited production designer Felipe Fernandez (art director of “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn,” “Desperado”), an art department crew of nearly 60 and a Mexican crew base, to conceive and construct visually distinctive sites, including a military reality and two surreal, virtual reality worlds.

Project for Paramount Network Television and Singer White Prods. is exec produced by Steve White and directed by Nelson McCormick. It stars Ron Perlman (“Beauty and the Beast”), Richard Tyson (“There’s Something About Mary’s”) and World Wrestling Federation’s Hardcore Holly.

Production in Mexico is hardly foreign to M & H. “Primal Force,” a 1999 UPN telefilm for which M & H provided production services, was also shot there.

* * *

British Columbia’s Silver Peak Entertainment prexy Jim Karmann announced the January opening of Silver Peak Studios.

The first phase of operations will include a 92,000-square-foot clear-span special-effects studio. Full set-construction and fabrication shops complement the facility along with two 15,000-square-foot soundstages and 8,000 square feet of production and executive offices.

Phase two will see the addition of four 20,000-square-foot soundstages as well as New York and Midwest street facades, a cemetery, log cabin and combination ranch and farmhouse.

Scenic surroundings

Silver Peak Studios, a privately financed facility, is in a scenic river valley on a lush 27-acre site in Squamish, within 40 minutes of greater Vancouver and the Whistler ski resort.

Squamish is home to the Sea to Sky highway, one of Canada’s most filmed roadways. A deep-water port plus ocean, river and lagoon access, accommodations and a regional airport are all within five minutes of Silver Peak Studios’ main gate.

* * *

Strategies for Hawaii to attract more television and motion picture productions were revealed at recent meetings in BevHills.

Plans include making costs comparable with those in Los Angeles; streamlining information access about producing films in the island state; and forming a “partnership” with the entertainment industry.

Hawaii Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and several state, county and labor officials met Nov. 3 at the Four Seasons Hotel with 14 television and motion picture execs in two three-hour “focus group” sessions.

‘A new era’

The meetings inaugurated “a new era” in the state’s entertainment promotions, Hawaii film officials said.

The Beverly Hills get-together marked the first time such a high-ranking Hawaii state official has made a trip specifically to boost the state’s entertainment industry.

The nine television executives represented NBC, Studios USA, Spelling Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Television, MGM Television, Columbia TriStar Television and ABC. Motion picture honchos were from Mandalay Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Warner Bros. and Universal Studios.

(Tim Ryan contributed to this report.)

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