It was 6:00am on the nose when I rolled into the parking lot at Monorchid yesterday. Already, a large truck was parked just outside our garage door, and a couple of people I’d never met before were waiting excitedly in the lot.
The day was to be all about Jordon Davis-Foss and his 12-hour marathon film shoot (as I liked to call it). Jordon had described a little of his vision to me when we first met only a couple of weeks earlier after he came by for a surprise tour of the space.
What I remember of this initial interaction was Jordon’s quiet confidence. He didn’t brag about himself or his “years of experience in film”, and yet he carried himself with a gentle authority that somehow still commanded respect. He was quick to smile, quick to laugh, and quick to compliment the space.
What I took away was this: that he was filming a video for his senior thesis at ASU, that the video would include a gallery heist in an art museum, and that he planned, ambitiously, to complete a whole sequence of scenes in a single day here at The Monorchid.
I also knew that he was planning to shoot across each of our spaces, moving from the Main Gallery to the North Studio into our Bokeh Gallery, and even out the back door onto the patio. He also liked the idea of using our rolling gallery walls to create a dynamic, modular set.
But all of these were just ideas and plans - his mind engaging the potential of our space to create the set he had envisioned for his film. Oftentimes, ideas can become lost in the shuffle of practical action and the needs of a pressing schedule, so it remained to be seen just how exactly his ideas would play out.
But Jordon and his team never ceased to impress, from the moment he and Marlon (the assistant director) entered through our garage door lugging bags full of breakfast burritos for cast and crew.
Over the course of the first hour or two, cast continued to trickle in and help themselves to food, exploring the newly installed artwork while Jordon and Marlon worked with Alex Miller (owner of Thunder Grip and Electric and the 3-ton truck parked outside) to begin converting the Main Gallery for their first scene.
As Jordon and his team went about their work over the next several hours, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the complete lack of havoc. These guys were on a schedule, but they weren’t hurried, they weren’t flustered. Most of them were college aged, but they consistently handled themselves like seasoned professionals.
I went about my own work with the door to my office open wide, smiling quietly to myself at the sound of Marlon’s voice commanding the set. Over and over again, this sequence:
“QUIET ON THE SET!”
“HOLD POSITION… ROLL CAMERA!”
“Scene Alpha Beta, Take One.”
"AAAAAAAAND - ACTION!”
“IT’S A TAKE!”
Around 11:00am, I’m on one of my routine check-ins to make sure everything’s continuing to progress smoothly, and one of the guys mentions how great it would be to have some press around this shoot. The idea’s a good one. I don’t make any promises, but I do commit to pulling what strings I can.
I contact two local newspapers, call Wayne and work with him to develop a list of news anchors across multiple local news stations, call and email every one of them I can, then I wait.
It’s not until after 2:30pm that I finally receive an affirmative response, but I do receive the response. It’s a voicemail from Channel 12 News informing me that a photographer is on the way and should arrive within 30 or 40 minutes.
Obviously, I’m ecstatic. (As are Jordon and Marlon when I tell them.) The timing is perfect, because we’re just beginning to shoot the final sequences. I say “we”, because Jordon invites me to be an extra in the final scene. Naturally, I am more than happy to comply.
THE LARGER STORY
Enough about me, though. Let’s bring this to a finer point. There’s a reason this particular film shoot is relevant (and it’s why Channel 12 was so quick to bite). It just so happens that Arizona is one of only 11 states that continues to refuse tax incentives to production companies.
This unfortunate reality has been strangling the state’s true potential for big-budget film opportunities. In fact, when the news piece runs on Channel 12 at 10:00pm, it’s rife with headlines like “Arizona Loses Out in Film Industry” and “Film Industry Dwindles in Arizona”.
(You can watch it HERE.)
Turns out, incentives are so steep in places like New Mexico that production companies are willing to rewrite entire scripts to accommodate the lower cost of location. Because of this, two Arizona house bills are being proposed to help attract the movie industry back to Arizona - HB2621 and HB2144.
In his interview with Channel 12, Jordon speaks to the freshly budding economy in his home state of Michigan, describing the billions of dollars Detroit has seen as a result of its interaction with the movie industry. Here’s the direct quote:
"I wish Arizona had a deeper film experience. I come from Detroit. We've got a lot of jobs, created billions of dollars in revenue for Detroit and the State of Michigan out of our film program and I wish the same could come out of Arizona.”
(You can read the whole article HERE.)
This is a real issue for our beautiful state: movies want to shoot here. They want the context of our landscapes, of our culture. And the groundwork has been laid! The Monorchid isn’t the only studio fully prepared to handle an influx of serious film projects; but like the others, it’s a local business that would benefit greatly from the passing of these bills, along with the rest of the state.
Job creation, an influx of big money, much-deserved exposure for one of this country’s most magnificent states - there’s much to look forward to if we can take these small steps toward immense gain.
But I’ll get off my soapbox now. Let’s jump back to yesterday. Yesterday was a day unlike any I have ever had before. I was lucky to assist in a really interesting film project; I was able to play a part in a serious movie for the first time in my life; and I even ended up on the news for a split second of time: also a first. I made friends and connections that won’t soon be forgotten. I’d call that an exceptionally productive day.
So much thanks go out to Jordon Davis-Foss for bringing his film, The Take, to The Monorchid. To Marlon Hawkins for his careful direction of cast and crew. To the whole lot of these wonderful people who were so respectful of our space. To Wayne for providing solid contacts. To Delbert Vega, the photographer who came out to get our story; and to Channel 12 for creating a place for us in their coverage and for speaking out in response to this important state matter.
And thanks to you, as always, for reading.