By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer
Eastern New Mexico could be become the filming location for a feature-length sports movie — if local officials can prove its likeness to 1960s Oklahoma.
The New Mexico Film Office announced this week that Clovis and surrounding areas are being considered for a $7 million production with a crew comprised of about 100 New Mexicans.
“Believe In Me,” will be based on a true story about an Oklahoma girls basketball coach who takes his team to the state championship.
Producer John Manulis, whose resume includes the 1995 film “The Basketball Diaries,” is scouting locations including Clovis/Portales, Las Cruces, Moriarity/Albuquerque and Las Vegas, N.M., said Rorie Hanrahan of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, which oversees the film office.
“We do a fair amount of scouting in that (eastern New Mexico) area. We are always working to bring films outside the hub of Santa Fe and Albuquerque,” Hanrahan said, adding there is no front-runner. “They don’t have anything pinned down right now.”
Hanrahan said producers may want a New Mexico city to double as Oklahoma rather than shooting in that state because of incentives offered by New Mexico.
With Clovis in the running, the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce must now convince movie producers Clovis can, in fact, be the best Oklahoma.
Chamber representative Liz Eisenbraun has scoured the city looking for three sites:
• A medium-size school with an original looking gymnasium built in the early 1950s.
• A large cotton farm with a vintage pre-1960s farm house.
• A house and neighborhood on the edge of town.
“We found a house (outside of town on North Prince Street) … built in 1959,” Eisenbraun said. “They thought it was cool but I didn’t get the feeling like ‘yeah, this is it.’”
“The gym might be tricky to find.”
Eisenbraun said she is lining up an itinerary of properties for producers and directors to visit next week.
The scheduled shoot will last 35 days beginning in late September, according to the film office. New Mexicans will make up about 100 of the crew members.
Believe Productions, the film’s maker, is searching for girls basketball players between ages 18-25 to play basketball and have speaking parts, Eisenbraun said.
Should the Clovis/Portales area land the film, the economic implications would be felt, Hanrahan said. The cast and crew will rent housing, ranches and frequent local restaurants and grocery stores.
“It is a $7 million budget and a certain amount of that ends up in the community,” she said.
The State Investment Council has approved a three-year $3.5 million loan for the project. The SIC will also loan $7.5 million for a second film, “Walkout,” to be filmed in the Albuquerque area.
“Believe In Me,” is based on the Harold Keith novel “Brief Garland.” The story, set in the 1960s, is about a man who relocates to the Oklahoma Panhandle to take a job as a boys’ high school basketball coach but by fate is assigned to an under-appreciated girls team. The story follows his team’s run to the state championship.
Eisenbraun said if the community can find the sought-after sites, Clovis has everything to offer the film producers.
“That is obvious. We welcome everybody,” she said. “We have a reputation for being hospitable.”