From the Mesa
I had the wonderful opportunity to “volunteer’ as PA/aka set mom for Paul Ratner’s filming of Don Solomono (or Moses on the Mesa). Paul and his wife/producer Petra, brought together a fantastic amalgam of folks from New mexico and LA (and elsewhere) to do the 4 day shoot. On what is for film an absolutely infinitesimal budget, they had a crew of 10 or so, plus actors and extras, horses, three extraordinary sites and catering courtesy of Sharon Levin, a nice Jewish woman who runs a catering business (Gourmettogo.com) who’s garlicky tabouleh and fantastic spicy breakfast quiche kept the whole company going through INTENSE heat over 12 hour days.
My self-appointed role was to help Petra with whatever she needed and the other PA’s were too busy to attend to. The first two days on the set were at EAVES MOVIE RANCH, about 15 minutes south of Santa Fe. Winding roads through cattle and horse country and a few freestanding land masses did not prepare me to enter the wild west circa 1880. The store fronts (and they were mostly just fronts) were rather dilapidated, the insides more so, but there was an atmosphere that was absolutely back in time and what wasn’t provided for got built (including a sauna-like night time Bar that was supposed to have been on top of don Solomono’s grocery store (you have to read the story at mosesonthemesa.com). I had renewed respect for actors who were literally in ‘the schvitz’ – to keep out the daylight the room was wrapped in black plastic (and it was at least 100 degrees out in the air…) The amazing makeup team was in and out with tissues and other supplies to mop up and refresh their faces as they held a late night poker game (or so I surmised- there wasn’t enough room for anyone but the cast and crew to be in that kiva). The next day three local horse wranglers and several local actors and their families stood by for a crowd scene. As “craft services” (I’d picked up the lunch and got to set up and serve in the “jail” that had been commandeered for meals) my job was mostly getting dressing on salad and icing water and gatorades. But I was dearly appreciated. My fun job was to “borrow” two gorgeous old Acoma vases (from 1939 or so) from Palm’s traders for a scene on Sunday. And to get a tire repaired for the cameraman. And to find a tallis for the final scene!
Hurray for my aunt Charlotte – she remembered where Uncle Paul’s tallis was and it turns out it wasn’t his – it was his father’s so actually it is a period tallis – more or less – for the scene where don solomono is on his horse, on the mesa, in his tallis…
The second site – actually the home of a Bibo family member – bought by friend Bob – where he and his son Art sometime stay (they live about an hour away from this gorgeous place inside El Malpais – on the Acoma reservation) So stunningly beautiful from every angle, with so many different species of birds. I was warned to watch out for rattlesnakes (never saw any) and was told about the possibilities of climbing some of these incredible god-made sandstone structures that seem to rise out of the earth. The miracle of this shoot is that Petra and Paul only found out about this amazing site about a month before the shoot from their Albuquerque based art designer Sean. Another Albuq team member was Michael McCormick, whose jewish grandfather left his Norwegian grandmother, who left Norway and came after him with her babe in arms (Michael’s mom) and found him and made him marry her. Mike was in charge of guns, special effects and what not – and his wife runs the alternative synagogue Nahalat Shalom, 500 families in Albaqu! Who knew. The world just gets smaller and smaller.
Editor: For the history behind Solomon, read this article from the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue .