Shelli Hall


Once called "Hollywood in the Desert," Tucson has been the location for hundreds of film and television projects since the late 1930s. But the last big-studio production involving Tucson finished work in 2010, and the city's future as a popular movie-making location seems to hold more question marks than dollar signs.

Tucson Film Office Director Shelli Hall will discuss Tucson's impressive past movie credits and current problems in a talk at the Arizona Senior Academy at 2:30 p.m. next Thursday.

She'll share reasons Arizona in general and Tucson in particular have been such attractive spots for filmmakers, and she'll cover some of the state and local initiatives needed to put Tucson back on the map for filmmakers around the world.

In her work, Hall strives to highlight Tucson and Pima County as film-friendly places where exceptional support for all aspects of motion picture production is readily available, including places for creating every kind of content from blockbuster features to small indie flicks and TV commercials.

In the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Tucson was probably America's most active filming location for Western-themed features, television and commercials. Back then, myriad movie crews were camped near our rocky slopes and actors (or their doubles) could be spied galloping horses all over Pima County.

This was the heyday of Western films. "Rio Bravo," "Rio Lobo," "Tombstone," "The Way West," "The Outlaw Josie Wales" and "How the West Was Won" were all Tucson-based features, as were the eclectic "Easy Rider," "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "Stir Crazy." TV series such as "Rawhide," "Little House on the Prairie" and "The High Chaparral" routinely issued from Southeastern Arizona.

But ever since the "runaway production" phenomenon (filming outside the United States) began in the 1990s, Arizona has been unable to rely on opportunities arising through its traditional Hollywood connections. At the same time, other countries, especially Canada, and neighboring states like New Mexico have stepped up to become serious competitors offering a range of powerful incentives.

Making film production here attractive has proved progressively challenging, but local movie industry boosters continue trying every conceivable gambit.

Permits are granted at lightning speed. City and county facilities are made available at low cost. Tucson hosts half a dozen film festivals that familiarize budding movie makers with locations and support.

Arizona state tax incentives, enacted around the turn of the century to encourage filmmaking, expired in 2010 and have yet to be renewed.

"We've not had a feature film shoot here since the program ended," said Hall, who has been director of the Tucson Film Office since 1998.

If you go

• What: Talk and discussion by Shelli Hall

• When: 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21

• Where: Arizona Senior Academy Building at Academy Village, 13715 E. Langtry Lane

• Admission: Free; donations accepted

• Reservations: Recommended; email or call 647-0980

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