Gov. Bill Richardson, right, talks with Jim Keith, seated, after a press conference Wednesday during the Clovis/Curry County Chamber luncheon at the Holiday Inn. (Staff photo by Eric Kluth)
By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer
Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday he had a big announcement to make about a feature film set for production in Clovis.
He peered at the audience of about 100 people at the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce luncheon and jokingly made his push for movie superstardom.
“I have to star in the film,” he told movie producers.
The governor addressed city residents and leaders for about 15 minutes, praising the feature film “Believe in Me,” which is set to begin shooting in the area later this month.
Film director and screenwriter Robert Collector sat beside directors John Manulis and Cotty Chubb as the governor praised their work.
“This is a major film, these are big-time producers,” he said.
With an $8 million budget, “Believe,” chronicles an Oklahoma girls basketball coach leading his team to the state finals. Movie officials expect the film to employ about 100 local residents as well as countless unpaid extras. Two area girls, Allison Cochran, 19, of Melrose and Hailey Grimes, 18, of Farwell, have been cast as players on the movie’s featured basketball team.
In his first visit to Clovis since early July, Richardson also outlined a four-part economic plan he said will benefit rural areas. He said the plan will commit $2 million capital outlay money to the state Main Street fund to rebuild main streets in several communities including Clovis.
And the governor said he will ask the legislature to designate $1 million to a film training program targeting crew members.
“We have to have our people trained for this burgeoning industry that we feel is one of the futures to our state,” he said.
Despite state economic talk by Richardson, “Believe” took center stage at the luncheon.
Richardson was given a basketball and “Believe in Me” T-shirt. Oklahoma girls basketball coach Jim Keith, on whose team the movie is based, and his wife were in attendance and honored.
“I think this movie is really a godsend to Clovis,” said Clovis Mayor David Lansford. “We are especially proud because of the type of movie this is. It is a reflection of all the best in America.”
Movie producers announced call-outs for movie extras and female basketball players ages 18-23 to play the part of opposing team members.
Manulis said actor Jeffrey Donovan will likely play coach Keith’s character in the film but casting is ongoing for the wife’s part. Donovan starred as detective David Creegan in the USA network series “Touching Evil.”
Collector said Richardson and the state Legislature led to their choosing eastern New Mexico as a filming location.
“The perception in Hollywood is that New Mexico wants to work with film companies,” Collector said. “Therefore we took the state up on their offer.”