Filmmakers take liberties with locations

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

The new TV show “Heroes” debuted recently. The show featured scenes supposedly from around the world. The viewer knew this because the location was printed at the bottom of the screen: “Tokyo,” “New York,” and “Odessa, Texas.”

“That’s not Odessa,” I yelled at the TV. This type of behavior usually earns an admonishing look from The Lady of the House along with reminders that “It’s only TV.”

“It’s only TV,” said The Lady of the House with an admonishing look.
“There are no hills around Odessa,” I said, pointing at the TV screen, “That’s someplace in California.”

If you’ve been to Odessa you know it’s a hunk of west Texas desert. It’s hot, sun-blasted, there’s scrubby vegetation and there’s that sweet smell from the oil wells. There are no verdant glades of oaks and maples and no hills. The highest topographical feature is a highway overpass.

Filmmakers have been redesigning the countryside for years. You may sit up and notice when they do it to the familiar or your own area. Like a TV commercial for one of the Albuquerque congressional candidates.

There were words and stuff superimposed over some supposed New Mexico scenery, with saguaro cacti in the picture. The ad was obviously done by someone back east. Saguaro is the huge cactus found around Phoenix and Tucson. That’s Arizona, not New Mexico.

I started paying attention to this stuff when I saw the movie “White Sands,” a flick shot in our Land of Enchantment. Willem DaFoe starred as the sheriff of Torrance County.

Torrance County is a piece of real estate east of Albuquerque consisting of mostly plains and playas. The makers of the movie apparently thought it was too featureless. They went north a bit to Taos, did some shooting and implied the Rio Grande Gorge lies somewhere around Willard or Moriarity. I didn’t understand why they didn’t just set the movie near Taos.

Then there’s the new series “Jericho.” Supposedly set in Kansas, the story involves a town cut off from the rest of the country after Denver and some other major cities get nuked. The folks in the TV show know this because there’s a mushroom cloud over the distant hills; California hills.

Notice it next time you’re watching TV. Like on the show “Criminal Minds” when the crime fighters were sent to Florida. There they are, tooling down the highway with tall hills behind them. In case you haven’t been to Florida, there are as many tall hills in The Sunshine State as there are ski resorts.

Then I think of film crews who show up in our little burg and want us to be Oklahoma. Why can’t we be Clovis?

So if Hollywood can pretend areas are something they’re not, maybe I’ll start doing the same. I mean, if I get bored with my surroundings I suppose I could pause at Thornton Street, look east down 19th Street, see Greene Acres Lake off in the distance and imagine I’m not far from the Mississippi River waterfront in Memphis.
Or peer out the front door of our stucco hacienda through the pines and pretend I’m in the mountains of Virginia. Maybe as I bicycle over our flat landscape I could be in the countryside of northern Ohio, it’s just as flat.

But most of the time it’s good to be in our little metropolis on the High Plains.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: