Pueblo Turns Former Casino Into Film Production Space

The Tesuque Pueblo, an 800-member Tribe near Santa Fe, has converted a shuttered casino into a film production studio with the aim of luring major motion pictures to its picturesque red-brown foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Outdoor filming can take place across 27 square miles of the reservation. (Tesuque Pueblo)

The Tesuque Pueblo of New Mexico has repurposed an unused 75,000-square foot facility that formerly housed a casino into Camel Rock Studios, among the first movie studios owned by a Native American Tribe in cinema history.

The Pueblo of Tesuque Development Corporation invested $50 million to build out the facility, re-envisioning and reconstructing existing infrastructure for movie scenes, according to Variety.

“Casinos, inherently, if you take out all the games, are big empty spaces,” said Timothy Brown, president and CEO of the Pueblo of Tesuque Development Corporation. “So we had an events center that we did concerts in and large parties that was a big vacant space. Once we removed all the casino equipment and furniture from the casino area, that became another large vacant space, and then with any business we had an entire administrative area with cubicles and offices that became perfect for their offices to move in.”

The Tesuque Pueblo is no stranger to Hollywood; more than 20 productions have been shot there, including “Cowboy,” “The Man from Laramie,” and, last year, the Tom Hanks film “News of the World,” slated to be released this upcoming Christmas. For that film, Universal constructed a 130,000 gallon water tank, which will remain as part of the studio.

“We continue to get a couple calls a week from scouts, and the season is starting to ramp up again for filming,” Brown told Variety. “The plan is to continue to develop it, add amenities, add sets, especially outdoor sets over time, whatever kind of village that the industry is looking for.”

“You don’t realize it, but this area looks like a lot of places in the world,” Brown continued. “Especially the Middle East, with the mountains and how rugged it is. It looks like a lot of places all over the globe, so it makes it easy to adapt.”

According to the studio’s website, it now offers “7,500 square feet of production office and support space, all on the ground floor, along with a large conference room. Additional space is available for dressing rooms, hair and make-up rooms, laundry, and storage.”

It also offers a number of interior filming areas, including a 14,400-square-foot, column-free area and a 16,000-square-foot area with partial columns, in addition to six interior standing sets — a two-story entry feature evocative of a museum or public building, a club lounge or bar set, a restaurant with roughed-out open cooking area, a roughed-out commercial kitchen, and numerous hallway and service counter settings.

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