Film set in World War II being shot in Baja California

Published 29 August 11 01:08 PM

Written by Sandra Dibble

A movie set in California during World War II is being shot in Baja California, generating an estimated $14 million investment to the state and bringing new hope to the region’s lagging film industry.

Filmmaker Eduardo Verástegui describes “Little Boy” as an “adult fairy tale,” with a look inspired by Norman Rockwell’s paintings. Much of the action will be shot in English at Baja Studios south of downtown Rosarito Beach, the same location where James Cameron’s 1997 movie “Titanic” was filmed.

“We can call it the reactivation of the film industry in Baja,” said Juan Tintos, the state’s tourism secretary.

Verástegui is a Mexican actor and filmmaker who with two partners formed Metanoia Films, the Los Angeles production company behind the movie. By filming in Mexico, Verástegui said that they are able to cut their cost in half: A production that would have cost more than $48 million in the United States is costing $24 million, said Verástegui,

“There was really good disposition on the part of the government. They said, ‘What can we do for you so that you come to the state and make a movie that speaks well of Baja California?’ ” Verástegui said in an interview at Baja Studios.


                                                                   Workers building a set for the film "Little Boy" at Baja Studios south of Rosarito Beach. (Sandra Dibble)


Kurt Honold, president of Baja Studios, said “Little Boy” would be the first production in Baja California to take advantage of an incentive program launched last year by President Felipe Calderón that gives foreign filmmakers a 7.5 percent rebate of what they spend in Mexico.

In a news conference at the studios on Monday announcing the production of “Little Boy,” Baja California Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán said he is proposing a further incentive that would release film production companies from a state payroll tax.

“It makes sense to come to Mexico, because Mexico is close,” Honold said. “It also has to make sense economically.”

Baja California lost opportunities in recent years with the withdrawal of film productions from the state. Disney Studios’ plan to film “Chronicles of Narnia” at Baja Studios was halted in 2008, amid a rise in drug-related violence in the region.

Honold acknowledged that violence was one motivation for the studio’s decision to move production to Australia but said that the main reason was economic. “It didn’t make sense economically because we didn’t have the incentive program,” he said.

A subsequent Disney project, “Captain Nemo,” was halted when Disney “decided to change directions in management, and stopped everything related to movies except animation,” Honold said. Baja Studios has reestablished contact with Disney about the film.

State authorities say that the filming of “Little Boy” will generate $14 million in revenue for Baja California. It will create 450 jobs, 90 percent of them in Mexico, they said. An additional 1,000 people will be hired as extras, including many members of Rosarito Beach’s sizable community of U.S. ex-pats.

Though based at Baja Studios, the movie will also be shot in the Guadalupe Valley, the Laguna Salada, a rural area of Tecate, and Tijuana’s Casa de la Cultura, as well as Todos Santos in Baja California Sur. The settings will depict scenes that include a prisoner-of-war camp in the Philippines and Hiroshima after the atomic bomb.

Filming won’t begin until late this month, though preproduction work has begun, including the construction of a set at Baja Film Studios meant to depict the California town.

The film is the Metanoia’s second production. Verástegui and Alejandro Gómez Monteverde, the director of “Little Boy” collaborated for the 2005 film “Bella,” a $3 million production filmed in New York in 23 days that won the People’s Choice Award in 2007 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“Little Boy” tells the story of eight-year-old Pepper, who lives in a California coastal town and dreams about rescuing his father, a soldier fighting on the Pacific front. It will feature British actors Ben Chaplin and Emily Watson, as well as U.S. actors Michael Rapaport and Jakob Salvati. Verástegui will play a Mexican priest. He said they are still in negotiations over one of the principal roles.

Filming is scheduled to start late this month, and last for 11 weeks, Verástegui said.


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