History Lessons

Though it may be a bit early to say so, I believe yesterday marked a turning point for PRC Productions, the locally-based film production house with which I have been working for the past year and a half. It certainly marked a turning point for me.

After shepherding the feature film Truth through a limited theatrical run, co-founding Borderlands Media as a distribution arm of the company and releasing Truth to DVD and VOD via recognizable outlets like Netflix and Redbox, we are beginning production on original content that will further establish southern New Mexico as a hub for independent film production. And we’re doing it, despite the naysayers and detractors whose lack of faith and negative interference has only served to make us more persistent and focused on that goal.

To that end, we had a really great preliminary interview with a fascinating woman named Henrietta Stockel, yesterday. Henrietta is considered the foremost authority on the Chiricahua Apaches, the proud Native Americans who gave rise to perhaps the most famous warrior chief, Geronimo, and the remnants of which now make their home amongst the Mescalero Apaches in the Sacramento Mountains. Originally from New Jersey, but a dyed-in-the-wool New Mexican with a passion for challenging revisionist history and revealing buried truths through a series of impeccably researched books, Henrietta now lives in my hometown of Tularosa, where she can be close to her adopted “family.”

Members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, held at a detainment camp at the turn of the last century.

Henrietta will be the lynchpin of PRC Productions first filmed episode of the second season of Pláticas. After positioning the first season on KRWG-TV – where it airs on Thursday nights at 9:30pm, with repeat showings on Sunday nights at 10:30pm – I have been asked by producer Troy Scoughton to take on the creative reins of director for the series. A very generous offer and one about which I didn’t have to think twice. Though the series has only aired three episodes, with the fourth airing tomorrow night, we have been told by the producers at KRWG that it is already gaining a following, with people calling in to express their delight at a series focused on the area on which we live. With that in mind, I am more than ready to take Pláticas to the next level.

This is a responsibility I take very seriously, just as I did in getting the first season before the people who made key decisions at KRWG. These are, as I have quoted Mr. Scoughton before in press releases and interviews, “the stories which must be told,” before the people who tell them are no longer with us. Descended from a family line that can be traced back to Spanish settlers in the 16th century, I have a vested interest in bringing that philosophy to life. But whereas the first season simply introduced the concept of capturing our fading oral history from the people who lived it, or to whom the stories were passed down, my goal is to make the second season more dynamic and universally acceptable to anybody with an interest in the real stories behind the myths and legends of “the Old West.”

To do this, I will be relying on the considerable skills of the young filmmakers who make their home here in the southern part of the state. It is not enough to simply capture the stories as they are being told. We have an opportunity here to showcase these stories by going to the very places where they had their birth and revealing the landscapes that made such stories possible. Given the opportunity to put these skilled and eager young filmmakers to work, lovingly capturing the atmosphere of life in the southwest, as a way of illustrating to the uninitiated a true perspective behind the legends, is a bonus that cannot be discounted.

Why? Because like Henrietta, I have a passion for the land I call home. Unlike Henrietta, I was actually born in the state of New Mexico, ironically enough, in Ruidoso, the mountain community that lies on the eastern border of the Mescalero Apache reservation. I grew up hearing tales of real-life cowboys and Indians. I was fascinated by the Apache, growing up as I did in Tularosa, at the western base of the Sacramento Mountains. I thrilled to the stories of Geronimo, Cochise, Mangas Colorado, Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, Col. Albert Fountain and the warring factions of the Lincoln County War. The fact that the Trinity Site, where the very first atomic bomb was tested, is a mere 60 miles from Tularosa, only added a huge dollop of space age spice to the rich history by which I found myself surrounded. How could I not be influenced by it all?

The courthouse in Lincoln, New Mexico, was a focal point for the Lincoln County War.

So, this is where I find myself today. Returning to the land of my birth a little over seven years ago, after spending 25 years honing my skills in the publishing, marketing and film worlds, then championing the burgeoning film industry in southern New Mexico, I have been asked to help create a documentary series that will bring to life the true stories behind the legends with which I grew up. My first assignment is a woman living in my hometown, championing the cause of a dwindling people and desperately trying to gather together the unraveling threads of a fading tapestry. If that’s not kismet, I don’t know what is.

Did I ever think I would find myself doing something like this? No, but how could I? Sometimes the life we choose to live doesn’t really make much sense to us, much less to an outsider, but we do it because we are who we are. This is who I am. A very proud New Mexican who has been given an opportunity to put everything I have learned over the past five decades to work on a project in which I passionately believe.

Meeting with Henrietta Stockel was just the beginning, but it solidified the project and made it very real in my mind. This is why I consider it a turning point, not just for myself, but for PRC Productions. With luck, we will further prove our detractors wrong, by showing them what southern New Mexico has to offer. I’m going to do my damnedest to make this the best series we possibly can. A gift not just to my fellow New Mexicans, but to the world itself.

Filming begins next week and I have a lot of work to do in preparation. Meanwhile plans are already underway to document the stories of several notable individuals – politicians, farmers, artists, descendents of pioneers and knowledgeable historians like Henrietta Stockel – while also capturing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like the centennial of the invasion by Pancho Villa of Columbus, New Mexico in early March. Our goal is not just to create a second season for airing on KRWG, but a series that is strong enough to gain a larger following outside of New Mexico. I would love it if we could be picked up by PBS. I’d love it even more if we could be picked up by a platform like the History Channel. I don’t think any of it is out of reach. That’s how strongly I believe in what we are trying to achieve here.

We’ve got our work cut out for us. Honestly, I could not be more thrilled.

On tap for the new season is an episode on the centennial of Pancho Villa’s historic raid on Columbus, New Mexico, in March of 1916.

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