The pro­ducer


Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Robert Nott I The New Mex­i­can

Alton Walpole on film­mak­ing

The Pinto movie the­ater in the small New Mex­i­can town of Moun­tainair was Alton Walpole’s sec­ond home in the 1950s. There, he would sit in the pro­jec­tion booth with pro­jec­tion­ist Larry Lopez and peer through the small win­dow to watch the movies on the screen. He still re­calls the ter­ror of watch­ing the 1958 cult hor­ror film The Blob, which in­cludes a se­quence in which the crea­ture seeps into a cin­ema, send­ing the teens in­side run­ning and scream­ing for their lives. “That scared me to death,” Walpole said. Those good old days at the lo­cal movie house came to an end one day in the early 1960s when a snow­storm hit the town hard, de­mol­ish­ing the Pinto. “The roof caved in from the rain and snow and turned the the­ater into a drive-in,” Walpole said with a laugh. “And that was the end of my days hang­ing out at the Pinto.” But Walpole’s love af­fair with movies didn’t end there. A decade or so later, he found him­self work­ing as part of a con­struc­tion crew on the spaghetti Western My Name Is No­body. That job, in the spring of 1973, kicked off a 35-year-plus ca­reer for Walpole in films work­ing as a grip, prop man, set car­pen­ter, ed­i­tor, cam­era as­sis­tant, line pro­ducer, and unit pro­duc­tion man­ager. Not sur­pris­ingly, he named his own pro­duc­tion com­pany Moun­tainair Films. Since then, his cred­its — in dif­fer­ent roles — in­clude God­frey Reg­gio’s avant-garde Koy­aanisqatsi (1982), the cult com­edy The Tao of Steve (2000), Crazy Heart (2009) — which won star Jeff Bridges an Os­car for his por­trayal of an aging, al­co­holic coun­try-western singer — and last year’s ac­claimed Net­flix minis­eries God­less. Pasatiempo: What was the film busi­ness in New Mex­ico like in the early 1970s when you started out?

Alton Walpole: A film would come in, and there would be two of us who would come in for work. I was a grip then. The other guy was an elec­tri­cian — he’d go in and in­ter­view and I’d go in and in­ter­view. There was no la­bor [union] in New Mex­ico then. You could go in and say, “I can do this,” and get a job as a grip. A grip is a phys­i­cal job where you just have to think on your feet and learn ter­mi­nol­ogy. Then I did some ed­i­to­rial work ... and it just hap­pened from there. Pasa: Your first movie job was on My Name Is No­body.

Walpole: That’s when it re­ally started. I moved to Santa Fe, and the first job I had here was re­fin­ish­ing all the ta­ble and chairs at the Inn of the Gov­er­nors. I met a con­struc­tion guy, Claude White, who gave me a job build­ing sets for My Name Is No­body in the

The Pinto the­ater in Walpole’s home­town of Moun­tainair, cour­tesy Walpole

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