Movie project transforms Holloman

  • Published
  • By Arlan Ponder
  • 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
What do the Air Force’s first stealth fighter, a toy that has been around since the 1980s, and a director who loves big-budget, special effects-driven movies all have in common? The answer is the DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures project, "Transformers," being filmed here. 

On May 19, Col. David Moore, 49th Fighter Wing commander, along with representatives from the Department of Defense, Air Force public affairs and Otero County, officially announced pre-production work was being completed with filming to begin within a few days. 

“We have been working in collaboration with DreamWorks studios over the last two months preparing to support them in filming a major Hollywood motion picture at Holloman,” Colonel Moore said. “We have been anxious to talk about what we’re doing. We’re happy to finally have the opportunity to discuss the movie publicly.” 

Had it not been for several factors, such as the look of the base and surrounding terrain, the tax-credit New Mexico offers movie-makers and the base’s proximity to the White Sands Missile Range, the announcement never would have taken place. 

“The production sent location scouts to seven Air Force bases and several Army installations,” said 1st Lt. Christian Hodge, chief of industry relations for the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs entertainment liaison. “There have been several challenges, but Team Holloman has come through in a big way.” 

The professionalism of Airmen at Holloman also came into play, Lieutenant Hodge said, not to mention one special item: the only operational F-117 wing. The proximity of the CV-22 Osprey at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque was also a plus because the film will feature both aircraft. 

“The F-117s will be pictured prominently in the movie, both as static background and taxiing aircraft,” said Lieutenant Hodge, who has been a fan of Transformers since he was a child. “The CV-22 Osprey is scheduled to make its feature film debut in this movie, along with the F-22 Raptor.” 

Also featured in the film will be the A-10 Thunderbolt II, AC-130 and C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, MH-53 Pave Low, HH-60 Pave Hawk, MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and Air Force One. The filming of the F-22, C-17, Predator and Air Force One will be done at another location. 

Although the rumor mill was working overtime since a casting call seeking extras was issued in March, mum has been the official word. Representatives close to the film have been in the area for several months coordinating the efforts to get more than 300 crew members here and several sets built. Until May 19 the specifics of the project had only been rumor. 

“We have had the pleasure of working with DreamWorks Productions beginning mid-January as we met (for) discussions concerning the logistical details for the project,” said Kathleen Curtis, Otero County Economic Development Council. 

The movie, which is using the working title “Transformers,” has been a long time coming even before Holloman became involved. Originally a Hasbro toy, Transformers products made a place in retail history by selling more than $3 billion in items since the metamorphosing toys hit the market in 1984.

The original film was an animated version released in 1986, but fans worldwide have called for a live-action version. According to Lieutenant Hodge, the Air Force, Army and Department of Defense provided notes and suggestions on draft scripts before the final version was approved. 

Numerous actors names have been thrown around in association with this feature film, but it appears Josh Duhamel, Michael Clarke Duncan, Tyrese Gibson, Bernie Mac, John Turturro and Jon Voight will make appearances. 

This project is the largest movie since “Black Hawk Down” to receive DOD approval. Each year the Pentagon receives numerous requests to film the armed forces in action, however, selection is based on how accurately the forces will be portrayed. Military image is important, according to Army Lt. Col. Paul Sinor, lead public affairs representative for DOD. 

Despite the fact this film will have a “science fiction” flair, the project is a realistic portrayal of actual Air Force and Army servicemembers, Colonel Sinor said. The relationship between the director and DOD also was considered during the approval process. 

“We’ve worked with Michael Bay before," Colonel Sinor said. "We like the way he operates. He understands how the military operates. We have a very good relationship." 

Mr. Bay is noted for directing several big-budget, special effects-driven movies like “Armageddon,” “The Rock,” “Bad Boys” and DOD-approved, “Pearl Harbor.”

Lieutenant Hodge said Mr. Bay has been on base since May 19. 

“Mr. Bay is fully engaged in making this movie. He doesn’t sleep much and is very, very busy,” he said. “He is much like a general in a deployed environment in that he has a lot of people under his command and is under extreme pressure to successfully accomplish his mission.” 

Colonel Moore said there are similarities between a major motion picture set and an Air Force facility such as Holloman. He said to establish a movie set requires housing, dining, storage, office space and logistics, all of which servicemembers require when they deploy. 

“There were many commonalities that we were unaware of," the colonel said.

"We have discovered that they, like us, go to great lengths to organize and prepare to set up their shots to film, considering the camera angles, considering the light, considering when everything is ready and making sure it’s prepared," Colonel Moore said. "There are enormous similarities between that and a military operation.”