El Paso

El Paso's film commissioner retires, reflects on movies filmed in the Sun City

El Pasos film commissioner retires reflects on movies filmed in the Sun City

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso's longtime Film Commissioner is calling it a "wrap."  

August 24, 2018 is the last day on the job for Susie Gaines, who's held the job for more than 30 years. Gaines wasn't always in the film industry. She began her career in El Paso in the hospitality industry, and later moved to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, where in 1985, she was promoted to the position of film commissioner.

During her time, Gaines helped production crews in El Paso on films like "Sicario," "Extreme Prejudice," "The Day After Tomorrow," "Glory Road" and "Courage Under Fire."  Gaines tells ABC-7 she did anything and everything to make El Paso a desirable place to film.  During her time on the job, films, television and commercials have brought more than $100 million worth of production spending to El Paso.

"Film-wise,I'm most proud of 'The Day After Tomorrow,' but then there's 'Courage Under Fire,'" Gaines told ABC-7, adding she is also proud of "Glory Road."  Gaines said she and the legendary Don Haskins discussed the project for years. "I knew from experience it had to be the right time, the right production," Gains said, "Some of the writers wanted to make it different and (Haskins) would call me and ask, 'what do I do?'"

Susie leaves a legacy of professionally recognized film commission work behind her, and has some pretty funny memories of doing what it took to make the show go on.  From removing snow from the international bridge for a production, to coordinating hundreds of extras crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico, to shuttling pigs in the back of her jeep when a pig wrangler didn't show up. She got to read film screenplays, engaged in discussions with producers and directors, and once even babysat camels on set.

Film commissioners tirelessly coordinate with government and private property owners to secure permits, road closures, locations, vendors, crew and any other requests a film production may have.

Gaines acknowledged it has been difficult to compete with the film production incentives offered in Las Cruces and the State of New Mexico. "If the state level would match what we're fighting in New Mexico, (El Paso) could very well add some perks to that," Gaines said.

Susie's late husband, Michael Charske, was also recognized by the Festival for his work as a film location manager. So how will Susie spend her days in retirement?  Being creative, of course.  She has a custom caked business, called "Batter's Up Custom Cake Artistry."  

The search is on for a new Film Commissioner.  

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