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Only Here Podcast: The Cross-Border Film Scene Is Coming Into Focus

In this photo taken July 18, 2019, San Diego filmmaker Omar Lopex (left) shoots his first-ever feature film in Tijuana.
Alan Lilienthal
In this photo taken July 18, 2019, San Diego filmmaker Omar Lopex (left) shoots his first-ever feature film in Tijuana.
Los Angeles is a giant when it comes to making movies. Here in San Diego and Tijuana, we’re stuck under the huge shadow of L.A. It’s hard to compete with Hollywood. But think about it: the border has good bones for eventually becoming a film mecca. It’s one, big, super diverse place that offers access to two really different backdrops. Plus, shooting a film in Mexico is a lot cheaper. And there’s not as much red tape when it comes to permits. Unfortunately, though, a lot of large-scale production companies only think about the border when they’re thinking about movies or TV shows about narcos and drugs. Lots of filmmakers only see the Mexico-U.S. border as a backdrop for stories about drug cartel violence. It’s become such a trope that “narco-fatigue” is a term now. Folks are exhausted by news and pop culture focused on the drug trade in Mexico. Yeah, it’s a huge issue here, but it’s just way over done. Locally, though, some filmmakers like Omar Lopex are using the border to their advantage, making movies that have nothing to do with narcos. And that trend is starting to pick up some steam thanks to efforts by local film groups that are working hard to boost filmmaking in our binational region. Today, a story about filming across borders. Only here will you find filmmakers in San Diego and Tijuana using the border as a valuable resource instead of a janky prop.

Los Angeles is a giant when it comes to making movies.

Here in San Diego and Tijuana, we’re stuck under the huge shadow of LA. It’s hard to compete with Hollywood. But think about it: the border has good bones for eventually becoming a film mecca. It’s one big, diverse region that offers access to two really different backdrops. Plus, shooting a film in Mexico is a lot cheaper. And there’s not as much red tape when it comes to permits.

Unfortunately, though, a lot of large-scale production companies only think about the border when they’re thinking about movies or TV shows about drugs and violence.

Lots of filmmakers have been criticized for primarily using the Mexico-U.S. border as a backdrop for stories about the drug war. It’s become such a trope that “narco-fatigue” is now a term.

Locally, though, some filmmakers like Omar Lopex are using the border to their advantage, making movies that have nothing to do with narcos.

And that trend is starting to pick up some steam thanks to efforts by local film groups that are working hard to boost filmmaking in our binational region.

On a new episode of "Only Here," KPBS' podcast that tells stories that could only come from a border town, a story about filmmakers in San Diego and Tijuana using the border as a valuable resource instead of a lurid prop.

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