Site Title

About the Production...

JOHN CARPENTER’S GHOSTS OF MARS began production in a gypsum mine on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico on August 8th. The mine is a small parcel of the 120,000 plus acres of the Zia Pueblo, sacred land that was settled by the Zia Indians nearly 800 years ago. In keeping with the sanctity of the land and in respect for Zia tradition, at sunset on August 7th, the day before start of principal photography and at John Carpenter’s special request, a tribal elder and medicine man of the Zia Tribe gave a prayer blessing at the Shining Canyon set. Conducted in the Zia language, the blessing prayed for the success of the production, the safety of the cast and crew, and for mutual respect between the production company and the Zia people. The entire cast and crew listened in rapt silence to the prayer and then the English translation, given by a Zia tribal representative.

Construction on the exterior sets began in late May and during the ensuing two and one half months production designer Bill Elliott and his crew created the Martian mining town of Shining Canyon. The buildings -- train station, RecFac Building, jail, police station and supply office -- took a month to construct. But through the magic of Hollywood, they look like they’ve been standing for 75 years, under constant bombardment from meteor showers and high Martian winds, and taking on the color of the planet’s surface. Food coloring was used to transform the normally white gypsum landscape and the town’s buildings into the familiar Martian red. Magnesium chloride was sprayed onto the newly painted surfaces to stabilize the gypsum, decreasing erosion and helping to maintain the set’s color.

Production will continue at the Shining Canyon site for four weeks of night shooting, culminating in the systematic destruction of the town as the Mars Police Force and criminals join forces to do battle with the Martian warriors. These climactic scenes will comprise almost two weeks of filming. Every building on the set will be rigged by special effects wizard Darrell Pritchett and his crew to explode and burn as the Earthlings make their way from the jail at one end of Main Street to the train station at the other, constantly pursued by the warriors.

The futuristic transport train was constructed at a national guard base 15 miles from the set and transported to the location by truck along state highway 44, much to the astonishment of local residents and tourists.

At the completion of exterior shooting, the production will move to a stage in Rio Rancho, where the transport train’s interiors have been built. The company will film on that stage for two weeks, then move to a stage facility in Los Angeles for the final four weeks of shooting. Sets being built at the Los Angeles facility include the interiors of the Shining Canyon buildings.

Costume designer Robin Bush’s challenge was to create several distinct looks for the film including the slick, black uniforms of the Martian Police Force, the utilitarian earth tones of the miners (tinged, of course, with the red Martian dust), and the slightly brighter, menacing earth tones of the Martian warriors. The result is a future/past look that complements the bleak Martian landscape beautifully.

Greg Nicotero and his make-up effects wizards will spend hours each night transforming stunt actors and New Mexican extras into the fearsome Martian warriors. Nicotero’s special challenge, though, was reserved for the character of Big Daddy Mars, the warrior leader. Thanks to Nicotero’s imagination and skill, Big Daddy, as played by actor Richard Cetrone, promises to become one of John Carpenter’s most memorable characters.

Completion of principal photography is slated for late-October.
back button
[Home] [The Man] [The Movies] [The Music] [Sounds] [Press] [Links]