This series of posts highlights some of our local industry talent: on-screen and behind-the-scenes, established and up-and-coming. We asked Bega Metzner to provide insight into her work as the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission Director, how she got started, and what advice she has for people trying to get into the film industry.
Bega Metzner is the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission Director and is based out of Moab, Utah. Previously, Bega worked in NY and LA as a costume designer, stylist, and set costumer on feature films, commercials, and editorial and e-commerce fashion projects.
Is this career path something you always wanted to pursue?
I always loved the creative arts and found myself originally drawn to acting. A couple of years out of college, I realized that wasn’t the path for me and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I was waiting tables and working in my mother’s photo studio but I needed a change. I called a family friend in LA and asked him point blank if I could work on the movie he had written and was going to direct. I didn’t know how Hollywood “worked” so I thought the worst he could say is no! What he did say was, “Ok, you can work on my movie but you need to move to LA, you need to find a place to live, a car to drive, get to work on time and don’t mess up!” So, that’s what I did. I worked as a PA. I loved it. Hard work, builds character. I met the Costume Designer on that film set, who liked my “sense of style.” Her next project was in NY and she had never been there so she asked if I would try out the wardrobe department as her shopper and show her around. Thus, began a six-year working relationship all over the country where I started out as a shopper, on-set costumer and eventually, assistant costume designer. After 6 years, I chose to strike out on my own but I continued to work in all of those design capacities to keep it interesting.
I never imagined I would be a film commissioner. Up until I started working at the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission just over four years ago, I really didn’t have much of an idea of what was involved in being a film commissioner. I see my job now as another way to be involved in the film industry with a lot less shopping, lint rolling and safety pins! Being able to interact with location managers, producers and directors and helping to facilitate all types of production in this capacity is really quite creative, fun and inspiring on a whole new level.
What is your experience both living and working in Utah?
Utah is really a spectacular state and the Southeastern region of Grand and San Juan Counties is literally breathtaking. I get to take potential clients out on initial scouts and seeing it through their eyes for the first time is like seeing it for the first time again for me. It never grows old. And it keeps me from taking this epic landscape for granted.
Working in this capacity, I get to collaborate with so much of the incredible local community. Crew, vendors, restaurants, hotels, recreational activity providers, local film permitting agencies like the BLM, State and National Parks, SITLA, PD and Sheriff’s Department. I love the collaboration. I truly appreciate if I can’t find the answer to something there is usually someone I can call that will know the answer or connect me to someone who does.
What is a day in the life at the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission like?
I can honestly say no two days are alike! Some days are office days, checking and responding to emails or adding photos and projects to the website database. All is calm for a bit and then the phone rings and the instant shift happens as a filming inquiry comes in. It could be a producer, director, location manager. “I saw photos on your website of ___ and we would like to film___ for a secret ___ (commercial/movie/ reality show) at___ in two weeks, is there a way to make that happen?” It’s like Mad Libs! That’s where the fun begins, the detective work.
As a film commissioner, I am here to help facilitate any aspect of filming production. I act as a liaison between the production companies and the area that I represent. Those requests lead to putting together a package of photos that will hopefully inspire the production companies to come and scout on the ground. That call could also mean I’m getting in the work truck to take a location manager who just got into town out on an initial recce (a function the film commission does free of charge) or putting together a list of local location experts that are listed on the film commission website that can continue with them through the rest of the process.
When I do have a weekend day off I try to get out on a horse with a friend for a few hours out into the desert, on any number of incredible trails, and remember why I live in this place. It’s pretty much what keeps me sane.
You are currently working on the Moab Showdown taking place in November. Can you tell us about it?
This year the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission is celebrating its 70th anniversary as the longest running film commission in the world! I came up with an idea to celebrate this milestone I would host the Moab Showdown 49-hour short film competition (because we were established in ’49 so filmmakers get an extra hour to make their movie). We thought it would be a fun and interesting way to bring people from anywhere in the world, in the country and in the state to get a chance to make a movie in Moab. We want to share the beauty of this iconic area to future (and present) filmmakers. We want to give the local community and especially the middle and high school kids an opportunity to see that there is this immense industry that exists out there but it also exists locally and if they understand how many players it takes and what opportunities are available in the industry, it might give them the spark to want to be a part of it for a living. It hopefully helping students understand that what they are watching on their devices or at the theater is not where it ends… It’s the beginning of how to make what they want to watch.
We just finished a very successful collaboration with SPYHOP in Salt Lake City. A wonderful educator came to Moab for a three day after school youth filmmaking bootcamp. We set this up a few weeks before the Showdown to get the kids prepared and inspired to compete. The students wrote, shot and edited very short films and they were great!!
The Moab Showdown will take place November 7th – 10th, 2019. At the Kickoff event on Thursday, November 7th at 11:00am each team will choose a genre at random. They will be given a mystery prop and a line of dialogue that are required elements in their film.Teams of any size can Show Up at the Showdown in Moab and when the whistle sounds they will have 49 hours to write, shoot and edit a 2 to 8 minute short film. Registration is up and running so get your posse together and register now at https://www.filmmoab.com/moabshowdown.
How much of a Utah presence did you feel on the set of Utah-made productions that you have worked on?
I always wish I saw more! The Moab area has a small but vibrant production crew. It’s always difficult to get larger productions (and often smaller ones as well) to recognize that there are fantastic, hard-working, talented people here who have been working in the industry for a very long time and that the companies don’t have to bring in all their crew from elsewhere. If the companies do hire local they usually come back and say, “You were right… Great local crew!” But the struggle continues and I’m always working to try to change that.
Can you tell us a cool or funny experience that you had on a filmed-in-Moab production or at the office?
Hmmmm… Hard one! The last minute requests that I get calls for can be over the top and difficult to accomplish but I do everything I can to make it happen! One production was asking for a grand piano on a holiday weekend brought out to Fisher Towers (21 miles from town) to be set up on the red rocks with the beautiful vista behind… I found 4 people with pianos and one even willing to haul it out there… We found a solution that worked.
A recent cool thing was having Mark Wahlberg fly in on his private jet with his entourage and a few crew members to shoot for only 6.5 hours in Moab for the film Good Joe Bell that had been shooting in other parts of Utah. It was a rough, bad weather day but they came, they shot, they left and the director and crew were just amazed and thrilled at what could be accomplished in such a short time.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
True story. I wasn’t given a name when I was born. My parents didn’t know what to name me so they called me Baby b. All they knew was that they wanted it to be something with the letter “B.” This went on for years… Finally, when I was three years old I was in an elevator in NY with my mom and a man asked what my name was. I said, “I wanna be beeega!” My mom said, “that’s not your name, we call you Baby b!” Again, I said, “I wanna be beeega!” It turns out I was saying, “I want to be BIGGER” to push the buttons in the elevator!! From that moment on, they called me Bega.
What advice would you give a local who is trying to get into the industry?
Know someone working on a film project? Ask them if you can work on it in any capacity. Start from the ground up. Everyone has to start somewhere and it doesn’t matter your age or your background as long as you have the passion. You can also contact your local film commission and tell them you are interested in trying to get into the industry. See if there is a local Production Assistant (PA) training course that you can take. Working as a PA is demanding, difficult and can be long hours but as a set PA or production office PA it can inform you of all the other crew members that are involved in making a movie or a commercial. It can inspire you to want to be a part of the film industry on a grander scale.
Last but not least, come to Moab, Utah for the Moab Showdown November 7-10th. Bring some friends / crew, a camera or IPhone. Pick a genre out of a hat, add a few elements we will provide (prop and line) write it, shoot it, edit it, and turn in your 8 minute or less short film before the 49 hours are up… Maybe you’ll win and get an award! There is no better way to see what it’s like to make a movie then to throw yourself into the fire!
Is there any additional information that you’d like us to know about you or the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission?
In addition to my ‘normal’ job as film commissioner, I am committed to bringing fun and entertaining events to the local community. A couple of those things include working in collaboration with Moab City Recreation. We hold bi-monthly outdoor screenings from March to October in our local Swanny City Park with free popcorn and a free raffle of the DVD of the movie. We are also currently partnering with NFMLA (New Filmmakers Los Angeles) to bring four films and their filmmaker quarterly over the next year to Moab to screen a narrative or doc and do a Q&A after the event. Our first screening of Alaska is a Drag with Utah native Shaz Bennett was a huge success. Our next NFMLA collaboration will be with filmmaker Arthur Diennet and the film American Bistro that he wrote, directed and stars in. American Bistro will be playing at Historic Star Hall on Friday, December 13th at 7:00pm.
If you want to get in touch, don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected] or call our office at 435.259.4341. You can also subscribe to our (very infrequent) newsletter, browse our comprehensive PDF of film history, and peruse some of the beautiful locations we have to offer. Moab to Monument Valley is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, all with the handle @filmmoab.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Syd Smoot is the Film Program Specialist at the Utah Film Commission. For any press and media inquiries, contact the Utah Film Commission at [email protected].