TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The popular series "Yellowstone" has a direct connection to Mescal Movie Set. One of its stars, Forrie J. Smith, began his career at Mescal.
Smith is now doing all he can to see movie and TV productions return to the western town built for filmmaking.
In April of 2021, we first showed you Mescal Movie Set.
"I believe we got in here in the nick of time," said Mescal Movie Set Marketing Director Mark Sankey. "We've got some great historic buildings here. We're going to get it rebuilt."
Eighteen months ago, Mescal had fallen into disrepair after being neglected for years.
Once the sister property to Old Tucson, Mescal is located just over the Rincon Mountains in Cochise County.
Some of the buildings made famous in movies like "Tombstone" and "The Quick and the Dead" were literally falling down after years of neglect.
Fast forward a year-and-a-half, and a crew of volunteers has literally brought the mythical western town back to life.
"Everyone here is passionate about the place and really cares about what they're doing and saving the place," said Operations Manager Lou Adams. " It's a labor of love. Most of us are retired so we've got time on our hands."
Adams and the other volunteers have logged over 15,000 hours, allowing for projects to again be filmed at Mescal.
"We've had 12 this year," Sankey said. "We've had three feature movies, we've done some music videos, commercials, a lot of western shorts, and it's more we expected. I expect that next year we'll grow by quite a bit."
To help finance the restoration work, Mescal has been holding fundraisers, like a recent meet and greet wit Smith, who plays Lloyd on "Yellowstone."
"It's great, it's just great," said Smith. " I'm so blessed to be able to come back and maybe make a difference."
Smith says he got teary-eyed talking to a group of fans at the fundraiser, describing being back at Mescal. He started his film career here, as a stuntman on the 1986 remake of "Stagecoach."
"I worked three days right here on this street riding a horse up and down this street," recalled Smith. "It's just been a great experience. I'm so glad that I done it."
Smith shared his experiences on a tour of Mescal, where he shot scenes for series like "Young Riders" and "Gunsmoke," and movies like "Tombstone."
"That happened right here," Smith told dozens of fans on a tour of the main street at Mescal.
Now that he's acting on the hit series "Yellowstone," he's using his influence to help preserve what he calls an important part of the fabric of Arizona.
"Western after western you watch you see Old Tucson, you see Mescal, you see the Chiricahua Mountains," Smith said. "Moviemaking is part Arizona history. A lot of the people that move here don't understand that this is part of our fabric, this is part of who we are, is the movie business."
Thanks to the efforts of Smith and the dozens of volunteers, the movie business is coming back to Mescal Movie Set.
Sankey tells KGUN 9 that they could have as many as 20 productions at Mescal Movie Set next year, thanks to the hard work of the volunteers and the upcoming Arizona tax rebate for filmmakers that begins January 1, 2023.
Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.