Listening to Chris Ramirez describe a day on the job is like watching Lawrence of Arabia’s desert campaign unfold in real time. This is how the 40-year-old founder of Silver State Production Services, a one-stop production house for visiting film and television productions, describes a typical working day last fall: “Up at 5 a.m. to make calls to New York; finalizing arrangements for the shooting of some French music videos; location scouting and ‘crewing up’ for music videos by Lil Wayne and Birdman; logistics work on the upcoming The Hangover, Part III; connecting with his casting and art directors for Haunted Alley, an epic Halloween haunted house Silver State produced for Fremont East; and making calls to clients in Los Angeles.”
Silver State—a Downtown-based operation with nine full-timers, with another five set to join—was so busy it recently turned away a client for the very first time, leading Ramirez to a dramatic crossroad in 2013: “We’re either going to get selective this year,” he says, “or expand this and take on about everything.”
Taking on everything is what’s gotten Ramirez this far, so that’s a good bet. The 1991 Bishop Gorman High grad has always had aspirations that Las Vegas couldn’t quite contain. He’s parked cars, founded a security company and even worked as a consultant for the Native American gaming industry in San Diego, chasing a nebulous dream. It didn’t crystallize until 2000, when he had a chance meeting in Las Vegas with an old Gorman friend, Trent Othick, who’d gone into the movie business.
“He was the only person I knew in the industry, so I kept bugging him. He even tried to dissuade me: ‘You’re really going to start at the bottom.’ But I didn’t give a shit. This was what I wanted to do.”
He was soon doing location scouting for several out-of-town productions shooting here, including Race to Witch Mountain and the original Hangover. Being a native who knew how to find things, he chased down everything from makeup trailers to catering. With financial support from Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, Ramirez and fellow film-industry workaholic Mark Balint founded Downtown Films and launched Silver State (a subsidiary) in 2011 to help production companies find and use local talent.
Which leads us back to 2013, a year in which he hopes to elevate his game to making movies for himself through his own development company, Lola Pictures. Next year, he’d like to spend some of those restless hours making Vegas into its own Hollywood—albeit a low-key and unpretentious Hollywood—one where he can still bring his dog, Abby, to work with him at Silver State’s Emergency Arts offices.
“I want 2013 to be about 70 percent Silver State and 30 percent Lola,” he says. “I want to create content that is homegrown, so we’re not always hired guns for people out of Los Angeles and New York.” To that end, Ramirez is working on a screenplay with Armageddon writer Jonathan Hensleigh; possibly developing three features with local filmmakers; and working on his passion project, an adaptation of the Joe McGinniss Jr. novel The Delivery Man, filmed wholly in Las Vegas.
“We have really big and deep plans,” says Ramirez, with the confidence of someone who knows just how much he’s taking on.