NMFO: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

DD: I'm a lawyer and a chemical engineer. I have a master's in chemical engineering from the University of Kentucky and an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from UNM. I went to the University of Kentucky Law School, where I practiced law for about 12 to 15 years before returning to New Mexico in 1990.

I’m still practicing law full-time. I've been collecting military vehicles for the last 20 or 25 years. My collection has gradually expanded, and I will eventually have 24 or 25 military vehicles in my shop in the North Valley. I live in the village of Los Ranchos. I hunt big game and small game. Generally, I grow orchids, carnivorous plants, and a greenhouse. The rest is just visiting grandkids, traveling, going out of the country, going to Mexico, Baja California, etc.

NMFO: Talking about your military vehicles, is that just something that started as a hobby?

DD: My father was a pilot during World War II, flying B-24 bombers out of Italy, and retired here in Albuquerque. He worked as a transportation officer at Kirtland Air Force Base for a while, and the rest of the family lives here.

I bought my first Dodge truck maybe 25 years ago, and as I enjoyed driving it and using it, I promptly acquired more.

My wife was heading to work one day, and I said I'd like to buy a tank. She said, “Why don't you?” And I already had one picked out. So, it started about 20 years ago, and it's expanded from there.

NMFO: Why buy a tank out of the blue?

DD: I'm interested in historic preservation. Very few of these vehicles survived the war, and many ended up in museums in Europe, where many stayed; not many of them remained in the United States.

I've always thought it was important for children to understand what their fathers and grandfathers did during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War as they grew up. One way to do that is to demonstrate the vehicles and things that they used during those conflicts.

NMFO: How many vehicles do you currently have in your fleet?

DD: I have about 20. That includes trailers. I have four armored vehicles and a scout car. I also have an armored car called a Greyhound, a six-wheel drive car with a cannon in the front. I have a cannon that you tow behind a truck, several trucks, and I have some Vietnam-era Jeeps and some other trucks. I also have a Half Track, an early armored vehicle that we sent a lot of to Russia. The tank, which is an M18 Hellcat tank destroyer from World War II, was used in Yugoslavia. Our country gave them to Yugoslavia after the war. During that conflict, the UN took them away from the Yugoslavs, who were using them to shoot one another. A European guy saw them, talked to the UN, brought them back to the United States, and sold them in Europe. I bought one of the last ones that came into the country.

NMFO: How do you go about acquiring these vehicles?

DD: There are websites where people are interested in historic preservation and military vehicles, talk about those things, buy and sell parts, and talk about how to do the restorations. When things become available, the word gets out.

There are people in the business—World War II, Vietnam, and Korean War vehicles.

NMFO: Yeah, so a little bit of research and a little bit of networking?

DD: Exactly. A lot of networking.

NMFO: What does maintenance look like to keep your fleet operational or as pristine as can be since they are vintage?

DD: Maintenance is a huge issue. Of course, every one of these vehicles has a battery, or sometimes two batteries. I would guess that we buy maybe 20 batteries a year because batteries go wrong when they sit, and we try to start the vehicles up at least once a month. We use gasoline additives to keep the gasoline from going bad because it sits in the tank for a long time. The vehicle won't start, and it requires carburetor repair jobs. So, we try and keep them operational. We move them so the tires don't get flat spots on them.

Some guys do work on military vehicles. A gentleman out of Utah travels around the country and has expertise in most military vehicles. I hire him once in a while to do significant projects. I employ a few local people who can work on just about anything. They're just good mechanics, and most of the stuff is easy to repair because they didn't use computers back then. So, you don't have to have a computer to fix a World War II or a Korean or Vietnam Air vehicle. All you need is a set of wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers.

NMFO: That's amazing. You've utilized them for the film industry, and you had a few vehicles in the film “Oppenheimer.” Would you mind sharing some of your experience working with the film industry, especially that production?

DD: I've worked with the set dressers and the transportation people in the film industries for about ten years. We provided all the military vehicles for “Waco,” ammunition boxes, dummy ammunition, antennas, and Vietnam-era radio equipment. We also provided all the military vehicles for the “Oppenheimer” film. They weren't all my vehicles because I also represent military vehicles for other people. We've gone as far as Mississippi to bring our specialized armored vehicles into the state for use in these films. We bought a tank down from Colorado for “Waco.” They came to me because I'm well-known for having many military vehicles and equipment. We have a lot of dummy guns. We have a lot of ammunition boxes and uniforms, radios, radio towers.

If we have it, we tell them, or we know we can get it, then we make all the arrangements and enter a contract with them. It's pleasant working for them because most set dressers and transportation people will come to you, and when they rent your equipment, they'll take it from your place, use it, and bring it back. The bigger problem with these older vehicles is their all-standard shift, and almost all the young people today do not know how to drive stick shifts. So, we must do a little instruction.

Most of these vehicles don't have ignition switches either. There's no key. There's no fob, no buttons to press, and usually no door locks. It's just the door handle. It's interesting, but they come in, bring their trucks, load the vehicles on them, and go off.

We often provide what we call a vehicle wrangler for the long shows. We had a gentleman who was a vehicle wrangler for the “Oppenheimer” show, and his job was to keep the World War II vehicles operational to ensure the batteries were charged up because what happens if there's no ignition switch? People tend to leave the ignition switch on, which would drain out the battery, so we must teach people how to drive stick and keep the vehicles running because these vehicles are 75 or 80 years old and break down. That's how we operate with them.

NMFO: Because these vehicles are vintage and you must make sure they're being very well taken care of, do you feel that reassurance working in the film industry that your vehicles will be well taken care of? And again, if you're bringing in other vehicles from other locations, do you feel confident that they will be well maintained?

DD: The film industry has gotten a bad rap. Maybe 20 years ago, the film industry damaged things, and then they would move on. But that's not true anymore. They understand these vehicles are essential and valuable and don't intentionally damage things.

We've had people ask if they could repaint things, and if they repaint them with water-soluble paint so we can wash them off later, it's not a problem. When they scraped the paint on a tank a couple of years ago at the “Waco” show, they bought the paint and paid the gentleman who owned that tank to repaint the scratched section.

In general, there have been no problems whatsoever with that. They've taken good care of equipment and understand that it's valuable, and there's never really been an issue about that. We've had some problems where they burned up ammunition boxes. And when they did that for the purpose of the film, they paid for them. So, it's not an issue.

I’ve never had any damage to vehicles. Everyone's been pleasantly surprised with how the film industry operates and takes care of people's equipment.

NMFO: Because you've been doing this for quite some time and built up this business for yourself, how would you encourage other business owners or folks who think their business could apply to the film industry to get more involved?

DD: The biggest issue is identifying what you have that the film industry might be interested in using. There are many military vehicles around, but if they have a film that involves the military, they don't want to go and rent a vehicle from 12 different people. They want to go someplace, pick out the vehicles they want, and rent them all at once. That's why there are extensive collections of military vehicles in California. It costs an enormous amount of money to transport ten vehicles from Hollywood to New Mexico to use for seven weeks and then ship them back. It almost doubles the cost. As a result, if you have something in New Mexico that is available elsewhere, you have to look at it in terms of what's more convenient for the industry to look at.

So, if you have a unique or unusual house or modern vehicle that people would be interested in renting for period vehicles, have a few of them, not just one. They can't afford to do multiple-stop shopping if they have just one vehicle.

If you have a lot of furniture, that is a perfect business with the film industry. Photograph it all, put it up on the web or have a catalog and let people see what you have, put it up on the New Mexico film office website, and do business.

NMFO: Do you think utilizing the New Mexico Film Office directory is where you get most of your inquiries?

DD: I've had several inquiries through the directory. Most of my inquiries come from the fact that I am now well-known by the set dressers and the transportation captains. So, the people in the industry here in New Mexico are looking for anything associated with the military, and our company name has the word military in it, so we get a phone call.

NMFO: So, in this process, is it just a mix of people sending you information of, hey, this is the movie that we're filming, here's what we need? How often do you have people coming and scoping out your space to see what they can utilize?

DD: When the set dressers come, they generally know what we have because they've seen them in other films.

I have a lot of radio equipment that people are interested in. They look for stuff at our places, including radio towers, antennas, and old and modern radio equipment that looks good sitting on a desk or inside a vehicle.

Generally, if a set dresser is working on something and doesn't even know about us, they'll hear about us from one of the other set dressers. There's a group of people here who pretty much stay in New Mexico. They bounce between California, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe. They'll do a film in Los Angeles, or they might be there for six months, and then they'll come to New Mexico and do some work here. So, you become a known quantity.

We also do some promotional stuff. There are young filmmakers here in New Mexico who have gone through some of your classes at the film office. When they come to us, if they need a military vehicle or something that they want military, we'll often loan it to them for nothing just so that they can exercise their expertise and gain some expertise in the film industry. And we don't even charge them. Sometimes, we'll take something to them, let them use it for a day or two, and then bring it back to the shop. We try to keep the big guys in the film industry supplied, but we also try to assist the people just trying to get into the industry and become directors and camerapeople.

We've done that several times. We’ve loaned vehicles to people who don't have any budget. They have a camera and some people and volunteer actors, and we'll lend them stuff regularly.

NMFO: As we continue to build up this industry here in New Mexico, we want everything to be from the ground up in New Mexico. Part of that is building up our crew base, getting more production here in the state, and creating more jobs and exposure for people so they can be trained that way. Thank you so much for supplying services at little to no cost for those folks because it's essential for them to to get their feet wet.

DD: It’s essential to the growth of the industry because those people then become assistant directors here in New Mexico. If they're good, they gain some traction, and it’s good for the people here to have those kinds of jobs. The film industry jobs are well-paying jobs. Interestingly, it's the best of all possible worlds because you can work and make decent money for seven or eight weeks and then take seven or eight weeks off until your next job.

NMFO: You end up having that balance because you end up working those long hours, and then, if you would like to, you can take some time off and get compensated well enough to take a few weeks off if that's what you feel you need.

DD: One of the interesting parts about the film industry is that they always surprise me a little bit when you see some unusual things. For instance, on the “Waco” show, in the middle of the day, everybody had been working since seven in the morning, and there's a guy walking around with breakfast burritos and handing them out. A fellow was walking around on that set out there and it was a very green set. They scraped a lot of vegetation off a couple of acres out on the ranch in Moriarty, and there was a guy walking around with a long stick and a bucket. He was the snake wrangler.

So, every morning, he would walk around the set, find all the snakes, put them in, mark where they came from, take them home, put them in cages, and feed them. Then, when the film was over, they would revegetate the area and put all the snakes back precisely where he found them.

NMFO: Another example of the diverse skill set that can be utilized on a movie set is food, or somebody who helps wrangle animals.

DD: The food trucks were fantastic. They did a great job. Everything was first-class, down to the bathroom and the makeup trailers.

NMFO: And they pay well for all these services as well.

DD: That's true.

NMFO: Is there anything else you would like to add regarding the growing industry here in New Mexico, how people can get more involved, or your experience, again, on large productions such as “Oppenheimer?”

DD: I think the biggest issue is finding the people who will be providing the services, equipment, or set dressing you have available and then trying to contact through the New Mexico Film Office directory. I think it's probably a good idea to have a website that advertises what you do and what you have.

You'll make those interpersonal connections that make a difference in the world. They find what they need by getting to know a lot of people and seeing all the places to find those things. And I wouldn't be afraid to rent things to the film industry. They take care of people's stuff. They do a good job. I have not had bad experiences with people I've done business with in the last 15 years.

NMFO: If you're on social media, how can people reach you or learn more about your business and possibly your website? Is there anything you'd like to share?

DD: We'll have our website back up shortly, probably within the next week or two. The company's name is New Mexico Movie Militaria. My phone number is 505-269-2056, and I am more than happy to talk to people about how to do this and how to enter into contracts.

It's essential to work with the film industry and know how they work. Suppose you ask them how they want to do business because most of them have their own contracts. We don't draft new contracts because we’re comfortable that they'll do their part. We do our part, and everybody gets along well.

Contact me if you have anybody has any questions; I'm more than happy to answer them.

NMFO: Again, thank you so much, Dan. It has been lovely chatting with you. I'm sure we'll be in more contact as productions come up and as we see the need for more military vehicles.