'Dark Winds' (AMC) was a refreshing alternative to the traditional drama series or reality show in 2022.
The project was a major gamble introducing a modern Western set against the backdrop of 1970s America. The TV series, like the original books (Leaphorn and Chee), revolves around the Navajo Nation and Tribal Police Force.
For this reason, when executive producers Robert Redford, George R. R. Martin, and Zahn McClarnon began scouting shooting locations; they had a strong idea of where they wanted the production to take place. Nevertheless, shooting on location not only presents many things that could go wrong but is generally much more expensive.
As a result, AMC network rolled the dice on the pilot season of 'Dark Winds' resonating with audiences even if they have found success shooting in rural locations in the past. In fact, 'Breaking Bad' and 'Better Call Saul' also take place in the American southwest (New Mexico, to be exact) and some of the most iconic moments from the series are on location.
However, filming the 'Dark Winds' TV series was a whole other animal. The production team incorporated the input from co-producers Chris Eyre (who also produced Skinwalkers) and Anne Hillerman, daughter of Tony Hillerman. 'Dark Winds' is set in a different era (1971) along the remote outpost of the Navajo Nation. Consequently, the setting not only calls for different attire and set pieces to go along with the time period but also rugged shooting locations.
The Navajo Nation is not far from Monument Valley which has served as a shooting location for several famous Westerns and other film projects. The reservation is the largest in the United States and spans three states (Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah). Robert Redford wanted to shoot on the reservation, but only with explicit permission. Therefore, Redford and the rest of the producers consulted the Navajo Nation before receiving approval.
For this reason, nearly three-quarters of the scenes in the first season of 'Dark Winds' are shot on tribal lands at Tesuque Pueblo in New Mexico. The production team was also granted access to use the indoor facility, Camel Rock Studios. Meanwhile, the rest of the first season was shot on tribal lands at Cochiti Pueblo (New Mexico) along with Utah and Arizona.
'Dark Winds' has been several decades in the making for Redford who has always gravitated toward Western stories in the great outdoors. Redford was associated with a 'Dark Winds' movie in the early 90s which starred Lou Diamond Phillips. However, the film wasn't a success (even in the words of Redford) and has been waiting years to get revived into a new adaptation.
Executive producer Zahn McClarnon (who also plays the role of Joe Leaphorn) indicated that it was important that 'Dark Winds' rely on a cast of all Native actors including Native writers and directors. "The chance to have more visibility within our community and the media. It's another chance to tell our own stories. Those are important things to me," he told Tell-Tale.
We'll be curious to discover where the production team decides to shoot season two of 'Dark Winds'. We anticipate the team will return to the tribal land in New Mexico as well as present some new locations. It's hard to find a modern TV drama that shoots on location which makes 'Dark Winds' unique. Furthermore, the second season may receive a larger budget considering AMC is no longer producing 'The Walking Dead' or 'Better Call Saul'.