ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eva Longoria. Ed Harris. Jennifer Aniston. Mark Wahlberg. Denzel Washington.
These A-list actors spent some time — both Harris and Walhberg came back for two separate movies — in the Land of Enchantment during the last six months of 2012.
Their projects helped the New Mexico Film Office land 10 film and TV projects in the past six months, bringing last year’s total projects to 37 — about the same as 2011.
That was a relief to New Mexico industry experts, who saw a slowdown in projects in June as “The Lone Ranger” was winding down production in New Mexico.
“You never know what you are going to get,” said Nick Maniatis, state film office director. “We are always working with projects and sometimes it just falls through. We do get discouraged, but we continue to move on to other projects and keep film companies interested in New Mexico.”
According to the film office, during the 2012 fiscal year, which ended June 30, the film industry spent $224.6 million in New Mexico.
While the amount spent since June 30 is not yet available, the film office announced 10 film and TV projects with budgets ranging from $1 million to $80-plus million.
They included such films as “Frontera,” starring Longoria and Harris; “American Girl: 2013 Girl of the Year,” starring Jane Seymour; “Lone Survivor,” starring Wahlberg and Taylor Kitsch; “We’re the Millers,” starring Aniston and Jason Sudeikis; “2 Guns,” with Wahlberg and Denzel Washington; “The Odd Way Home,” starring Rumer Willis; “50 to 1,” starring Skeet Ulrich; “Sweetwater” starring Harris and January Jones; as well as two TV shows.
Maniatis said it’s important to keep film projects coming to the state and attributes New Mexico’s competitiveness to the fact that the industry here has a strong program, crew base and facilities.
“We’ve been going out to various conventions in Los Angeles and promoting the industry,” he said. “It’s taken us awhile to get the word out that we still have a great incentive program. I see us getting stronger for this coming year.”
New Mexico’s film incentive program offers a 25 percent rebate to film companies for most direct, in-state expenditures. In 2011, lawmakers wrestled with incentive changes and approved a $50 million annual cap on the rebates.
During the uncertainty regarding the incentive program prior to the vote, many projects stayed away from the state and the film office has been working to dispel any confusion. The year 2010 saw a severe drop in the number of projects.
Since Maniatis was hired in 2011, he has focused on bringing projects — especially TV projects — to New Mexico.
“There’s sort of a science to it all,” he said. “Sure we go after the big budget movies. But we also can’t rule out any other projects … I would say having one big budget film would act as the tentpole. Then you sprinkle in a lot of lower budget films and of course, TV.”
|2012 film projects in New Mexico
The state saw those big budget movies in fiscal 2011 with “The Avengers” and in 2012 with “The Lone Ranger.” So far, there is no $200 million plus project scheduled for New Mexico this year.
Ann Lerner, the film liaison for the city of Albuquerque, said there’s been an uptick in scouts interested in New Mexico for their projects. She said she’s been busy, but it’s a hit-and-miss situation.
“I can be booked with a scout every day for a couple weeks,” she said. “But it all comes down to what the project wants to do. We showcase what we have to offer, and I’ve been reassuring producers that the incentives are not going to change and that the governor is on board with the program.”
Lerner said that what adds to Albuquerque and New Mexico’s allure is the strong reputation for being film friendly.
“We have excellent crew and suppliers here,” she said. “When ‘The Lone Ranger’ was here, they purchased all of the building materials from our local businesses. It’s a win-win situation all the way around.”
Maniatis said there are some projects, like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” that were very interested in New Mexico, only to end up in Los Angeles.
“That’s the way the game is played,” he said. “You win some, you lose some. When we win, it’s great, but when we lose, we move forward with getting other projects into place. We never stop to dwell on it.”
Looking to the future
With TV’s “In Plain Sight” off the air in 2012 and “Breaking Bad” currently filming its final eight episodes, Maniatis says the film office is now betting on shows like A&E’s “Longmire,” and hoping to attract more.
“Longmire” premiered on June 3 with 4.1 million viewers, which set a record for the cable network and averaged more than 4 million viewers for the entire season. It was renewed for a second season after four episodes.
“The show (‘Longmire’) was a surprise hit for everyone involved,” he said. “Because TV projects are here for a longer time, these are the types of projects that we’d like to keep in New Mexico for multiple seasons and we’re happy that this project is coming back to Santa Fe.”
“Longmire” will resume production in February while the pilot to an NBC medical series pilot “After Hours” was shot at I-25 Studios in November and December.
“If the pilot gets picked up, we’ll have a new show coming in, and that’s great,” Maniatis said. “Nothing has been announced yet on this project, and it’s still waiting to get picked up.”
Lerner agrees with Maniatis about wanting to bring TV productions here.
“I treat TV and films equally, but it’s a fact that TV shows are in a location longer,” she said.
And it helps if the TV show or movie’s story takes place in New Mexico, like “Breaking Bad’s” does.
That’s the case with “American Girl: 2013 Girl of the Year” — which was filmed in the Duke City during the fall and had a 90 percent New Mexican crew. Lerner said the budget for the film was around $4 million.
“The film showcased Albuquerque and the story was about a girl who lives in Albuquerque,” she said. “It showcased Balloon Fiesta and Old Town, which are staples in our community. There’s a huge economic impact of having the story take place in Albuquerque.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal