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NM needs to keep films rolling in, panelists say

The New Mexico film industry is a bright spot for the state — and it needs to stay that way, proponents say.

A roundtable consisting of U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, author George R.R. Martin and producers Andrea Meditch and Tony Mark spoke about ideas of how to move the film industry forward at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe Thursday.

Lujan Grisham, who is running for governor, said she’d like to see the state double the number of films being made here.

“In the first year of the administration, we’d lift the film cap. If you’re going to be open for business, then be open for business,” she said. “Don’t create barriers for (the) films coming in. I’m broadly embracing that this is an industry that makes a difference in our state.”

The state’s film incentives currently offer a 25-30 percent tax rebate for New Mexico goods and services. The percentage is based on the type of production and its length of time in the state. The program is also capped at $50 million for each year.

Last  year, the film industry brought in $505.9 million to the state, and 52 productions had budgets of over $1 million.

The panelists agree that New Mexico is on the right track when it comes to film, but the state has to remain competitive.

Martin, who has lived in Santa Fe since 1979, has immersed himself in the Santa Fe community. He purchased and reopened the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Aug. 2013.

Most recently, the author started the Stagecoach Foundation,  an effort to bring more productions to Santa Fe.

While not a studio, Stagecoach Foundation offers office space to productions at a lower cost. In return for the low cost, the productions that use it must provide some sort of education outreach or hire interns.

“At a rate that is low enough, it makes a difference, and it might be the deciding factor,” Martin said. “And it draws interest. (As far as the caps) I like caps, but only on my head, not on film production. That’s like saying we don’t need anymore jobs. We need to produce more crews and reach out to the kids who are interested in the industry.”

Mark said that New Mexico crews are some of the best.

He produced the Emmy-nominated film, “Georgia O’Keefe” with a New Mexico heavy crew.

“(The filmmakers) have gathered the kind of experience that allows them to compete professionally with anybody, anywhere,” Mark said.

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