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School closure threatens Santa Fe’s filmmaking future

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From left, film producer Andrea Meditch, author George R.R. Martin, and executive producer Tony Mark take part in a panel discussion on the film industry in New Mexico. The discussion was held at Martin’s theater Jean Cacteau Cinema in Santa Fe on Oct. 19. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE — Two local film industry moguls are worried about the future of filmmaking in the capitol city if the collapse of Santa Fe University of Art and Design results in the closing of two of the city’s soundstages.

Author George R.R. Martin and producer Tony Mark expressed their concerns during a recent film panel at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe.

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“If we lose those two soundstages, we’re going to lose millions of dollars that would have come in TV or film production,” Martin said. “We can’t not have those soundstages, and we have to solve that quickly.”

Martin, who has lived in Santa Fe since 1979, is best known for his fantasy series “A Songof Ice and Fire,” which HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is based on.

Mark moved to Santa Fe in 1985, and his career includes executive producer on the Oscar winning, “The Hurt Locker.” More recently, he worked on the TV series, “Mr. Mercedes.”

“The school that is sitting down there on St. Mike’s, that was an opportunity lost, man. I’m sorry,” Mark said.

The fate of Garson Studios is a concern for the film community when Santa Fe University of Art and Design shutters in 2018. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The city-owned college campus is home to Greer Garson Studios, which has two of Santa Fe’s four soundstages as well as office space for productions. Santa Fe Studios houses the other two soundstages.

Santa Fe’s City Council is considering a resolution to start deliberations on what happens to the 64-acre campus after the private university now using the space closes in 2018.

“I know Mayor (Javier) Gonzales is working on it,” Martin said. “I know people are coming forward with plans that don’t necessarily agree with each other. The leaders of this community need to come together and find a solution.”

Earlier this year, MovieMaker Magazine ranked Santa Fe at No. 2 for the best place to live and work as a moviemaker in its list of small cities and towns. Albuquerque was No. 8 for big cities.

Author and Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin voiced his concerns at a panel on film recently over the fate of two soundstages associated with Santa Fe University of Art and Design. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“Crucial to attracting people here are the two Garson Studio soundstages,” Martin said. “Santa Fe only has four. I know Santa Fe Studios has plans to expand, but they only have two stages. And if you are coming to or want to come to Santa Fe with your movie or TV show and those are booked, it’s gotta be Garson.”

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The future of the campus is also weighing heavily on Eric Witt.

Witt, executive director of the Santa Fe Film Office, has been talking with city officials about the existing proposals for the campus.

“The one thing the proposals all have in common is Garson Studios,” Witt said. “Each plan proposes to keep the studio open. It’s generating revenue still. Honestly, we couldn’t afford to lose those stages. If anything, we need more. … Those are long capital investments and anybody considering coming in for production wants to see stability.”

Oscar-winning producer Tony Mark spoke about the film industry at a panel on Oct. 19 at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Meanwhile, Mark also voiced his concern for the future of the entire campus.

“If you are 25 years old, we need to find a way to keep the young people here,” he said.

Mark pointed to the availability of a physical plant.

“If we want to sow the seeds that we will eventually be able to reap the a harvest of, we need to act,” he said. “We don’t have to excavate a whole thing. We don’t have to displace anybody. We just have to get our hands on that campus and put administrators in there who are going to reach out (to artists).

“We’d be creating something that says, ‘Come to Santa Fe. Plug into the creative furnace.'”

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