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ABQ at No. 6 in MovieMaker list for filmmaking

“Better Call Saul” is one of the productions based in Albuquerque. Shown is Bob Odenkirk filming part of season three in the city. (Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television.

Albuquerque continues to rise in the ranks when it comes in the film and TV industry.

MovieMaker released its annual list tracking the best places to live and work as a filmmaker.

The city rose two spots to hold the No. 6 position in the big cities category.

It follows Atlanta, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City.

Albuquerque has made the list since 2007, rising to the top spot in 2010. In 2013, it fell to No. 11.

MovieMaker pointed out that New Mexico’s generous 25-30 percent refundable tax credit with no minimum spend helps make the state a Southwest stronghold.

The list ranks the cities based on a city’s film activity in the past 12 months (number of productions, shoot durations, economic activity generated), film infrastructure in place (number of film schools and visual effects houses, film commissions and other non-profits, film festivals, screening venues, prominent locals), and broader criteria such as population size, ease of transportation, local and state tax credits (a big one, of course), and architectural and geographical distinctiveness.

Key makeup artist Catherine Lawrence, 1st Assistant Director Sam Pool, Director Federico Heller and double Mykel Salazar, from left, get ready for an insert shot for the film “Back to Earth.” (Greg Sorber/Journal)

The magazine also mentions ABQ Trolley Co., which offers open-air trolley tours of famous “Breaking Bad” locations at $65 a pop, is just one local business still benefiting from a smash TV hit that chose Albuquerque over Los Angeles.

The next big deal production could be the Margot Robbie-starring 1930s gangster saga “Dreamland,” which filmed in Albuquerque in fall and was expected to employ approximately 100 New Mexico crew members, 18 New Mexicans in principal roles, and 225 New Mexico extras, according to the New Mexico Film Office.

In 2017, there were more than 20 film and TV productions filmed in Albuquerque. Many of those shared locations with other parts of the state, according to the Albuquerque Film Office.

Ann Lerner, director of the Albuquerque Film Office, attributes the inflow of production to a concerted effort at cutting red tape and one-stop film permitting.

“The state also offers a unique Film Crew Advancement Program, which gives productions a 50 percent reimbursement of a crew member’s wages when this on-the-job training advances their skill set,” she says.

Like so much of the Southwest, Albuquerque is particularly proud of its long, storied history.

Lerner points out that Thomas Edison’s company came to Isleta Pueblo, a tribal community 13 miles south of ABQ, in 1897 to shoot 50 seconds of footage of Native American children filing out of a one-room schoolhouse.

The city’s 40-year-old mayor, Tim Keller, whom Lerner describes as “extremely film friendly” talks up not only the city’s crew base and good-paying jobs on offer, but also the community’s diversity, exquisite scenery and 310 days of sunshine, painting a picture of work-life balance that prospective newcomers should appreciate.

Top 10 big cities
1. Atlanta
2. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
3. Los Angeles
4. Chicago
5. New York City
6. Albuquerque
7. Boston
8. Toronto, Ontario
9. Austin, Texas
10. Montreal, Quebec
Source: MovieMaker

Executive Producer Vince Gilligan, Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo “Gus” Fring film a scene for the third season of “Better Call Saul” in Albuquerque. (Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)