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City considering offering financial incentives to film producers

LAS CRUCES – The growth of the film and television industry in New Mexico has largely excluded Las Cruces, contrary to the impression left by occasional high-profile successes, such as the recent filming here of the Clint Eastwood film “The Mule.”

Just 1.4 percent of film productions that took place in the state from 2002 to 2017 occurred in Las Cruces, according to the city’s Economic Development Department.

Most film production in New Mexico took place in the northern half of the state. Albuquerque and Santa Fe alone were the sites of 29 percent of productions.

But a proposal made by the Economic Development Department to the City Council at a work session on Monday seeks to make Las Cruces more appealing to film and television producers.

The city would pay 10 percent of “qualified expenses” to film production companies that spend at least $100,000 in Las Cruces. The program, if approved, would make Las Cruces the first city in the state to offer such an incentive to filmmakers.

The state already offers film producers a tax incentive that pays them 25 percent of film production costs.

“What Las Cruces is contemplating would put us on the map — certainly in the state, certainly in the Southwest,” said Jeff Steinborn, a state senator, and president of Film Las Cruces, a nonprofit seeking to grow the film industry here. “This would actually give Las Cruces a national pop as a new hot film center in the state.”

To be eligible for the incentive, film producers would have to enter into an agreement with the city and agree to provide certain services designed to help develop the film industry in Las Cruces.

It could, for example, agree to allow the city to disclose that the filming was occurring in the city and include the city in promotions for the film. It could provide an educational forum for the local film community. It could agree to hire a minimum of 10 local residents, not including background actors.

The program would provide even greater incentives for television series and other episodic productions because they would typically film for longer periods. They could earn an additional $10,000 per episode if they produced at least five episodes in Las Cruces.

Amy Lanasa, head of the Creative Media Institute at New Mexico State University, applauded the proposal and said it is exactly what is needed to nurture development of a film industry In Las Cruces and enable graduates of her program to stay here after they graduate.

“I’ve seen over the last 12 years this tremendous brain drain occur,” she said. “We train these incredible filmmakers who then leave and join the workforce in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. An incentive like this would really help filmmakers bring their films to Las Cruces. It’s something we desperately need in order to train a workforce who will remain here.”

Locals involved in the film industry criticized one aspect of the plan, which would only qualify lodging expenses when the city’s lodger tax is paid. The city’s lodger tax is not charged once a stay extends beyond 30 days.

Steinborn recommended that provision be removed from the proposal. Mayor Pro Tem Gil Sorg agreed with him.

“What that provision really attacks are productions that would be longer than 30 days, which are frankly the ones that are the most desirable,” Steinborn said. “They are the holy grail of film recruitment.”

Blake Gumprecht may be reached at 575-541-5453, bgumprecht@lcsun-news.com or @blakegumprecht on Twitter.

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©2018 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)

Visit the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.) at www.lcsun-news.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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