ABQ tops MovieMaker chart for filmmakers

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque is No. 1.

For the first time since 2010, the city tops the list from MovieMaker as the best place to live and work as a filmmaker.

In the trade magazine’s annual list, the Duke City leads the pack in the big cities category.

bright spotRounding out the top 10 are Atlanta, Vancouver, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Austin, Montreal and Memphis.

In 2018, Albuquerque was ranked No. 6.

Albuquerque has made the list since 2007. However, it fell out of the top 10 in 2013, to No. 11.

“Albuquerque has gone from an attractive boutique city on the production map to a marquee player, attracting over 50 major productions in the last three years,” according to MovieMaker.

The list is compiled by looking at each city’s film activity – which means number of productions, economic activity generated and shoot durations.

It also looks at infrastructure, which includes health of film commissions and nonprofits, number of film schools and visual effects houses.

In addition, the population and geographical size, state and local film incentive programs and ease of movement and traffic are considered to determine the rankings.

According to MovieMaker, in 2009 44 states were offering some form of incentives, but that dropped to 31 by 2018.

According to MovieMaker, in 2009 there were 44 states offering some form of incentive, but retrenchment has pared that down to 31 as of 2018.

New Mexico offers a 25 percent tax rebate to film companies for most direct, in-state expenditures, although long-running television programs are eligible for an additional 5 percent – or 30 percent in all.

“A new industry titan has emerged – Atlanta – and some rival cities are being held in check by the disinterest of their state governments … while others make the right moves to become a regional powerhouse, such as our pick for No. 1 this year, Albuquerque,” according to the MovieMaker article.

The No. 1 listing comes as New Mexico lawmakers are debating whether to raise or lift completely the $50 million annual cap the state has placed on its film rebate program. It is estimated that there will be a $250 million backlog in unpaid rebate money by the end of this fiscal year, on June 30. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says lifting the cap would bring more film business, while many lawmakers wonder whether that’s fiscally responsible.

High-profile projects

A few of the projects highlighted by MovieMaker include the highly anticipated Nicole Kidman drama, “The Goldfinch,” as well as the Amazon series, “Too Old to Die Young.”

According to the New Mexico Film Office, the productions were planning to hire 173 and 100 local crew members, respectively.

Netflix’s purchase of Albuquerque Studios in October is an industry game changer. The deal was helped with $14.5 million from LEDA funds from both the state and the city.

The streaming giant is making Albuquerque a production hub and is expected to drop $1 billion into the economy over 10 years.

Adam Sandler's 2015 film "The Ridiculous 6" was the first Netflix production to film in New Mexico. (Source: Netflix)

Adam Sandler’s 2015 film “The Ridiculous 6” was the first Netflix production to film in New Mexico. (Source: Netflix)

Netflix’s history in New Mexico began with Adam Sandler’s 2015 film “The Ridiculous 6.”

Since then, Netflix has brought productions such as “Godless,” “Longmire,” “Messiah,” “Chambers,” “Rattlesnake,” “Daybreak” and “Walk. Ride. Rodeo.”

Ty Warren, Netflix vice president for physical production, said that between the infrastructure and existing crew base in New Mexico, it was a win for the company to move here.

“I think you look at the amount of content that we’re making, specifically, here in Albuquerque … it makes economic sense for us to have a hub here,” Warren said.

Enchanting growth

MovieMaker also highlighted the Sabrina Carpenter-starring road movie “The Short History of the Long Road,” which began production in April 2018. Director Ani Simon-Kennedy offered praise for the state’s unique natural architecture and the work ethic of Albuquerque crews.

“The crew we had was unparalleled,” Simon-Kennedy said in the article. “The level of heart they poured into our low-budget feature went above and beyond. Everyone was resourceful and reliable; New Mexico was the perfect setting for our road trip movie, since you can get such varied landscapes. We shot in the spring, when the weather was cooperative, but it can get unpredictable – from gorgeous blue skies to crazy thunderstorms and back in an hour.”

Bob Odenkirk stars in "Better Call Saul," which has been a staple in the Albuquerque film community for four seasons. (Ben Luener/AMC)

Bob Odenkirk stars in “Better Call Saul,” which has been a staple in the Albuquerque film community for four seasons. (Ben Luener/AMC)

Of course, the “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” effect is still being felt in the city, with merchandise and tours still offering a glimpse into that universe.

The city of Albuquerque last week joined forces with Central New Mexico Community College for space to house the forthcoming CNM Film Production Center of Excellence.

The center will expand the 15-year-old film program at CNM.

Top 10 Big Cities


1 . Albuquerque

2. Atlanta

3. Vancouver, B.C.

4. New York City

5. Los Angeles

6. Chicago

7. Toronto, Ontario

8. Austin, Texas

9. Montreal, Quebec

10. Memphis, Tenn.

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