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Film veteran, SF resident named to head NM Film Office

Todd Christensen, center, on the last day of filming “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” with Ethan Coen, left, and Joel Coen. (Courtesy of Clay Peres)

The New Mexico Film Office has a new leader.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed Santa Fe resident Todd Christensen to head the film office. He took the reins on Monday.

Christensen has worked within the New Mexico film community since 2006, having served as locations manager for such films as “Off the Map,” “Sicario,” “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” “12 Strong” and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

His annual salary will be $100,000. Nick Maniatis, film office director under Gov. Susana Martinez earned $87,000. Meanwhile, Lisa Strout, who helmed the office under Gov. Bill Richardson earned $97,000.

Christensen started his career in Los Angeles, where he worked on the 1997 film “As Good as It Gets.”

He went on to work on such projects as “Syriana,” “Moneyball,” “The Hunger Games,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Paul” and many more. Christensen has worked with directors Paul Thomas Anderson, James L. Brooks, and Joel and Ethan Coen.

“I’ve been in the field on movies for 23 years doing this job,” Christensen said. “I’ve worked with over 50 producers, I have friends in all of the studios. I’m going to contact all of those people to tell them to come to New Mexico to make their next movie or TV series here.”

The New Mexico Film Office has seen an uptick in interest for filming in New Mexico since the beginning of the year.

On March 29, Gov. Lujan Grisham signed the bill that raises the cap on rebates that can be paid to film and TV productions from $50 million to $110 million in a single fiscal year.

Currently, film companies receive a 25% rebate on goods and service expenses for most projects in New Mexico and up to a 30% rebate for some TV shows.

The new law – which goes into effect on July 1 – includes an additional 5% tax credit added to companies taking productions into rural areas, meaning outside the Albuquerque-Santa Fe corridor.

Alicia J. Keyes, secretary of N.M. Economic Development Department, said the change will double the amount of money that can be paid out for filming in New Mexico and allows reimbursements up to 35%.

“Our crews, our climate have always been terrific, and now we have an incentives law to match,” Keyes said.

The new measure also exempts the cap altogether for those companies that sign a 10-year partnership with New Mexico.

Keyes is excited to have Christensen helm the film office.

“Todd has been on the ground in the United States and New Mexico, working with producers for more than two decades,” she said. “He can carry our message: New Mexico is serious about building the industry; we want production companies to not only come and film in the state, but to stay here permanently and provide year-round employment.”

Christensen hopes to better coordinate with schools and colleges to develop the workforce in New Mexico.

He has worked with film commissions all over the world, and said he understands the need for strong collaboration between the state film office, tribal governments, and city and county film liaisons.

“Every movie has challenges and there can be logistical nightmares,” he said. “That’s why there has to be cooperation with the state and the city and county film offices. I want to help with that. I want to be available and accessible.”

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