Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
The landscape for film and TV in New Mexico is ever changing.
This is one reason the state remains a “go to” area in the industry. In fact, Fiscal Year 2019 saw a record year in direct spending from the film industry here.
According to the New Mexico State Film Office, during that fiscal year – which ran from July 1, 2018, through June 30 – the direct spend into the New Mexico economy was $525.5 million.
This is up from $234 million in FY18 and $505.9 million in FY17, which had been the record high.
And state officials expect a recent change in the film landscape to lead to even more spending.
“Since the passage of Senate Bill 2, we’ve seen an uptick in inquiries in the state,” said Alicia J. Keyes, New Mexico Secretary of Economic Development. “Both metro and … rural areas are seeing that increase.”
The bill, signed in March, became law on July 1. It raised the cap on what can be paid to film and TV productions in a single year from $50 million to $110 million.
Some productions have also moved to the state from Georgia and Louisiana because of the political climate, as well as New Mexico’s film incentive package offering more.
Film companies currently receive a 25% rebate on goods and service expenses for most projects in New Mexico, and some TV shows get up to a 30% rebate.
An additional 5% tax credit will be added for companies that take productions to rural areas – which means 60 miles outside the Albuquerque/Santa Fe corridor.
There are also carve-outs for companies that commit to stay in the state for at least 10 years. This includes Netflix and NBC Universal, who both made Albuquerque a hub for production within the past year. The productions for both entities aren’t subject to the $110 million cap.
Since Jan. 1, a total of 33 projects have been registered through the New Mexico Film Office. A 34th production, Zoe Saldana’s “Keyhole Garden,” is slated to begin filming in Albuquerque on Monday.
In FY19, 73 projects were filmed in New Mexico; 43 had a budget of $1 million or more.
The scale of production ranges from commercials to feature films.
Meanwhile, the Santa Fe arts collective Meow Wolf produced five multimedia projects in April and May.
In June, Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek said he envisions that the Meow Wolf universe will have a TV series and comic books.
“Our hope is that over the next 10 to 20 years, the company is spoken of in the same way as Disney, Marvel, Jim Henson,” Kadlubek said in June. “These are legends of storytelling and story universes. That’s our hope, and we are putting the intention out there.”
Netflix is currently filming “Army of the Dead” and NBC Universal has the TV series “Briarpatch” on the ground.
Keyes said, “The key to keeping the film industry successful in the state is having diversity.”
Part of that diversity is having partners such as Netflix and NBC Universal planting roots for at least 10 years.
“With the New Mexico partners, they are giving us much more stability and consistency,” she said. “What we’re going to see is the direct spend in the state slowly grow. In the past, we had years that went high and then would drop off. Having the partners and bringing stability will allow us to grow in all avenues of this industry.”
Keyes also noted that Netflix and NBC Universal have a minimum direct spend requirement, so the state knows how much both companies will be spending.
The state also expects to attract other film industry-related projects, such as those from Meow Wolf, which include a companion app.
“Entertainment isn’t film and TV any more,” Keyes said. “It’s also interactive media. The line between all of them is blending.”
With the uptick in the industry, New Mexicans who moved to Georgia or Louisiana are moving back to the state.
According to the film office, there are no fewer than 15 projects currently filming in the state. Some of those include the TV series “Roswell, New Mexico” and “Better Call Saul,” and the films “Wander” and “Half Brothers.”
“We’re not at capacity with crew,” Keyes said. “We still have a large crew on the rollover list. We need to continue to train people and we need to get them advanced training.”
A new Native American film program is in the works and the state is also working with educational outlets to develop more programs for students.
“We don’t want to expand too fast and we want our New Mexicans working,” she said. “It looks like we’re going to continue to steadily grow.”