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‘Film-friendly’ Farmington: City, San Juan County working to become a hot spot in New Mexico film industry

Dwayne Johnson meeting Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez during a break in filming of “Jumanji: The Next Level” near Shiprock. (Courtesy of New Mexico Economic Development Department)

Farmington is making a play to become a hot spot in New Mexico film.

If 2019 is any indication, the area is on the right path.

Last year, not only did it see “Jumanji: The Next Level” film in the area, but also it played host to Tom Hanks’ sci-fi film, “Bios.”

This is why the city of Farmington and San Juan County are teaming up to help build the film industry in the area.

“A year ago, the Legislature gave the county $1 million to further develop our film industry,” said Jack Fortner, San Juan County Commission chairman. “We’ve been working with the New Mexico Film Office and they’ve been helping us get streamlined.”

There is a plan to ask at least for $500,000 in this year’s Legislative session.

The plan for the area is to build a set that replicates a Middle Eastern Village.

“The film office told us that productions that have war scenes would utilize this because the area is similar to that of Vietnam or the Middle East,” he said. “This is something that’s going to be big for years.”

There are talks about developing a building in downtown Farmington. The area is currently being redeveloped and the building would be used in case a production wants to have training or auditions.

“When it’s not being used, it would be used by local education facilities,” Fortner said. “We want it to be recognized as a community asset.”

Farmington is also on the receiving end of the state tax incentive for rural areas, which gives an extra 5% to productions that film at least 60 miles outside the Albuquerque/Santa Fe corridor.

“We think that’s a big deal,” Fortner said. “It will help attract different productions.”

In 2019, the Four Corners Film Festival began and gave some attention to the local filmmakers in the area.

Fortner said there’s been an increase in people moving to Farmington and San Juan County.

“The industry is going to find that we’re very film-friendly,” he said. “We have a consultant who’s a local producer, and he’s approaching businesses and land owners to get their businesses and their services registered with the film office.”

The infrastructure is in place in the area and Fortner said there’s a plan when dealing with traveling.

“The city of Farmington reached an agreement that commercial airlines will come to the airport,” he said. “In the meantime, the Durango airport is only 45 minutes away. We don’t think the transportation is an issue.”

As for moving forward, officials in the area are pulling together to get the word out about what the area has to offer.

Fortner is banking on the film industry to thrive in the area.

“We have the danger of losing the power plant,” he says. “Maybe there will be another use for it. San Juan County is encouraging economic development through this effort.”

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