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That’s show business: The New Mexico film industry not only creates jobs, but also spawns production catered businesses

Bob Odenkirk as Gene Takovic in a scene from “Better Call Saul.” The production hires hundreds of extras each season. (Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

As the New Mexico film industry continues to grow, the benefits are trickling down through the economy.

In fiscal year 2019, the state saw a record direct spend of $525.5 million into the local economy.

In Albuquerque alone for the same fiscal year, the direct spend was $225 million.

Productions are increasing thanks to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signing a bill that raised the cap on what can be paid to film and TV productions in a single year from $50 million to $110 million.

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.

Dan Baas, 1st assistant camera, left, and, from left, actors Alex Knight and Catharine Jones, watch the playback of a take on the camera monitor while filming. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

In the calendar year for 2019, there were 95 productions — of all sizes — in New Mexico.

“The key to keeping the film industry successful in the state is having diversity,” said Alicia J. Keyes, New Mexico Secretary of Economic Development.

Businesses continue to grow and many are getting started.

VIP StarNetwork rolled out its services in August 2018 and is looking to become the one-stop shop for the film industry. New Mexico is home to its first network, which offers the film industry health care benefits and helps increase access to productions.

Joshua T. Carothers is an orthopedic surgeon who has been involved with the network since the beginning.

He’s been a doctor in New Mexico for 12 years and began working on the network with Johonniuss Chemweno, who is VIP StarNetwork’s CEO.

“We’ve been building the concept for 18 months,” Carothers said. “We brought it out to the film industry about seven months ago and are getting positive feedback. It has been overwhelming because we are making access to health care for the film industry folks reasonable. For productions, it’s usually been a scramble when something goes wrong on set.”

The premise for VIP StarNetwork is simple. The company has a network of health care professionals ready to assist productions with what may arise.

Within the network are primary care physicians, internal medicine, dermatologist, orthopedics, dentistry, cardiology, mental health and other doctors. The network has also signed on some massage therapists, as well as yoga instructors.

“What we did early on with our market research is we were trying to find something comprehensive,” Chemweno said. “We wanted to create something that touches all of the bases when it comes to health care. It’s also important that we can provide help to anyone on the production. From the stars of the film right down to the crew.”

For over a year, Chemweno said educating productions about the services offered has been important.

“Most of the people in the film industry are used to going to Google on the spur of the moment to look for someone to treat them,” he said. “We’re here with a team of doctors on call ready to help out. It takes the guessing out of everything.”

The booming industry has not only had a positive effect on local businesses.

According to the New Mexico State Film Office, during the 94 productions in 2019, 13,477 background talent and 1,899 full-time resident crew members were hired.

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