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Net results: Streaming giant Netflix is meeting all of its New Mexico film production benchmarks

Aaron Paul, left, and Vince Gilligan film a scene for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.” (Courtesy of Netflix)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Netflix is settling in comfortably in New Mexico.

On Oct. 8, 2018, the streaming giant announced its intent to purchase Albuquerque Studios to make it a hub for film production. The deal was signed in January 2019.

It calls for Netflix to spend $1 billion in New Mexico over the course of a decade. In addition, it will add 1,000 jobs per year.

Netflix is meeting all of its benchmarks.

Within two productions — “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” and “Army of the Dead” — 772 New Mexico crew members were hired.

According to Netflix, the direct local spend for the two productions is at $69.7 million — $43 million for “Army of the Dead,” while “El Camino” is at $26.7 million. Numbers for the third production, “Daybreak,” weren’t available.

Netflix met $75 million in direct spend by Dec. 1.

Alicia J. Keyes, Cabinet Secretary for the NM Economic Development Department, said actual numbers cannot be confirmed by Taxation and Revenue Department until Netflix submits its receipts for each show and its rebate is processed.

“But based on estimates that the New Mexico Film Department tracks, Netflix will far surpass the $75 (million) direct spend requirement established in the PPA (power purchase agreement) in New Mexico with ‘Army of the Dead,’ ‘Greenbrier’ (El Camino) and ‘Daybreak,’ ” Keyes said. “This is great news as it means consistent employment for our New Mexico workers.”

The infrastructure for the film industry has been steadily built over the past 15 years.

Melinda Page Hamilton, Stefania LaVie Owen and John Ortiz filmed portions of “Messiah” in eastern New Mexico. (John Golden Britt/Netflix)

Earlier this year, the tax incentive package was revised, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The changes went into effect on July 1.

The cap on what can be paid to film and TV productions in a single year is currently $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 is given to companies that take productions to rural areas — which means 60 miles outside the Albuquerque/Santa Fe corridor.

Since Netflix committed to at least 10 years in New Mexico, it has carve outs, which means its productions are not subject to the $110 million cap.

Ty Warren, Netflix vice president for physical production, said the entire deal happened quickly.

“We moved swiftly,” Warren said. “The track record in New Mexico has been good by producing high-quality films and series. That is what intrigued us. The infrastructure continues to grow, and there’s a known and proven crew base that’s there. There’s also the support of the community and relationships coming out of us being there.”

Warren said Netflix now has a seat on the board of the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and is feeling part of the community.

He also said Netflix looks for opportunities to help the community.

“It varies from production to production of what can be done,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us.”

Three Netflix productions have been housed at Albuquerque Studios in the past year, keeping the lot full.

Warren said the current space is enough for productions.

Keyes said the limitations right now are naturally set by the number of sound stages and crew availability.

She said the uptick in productions coming into the state means there is more demand for both.

“We are working on several fronts to grow this capacity,” Keyes said. “There is a lot of on-the-job training going on through the FCAP program, as well as at the 21 high schools, community colleges and universities that have media programs. In addition, IATSE conducts significant safety training and is developing a robust training plan. The Stagecoach (Foundation), Santa Fe Studios and private acting studios are incredibly proactive and offering classes and seminars.”

Keyes said the state still needs to expand these programs.

“That’s why we expect industry partners like Netflix and NBCUniversal to contribute to workforce training with apprentice work, mentorships and financial contributions to schools,” she said. “The goal is to build a year-round workforce so those who live here can stay in New Mexico to pursue a career and raise a family.”

Matthew Broderick, Austin Crute and Jeanté Godlock filmed Netflix’s “Daybreak” at Highland High School. (Ursula Coyote/Netflix)

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