Albuquerque again ranked No. 1 for filmmaking

Zack Snyder films a scene for “Army of the Dead.” The project filmed in Albuquerque at Netflix Studios. (Clay Enos/Netflix)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

It’s a three-peat.

On Tuesday, MovieMaker Magazine named Albuquerque the No. 1 place to “live and work as a filmmaker” in the big cities category.

This is the third year in a row Albuquerque has received the designation. The Duke City also held the top title in 2010 and has made the list every year since 2007. It fell out of the top 10 just once, when it ranked No. 11 in 2013.

In addition, MovieMaker listed Santa Fe at No. 2 in this year’s small cities and towns category.

The trade magazine compiles its annual list by looking at each city’s film activity – the number of productions, economic activity generated and shoot durations.

It also looks at infrastructure, which includes health of film commissions and nonprofits, number of film schools and visual effects houses.

Population and geographical size, state and local film incentive programs, and ease of movement and traffic are also considered in determining the rankings. This year, MovieMaker also took into consideration how each area was coping with the pandemic.

Since the beginning of the small-cities listing, Santa Fe has always been ranked in the top five, but it has never reached the No. 1 spot.

The No. 2 ranking is up one from both 2019 and 2020.

“This is a testament to New Mexico’s status as a production hub and its film-friendly communities,” said Alicia J. Keyes, New Mexico economic development secretary. “Our governor and Legislature support the entire industry, which also helps small, local businesses grow.”

Tom Hanks, right, in a scene from “News of the World.” The project filmed in and around Santa Fe for 53 days. (Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Keyes knows the film industry is paying attention to what New Mexico is doing.

She credits the ranking with creating stability within the industry, which has led to deals with NBCUniversal and Netflix in recent years.

Netflix announced a 300-acre expansion in late 2020, which will add up to 10 new stages, postproduction services, production offices, mills, backlots, training facilities, wardrobe suites, a commissary to support meals and craft services, and other flex buildings to support productions.

As part of the proposed expansion, Netflix will push job creation, as well as an additional $1 billion in production spending and $150 million in capital expenditures.

The state’s film tax incentives continue to be a gold standard in the industry.

Tax incentives include a 25% to 35% production tax credit for film, TV, commercials, documentaries, music videos, video games, animation, postproduction and more.

Keyes says having Netflix and NBCUniversal as film partners creates stability for the state.

“In the past, the industry used to ebb and flow to different areas of the country,” Keyes said. “By having the partnerships, it creates sustainability because each one has benchmarks to meet yearly.”

Amber Dodson, New Mexico Film Office director, said this is a new era for the film and television industry in New Mexico.

“In recent years, we have seen increased production activity, as well as production spend, and two major studios have set roots in New Mexico,” Dodson said. “This is all because of the smart investments made by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to develop a competitive tax incentive program that benefits New Mexico. Our state offers what other places just can’t buy – world-class crews, diverse locations, great weather, close proximity to Los Angeles, a competitive production tax credit, and an affordable and quality lifestyle.”

Tim Molloy, MovieMaker Magazine editor-in-chief, said New Mexico has become a major film and TV hub that has astonishing potential.

Matthias Schweighfer as Dieter and Zack Snyder on set of “Army of the Dead.” (Clay Enos/Netflix)

“Albuquerque and Santa Fe are very attractive draws for anyone looking for natural beauty, culture and affordability – and thanks to huge investments by Netflix and NBCUniversal, among others, industry professionals no longer have to choose between quality of life and career opportunities,” Molloy said. “The rise of the Albuquerque-Santa Fe corridor is one of the most incredible movie and TV industry stories of the past decade, and we’re also intrigued by smaller, rising areas like Las Cruces.”

Keyes is pushing for more movement in Las Cruces.

“We’re really talking a lot to our partners about Las Cruces,” Keyes said. “They have the fantastic Creative Media Institute at New Mexico State University, where they are educating some of our best crew members.”

Keyes said she would still like to get a third film partner to the state.

“We need more stages focusing on crew training and not only the advancement of the current crew, but training of students,” Keyes said. “I’d love to be able to assist above-the-line talent like we did with the Sen. Pinto fund. I’d like to add a fund like that for Latino and one for Black filmmakers. That was in the executive budget request. We’re going to be fighting for that in the Legislative session.”

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