ABQ named No. 1 for moviemakers for fourth year in a row - Albuquerque Journal

ABQ named No. 1 for moviemakers for fourth year in a row

Director Sheridan O’Donnell on the set of “Little Brother,” which is one of the many movies filmed in Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Keagan Karnes)

Albuquerque is No. 1, again — for the fourth consecutive year.

The city topped MovieMaker’s 2022 “Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker” list in the big cities category.

The city was first ranked No. 1 in 2010 and has made the annual list every year since 2007.

It fell out of the top 10 just once, when it ranked No. 11 in 2013.

It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to get productions to commit to the city and state. Cyndy McCrossen’s job as film liaison for the Albuquerque Film Office, is to help make the productions feel at home.

She says at the Albuquerque Film Office, it’s never slowed down. This is why the film office touts its online permitting process, which has also been ramped up by adding some additional personnel.

“The permitting system is a great system,” McCrossen said. “It helps because any production can submit for a permit and it will get approved within 72 hours. That’s essential for keeping the flow. Productions expect not to have big time gaps and they don’t operate with too much advance warning.”

McCrossen said as of Jan. 1, there are 10 active productions that are ramping up in the city.

“A couple of them are big,” McCrossen said. “We have several that are pushing $100 million mark. I don’t think we’ve seen that kind of activity for a long time.”

In addition, MovieMaker listed Santa Fe at No. 3 in this year’s small cities and towns category. Santa Fe drops one notch from last year’s ranking.

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.

During the last fiscal year, the film industry set a record with $623 million in direct spending to the state.

“Four times at No. 1 is astonishing, and it’s a testament to how much Albuquerque has exploded as a production hub,” said Tim Molloy, MovieMaker editor-in-chief. “Big investments from Netflix and NBCUniversal have helped dramatically, and so have state and local officials who are proud ambassadors of Albuquerque and other gorgeous New Mexico locales from Santa Fe to Taos.”

Molloy said work opportunities abound in New Mexico, and the state is doing an impressive job of helping to train up more locals to join its highly professional crews.

From left, Director Jeymes Samuel, LaKeith Stanfield as Cherokee Bill, Idris Elba as Rufus Buck and Regina King as Trudy Smith on the set of “The Harder They Fall” in Santa Fe. (David Lee/Netflix)

“Albuquerque is a lovely, friendly, affordable, very livable city that offers a terrific work-life balance,” Molloy continued. “Santa Fe is very commutable to Albuquerque and feels like a resort town that somehow also offers endless creative opportunities, while constantly refilling your sense of wonder. Together they form a film corridor unmatched anywhere. Both are accessible to mountains that can double as New Hampshire’s and desert landscapes that can double for Mars. The region has heart and beauty and a spirit of exploration you can’t find anywhere else on earth. And yes, Los Angeles is a short flight away, but maybe you can just convince that L.A. producer you’re meeting to move to New Mexico.”

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.

Alicia J. Keyes, secretary of New Mexico Economic Development Department, said state and local leaders have worked with business owners and New Mexico residents to build an ecosystem that embraces and supports this sector of the state’s economy.

“We are pleased to not only see Albuquerque and Santa Fe topping MovieMaker Magazine’s ‘Best Places to Live and Work as a MovieMaker,’ but maintaining their position as top places for filmmakers to call home,” Keyes said. “From career paths for New Mexicans, tourism, and revenue to local businesses, this is an industry that has multi-faceted benefits for our state, and with full support from Governor (Michelle) Lujan Grisham we are continuing to build upon and elevate the ecosystem that New Mexico offers the industry.”

For local filmmakers like Keagan Karnes, the film industry is the main reason he’s stayed in New Mexico.

“New Mexico is still a place where we are excited to be making films,” Karnes said. “We understand what a great opportunity it is for us and for the state.”

Karnes was part of the feature film, “Little Brother,” which filmed in Albuquerque in 2021.

He says 80% of the film was done in Albuquerque.

“The story took place in Albuquerque,” he said. “The crew base that we like working with is here. We have tons of resources here. It’s our home and that inspires us.”

Lujan Grisham is touting creation of a media academy as part of her agenda for the 30-day legislative session.

The Democratic governor is proposing spending $50 million in capital outlay funds to create an academy that would serve New Mexico students in the transition from education to employment in the state film industry.

“It’s no surprise that New Mexico cities continue to top the list of the best places to be a filmmaker — New Mexico is the place to be for film and TV,” said Lujan Grisham. “Our work to support and expand New Mexico’s film infrastructure continues to yield real results: a booming industry that provides countless jobs and economic opportunity in communities across the state. Filmmakers take note — New Mexico wants you!”

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