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Filmmakers drawn to state from early days

While the film industry has exploded in recent years in New Mexico due to the state’s incentive program, movie making has a long and storied history in the Land of Enchantment.

The first documented film in the state is a short documentary called “Indian Day School,” which was shot at Isleta Pueblo in 1898.

Fast-forward to 1912. New Mexico is a state and Romaine Feilding, an actor and director, began filming “The Golden God” in Las Vegas, N.M.

“This was the most expensive movie at the time. It cost $50,000,” says John Armijo, a communications and research analyst for the New Mexico Film Office. “It has a cast of 5,000 and they brought in the Santa Fe Railroad for filming. The shoot took about 17 days.”

Armijo says that during the early 1900s, filmmakers traveled to the Southwest and started to set up production companies.

“A lot of the companies wanted to make films about Native Americans,” he says. “There was a new frontier in film. A lot of Americans were looking for something new, and New Mexico happened to fit the bill.”

In 1912, while on their way back to New York, a Biograph Company cast and crew of 40 people stopped in Albuquerque to produce two films, “A Pueblo Legend” and “The Tourists.”

The drama “A Pueblo Legend” was directed by D.W. Griffith and starred Mary Pickford.

“Albuquerque native Edmund Cobb made his acting debut in the film as an extra,” Armijo says. “Cobb would go on to appear in over 500 films in his career.”

Over the years, New Mexico would be home to classic films like “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “King Solomon’s Mines,” as well as critically acclaimed modern movies like “The Milagro Beanfield War,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Terminator: Salvation” and “True Grit.”

And the film industry continues to grow.

The state’s aggressive film incentive program has been a benchmark for film programs around the country. The program offers a 25 percent rebate on goods and services to New Mexico businesses that participate with the film.

In 2010, there were 16 major film and TV projects; 11 of those were major motion pictures. The Duke City is home to two studios, I-25 Studios and Albuquerque Studios, where the majority of film and TV activity took place.

During 2011, Marvel Entertainment filmed “The Avengers” at Albuquerque Studios and its release is slated for later this year.

“It’s an industry that keeps rolling along,” Armijo says. “We offer a lot of variation when it comes to locations.”

 

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