ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Longmire.” “Manhattan.” “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.” “The Night Shift.” “Hieroglyph.” “The Messengers.” “Better Call Saul.”
Call this group the lucky seven.
But it’s the New Mexico TV and film industry and economy that are benefiting.
Three years ago, New Mexico Film Office Director Nick Maniatis’ goal was to bring more TV projects to the state.
With the help of the Legislature, which upped the ante with the state film incentives for TV productions – also called the “Breaking Bad” bill that gave a 30-percent tax incentive for TV productions that shoot six or more episodes in the state – Maniatis’ wish is coming true.
“It’s great to see the shows coming here for production,” Maniatis said. “My background is in TV, and I have wanted to see this happen for the state. I knew we could do it, because there are a lot of talented crew members in the state.”
There are seven productions that have either filmed, are filming or are preparing to film in New Mexico within the past six months. The networks range from NBC to Fox and the CW to cable networks such as WGN America, A&E and AMC.
On average, each one adds about $1 million per week to New Mexico’s economy in direct spending.
Maniatis said the productions are spending about $25 million to $30 million per season and the state incentives save the production companies about $5 million to $6 million.
“The scope of TV has changed,” he said. “There is more spending at the beginning of a production because of build outs. TV shows rarely run a full 26 episodes and cable networks have been a huge game changer for the industry.”
Maniatis said he sees two immediate benefits of TV versus film productions. The first is that TV productions stay in the state longer, usually more than six months for many productions. The other is that when TV productions have more than one season, it gives the crew a chance to grow with the show and move up the ladder.
“As the crew gets more experience, it’s a chance for them to take on more responsibility,” he said. “As the shows are in the state for longer periods of time, the cast becomes a big part of the community and they become part-time residents.”
Ann Lerner, film liaison for the city of Albuquerque, agrees.
“Having TV productions in the state keeps the crews busy,” Lerner said. “We have been pushing for everything, from film to TV productions to webisodes. It’s only right for us to have a lot of different projects.”
Maniatis has always wanted a mixture of productions. While currently there are more TV than film productions, he said it’s not a problem.
“It all balances out,” Maniatis said. “You want the little guys to come in and do independent projects. You want at least one big film and then get the TV productions stable and we’re in the right place.”
Jon Wax, senior vice president of scripted programming for Tribune Studios and WGN America, said when the script for “Manhattan” came across his desk, he wanted to be involved and see it come to life. He said it was important that the series be filmed in New Mexico and tell the story of the Manhattan Project.
“What’s great about the set is that the crew has built it so it transports us back to another time,” Wax said. “We need for the show to be as authentic as it can be. Picking Santa Fe was definitely the right place.”
Wayne Rauschenberger, chief operating officer at Albuquerque Studios, said getting “Better Call Saul” back at the studios is a great thing.
“It shows that we developed a great relationship with those that did ‘Breaking Bad,’ ” he said. “It also shows that they had a great experience and wanted to bring it back to us.”
Albuquerque Studios is also handling “Hieroglyphs” and did the pilot for “The Messengers” and was home base for “The Night Shift.”
With four studios – Santa Fe Studios, Garson Studios, Albuquerque Studios and I-25 Studios – within a 70-mile radius, Maniatis said it bodes well for the area. He said that each studio has carved out a niche for itself and provides options for TV productions.
Santa Fe Studios housed the production for “Cosmos,” while I-25 Studios has great space for creating sets inside the buildings, he said.
“Then there’s Garson that lends itself well to productions like ‘Longmire,’ which shoots a lot on location,” he said. “Albuquerque Studios can handle multiple productions and has all the space. There’s something for every production that comes through here.”