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New Mexico film industry expects a busy summer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Film Office says another project is coming to the state, bringing to 10 the number of movies and television shows currently being produced in New Mexico.

Film Office Director Nick Maniatis announced the feature “Kepler’s Dream” will film in Albuquerque and Santa Fe County from the end of July through the end of August.

The production is just the latest in a steady stream of new projects for the state, which saw interest from film companies drop after Republican Gov. Susana Martinez took office in 2011 and tried to eliminate a rebate program that her predecessor, Democrat Bill Richardson, had enacted to build the film industry in New Mexico.

But after a compromise was reached to cap instead of cut the program, Maniatis went about rebuilding relationships with major studios, and lawmakers last year increased the incentives for television shows after two anchor shows for studios in Albuquerque, “Breaking Bad,” and “In Plain Sight,” ended their runs.

Wayne Rauschenberg, chief operating officer of Albuquerque Studios, said Friday that he expects to be completely booked by the end of the year thanks to the recent boom.

“I think two things are happening,” he said in an email. “One, the state’s film incentive is working, and two, television is becoming much more sophisticated. Some of the shows have special effects and talent that you would normally see in the theaters.

“That’s the good news,” he said. “The other side of that is our success is going to push up against (the) cap!”

The incentive program provides up to 30 percent tax refunds for certain film and TV production expenses, with a cap on payouts of $50 million a year.

The recent boom in new production has lawmakers talking about trying to increase or remove the cap. A recent study shows film production spending created nearly 15,900 full-time jobs and generated about $104 million in taxes from mid-2009 through earlier this year.

“Clearly, the report and the recent announcements are showing that we’ve regained our status in the film industry as a premier destination for filming productions,” said Senate Democratic Whip Tim Keller, of Albuquerque. “It also speaks to opportunity for more growth in the film industry.”

He said lawmakers should consider changing the $50 million annual cap on incentives. The options include removing TV productions from the limits or making it a “floating cap” that would go up if specific conditions are met, such as the state having adequate cash reserves.

“Kepler’s Dream” is a story of girl trying to heal her broken family. It’s based on the award-winning novel by Juliet Bell. The book was inspired by her grandmother, who was resident of Albuquerque for more than 50 years.

The movie stars Isabella Blake-Thomas, Holland Taylor, Sean Patrick Flanery, Kelly Lynch, David Hunt, Steven Michael Quezada and Kelly Hu.