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Hollywood comes to the City Different

George R.R. Martin. Taylor Lautner. Luke Wilson.

These were a few of the faces seen at the season five premiere of “Game of Thrones” in Santa Fe recently.

And it was all brought about by Martin, whose fantasy book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” is the basis of the hugely popular HBO series. The fifth season starts airing Sunday.

Santa Fe was one of three sites to have a premiere – the other two were held in London and San Francisco – and it was a little taste of Hollywood in the Land of Enchantment.

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Landing the premiere was Martin’s doing, but Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales says he wants to see more of these events come to New Mexico, specifically Santa Fe.

“We don’t have a strategic focus to bring premieres to town,” Gonzales says. “We are fortunate that George (R.R.) Martin lives here. It presents an opportunity for the city as the film industry continues to grow.”

From left, Luke Wilson, George R.R. Martin, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, Jorge Garcia and Taylor Lautner rub shoulders at last month's premiere in Santa Fe. (Morgan Petroski/Albuquerque Journal)

From left, Luke Wilson, George R.R. Martin, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, Jorge Garcia and Taylor Lautner rub shoulders at last month’s premiere in Santa Fe. (Morgan Petroski/Albuquerque Journal)

The City Different has been buzzing for the past few months with film and TV projects.

From Tina Fey’s project, which is based on the book, “Taliban Shuffle,” to Adam Sandler’s latest Western comedy, “The Ridiculous Six,” the city is chock-full of movie stars.

The fourth season of “Longmire” has begun to film at Garson Studios, and in northern New Mexico and WGN America’s “Manhattan” will soon be back in production.

All the movement is a sign that Albuquerque is not the only New Mexico city on the map when it comes to film.

In January, MovieMaker Magazine ranked Santa Fe at No. 3 in its “Top Towns to Live and Work as a Filmmaker.” This was the first time the city had been ranked in the list.

Gonzales says the national recognition has helped the city grab more attention.

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“What I really like about what’s going on in Santa Fe right now is there’s a blend of filmmaking,” he says. “From very small budget to independent features to TV. I want a film economy for Santa Fe that has an environment where all types of films can be made.”

Frank Coraci, who is directing the movie "The Ridiculous Six" in Santa Fe, photographs an Arctic wolf on the red carpet during an after party for the "Game of Thrones" premiere in Santa Fe. (Morgan Petroski/Albuquerque Journal)

Frank Coraci, who is directing the movie “The Ridiculous Six” in Santa Fe, photographs an Arctic wolf on the red carpet during an after party for the “Game of Thrones” premiere in Santa Fe. (Morgan Petroski/Albuquerque Journal)

Santa Fe is home to Santa Fe University of Art and Design, which Gonzales says is educating the next generation in film.

The Jean Cocteau Cinema, which Martin owns, also is on his list of pluses for the city.

“George has made the cinema into a leader when it comes to art cinema houses,” he says. “Then there’s the Violet Crown, which will open at the end of April. It’s going to bring another unique theater experience. Different types of films will be shown, and you can grab a beer, too.”

Violet Crown Cinema will be located in the downtown Santa Fe Railyard and will include 11 screens devoted to quality independent, documentary, international and studio films.

It will also offer food items with locally sourced ingredients when available and a variety of vegetarian and gluten-free options. The extensive beer list will include several local draft beers while the wine list will contain multiple affordable fine wines.

At the “Game of Thrones” premiere, Gonzales and other guests (myself included) were able to mingle with the film community.

Gonzales took some time to take some selfies with Lautner (best known as Jacob in the “Twilight” saga) and Nick Swardson (“Grandma’s Boy” and “Don’t Mess with the Zohan”), both of whom are in “The Ridiculous Six.”

But it wasn’t meeting the stars that had Gonzales excited; it was what they had to say about Santa Fe.

“I talked with Nick and he had positive things to say about the local community,” he says. “When you have actors like that and they are speaking positively about Santa Fe, it helps us attract other projects.”

Santa Fe also is in the process of creating a film commission, which will be focused on growing the film economy. It will be staffed with people who invest in films and want to see it grow.

Gonzales will continue to show up to film events because the industry is a good driver for the state and the city.

“It’s important that I show up because I want to send a loud and clear message that film matters,” he says.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Assistant Arts Editor Adrian Gomez can be reached at agomez@abqjournal.com.

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