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NM studios packed to the brim

SANTA FE, N.M. — TV’s latest “golden age” is translating into more New Mexico productions than ever.

The small screen is experiencing a renaissance built on a flurry of ever-changing viewer habits, outpacing feature films, and New Mexico is reaping the benefits.

Until recently, eight TV productions were filming in New Mexico at the same time, according to Nick Maniatis, director of the New Mexico Film Office.

That means every soundstage at studios in Albuquerque and Santa Fe are or were full.

“We’ve never had eight TV productions going on at once,” Maniatis said. “We’re holding up well with the facilities and crew. What’s happening now is the fruits of our labor. There’s a lot of hard work from the studios, the unions and the film office that has gone into making this happen.”

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Maniatis has been determined to boost New Mexico TV production since he first came to the film office in July 2011.

One week of filming a TV production funnels $1 million into the community, according to the Albuquerque Film Office.

A single episode usually takes eight days to shoot. Newer shows pour even more money into the production through start-up costs. And the state’s film incentives – a 30 percent tax rebate on all New Mexico goods and services —— remains one of the most stable in the country.

Those incentives brought acclaimed director Robert Rodriguez to the state. Rodriguez burst onto the scene with 1992’s “El Mariachi” and is known for directing the “Sin City” and “Spy Kids” franchises as well as his collaborations with Quentin Tarantino.

Albuquerque Studios has been busy with four TV productions.

Albuquerque Studios has been busy with four TV productions.

For two seasons, Rodriguez’s TV show, “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” filmed in Austin, where his El Rey Network is headquartered.

With Texas incentives dwindling, Rodriguez looked for options to move production.

“We looked for different alternatives,” Rodriguez said. “It was Louisiana, Atlanta and New Mexico. It costs money to move a show, and we needed to save money. ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ is set in Texas and being in New Mexico would keep the Western feel to it. We heard great things from other people who have filmed here.”

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Production for the show began mid-March and will continue in and around Albuquerque through June.

A film crew working on "Justice" at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe.

A film crew working on “Justice” at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe.

“We only brought a few of our keys for continuity,” Rodriguez says. “The rest of the crew is all local. It’s been pretty great so far.”

“From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” has developed a cult following and is a cornerstone of El Rey Network.

In addition to Rodriguez’s move, the relationship between Albuquerque and AMC Networks remains strong.

The city and the network forged a great relationship when it filmed “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” in New Mexico.

The season two finale of “Better Call Saul” will air today. AMC is also banking on the success of “Preacher,” which is currently filming at Albuquerque Studios. The series has been trending on social media sites since the adaptation was announced more than a year ago.

“Preacher” is based on Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s popular ’90s comic book franchise of the same name. It will premiere May 22 on AMC.

“We’re thrilled to finally be sharing this epic story with characters unlike any other on television,” said Joel Stillerman, president of original programming and development for AMC and SundanceTV.

Albuquerque Studios is also home to NBC’s medical drama, “The Night Shift.” The series is filming its third season and will air later this summer.

Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer in "Preacher," which begins May 22. (Courtesy of Lewis Jacobs/AMC)

Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer in “Preacher,” which begins May 22. (Courtesy of Lewis Jacobs/AMC)

And there is Netflix’s “Longmire,” which is filming its fifth season in northern New Mexico. The Western drama found a new home at Netflix after it was cancelled by A&E in 2014.

” ‘Longmire’ is more than just a great show, it truly showcases the incredible beauty of Santa Fe and northern New Mexico, and continues to help grow our reputation as one of the country’s leading film communities,” Santa Fe Mayor Javier M. Gonzales said. “We’re excited they are coming back and looking forward to seeing what happens next in the season.”

Maniatis said two pilots also recently finished shooting in New Mexico.

CBS Productions’ “Untitled Mars Project” for the CW wrapped after a few weeks in the state. And the pilot of “Midnight, Texas” wrapped for NBC.

Maniatis said both productions are waiting to see if they get a season order.

There’s also the Steven Soderbergh TV series “Godless” filming in Santa Fe. It will air on Netflix.

And TV isn’t the only booming genre. Plenty of independent film productions are going on in the state.

At Bonanza Creek Ranch, just outside of Santa Fe, the independent feature “Justice” has been filming for nearly a month. The western is being directed by Richard Gabai and stars Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Stephen Lang, Nathan Parsons, Jackson Rathbone and Robert Carradine.

Niko Foster is an executive producer and said the film incentives are what ultimately drove the production to the state.

“We scouted Portland (Ore.) and Santa Fe,” Foster said. “We knew once we came out here that the film would be made here.”

Foster and his partners make faith-based films, and “Justice” is its first foray into the western genre.

“Filmmaking is one of the best things to do,” he says. “It’s even better when you find a location that works out perfectly for you.”

And in southeastern New Mexico, the independent film “2 Years and 8 Days” began production.

It includes Kayla Sewell, who stars in “The Vampire Diaries” as Vicky Donovan, and “Pretty Little Liars” alum Ryan Merriman.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Maniatis said. “We have a reputation of being film-friendly. New Mexico as a whole has a great reputation outside of the state. There’s an ebb and a flow to how things work. It’ll will get busy and then slow a little. We’re still nowhere near our cap.”

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