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Magazine ranks Duke City No. 3 in nation for movie production

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Duke City remains one of the best when it comes to making independent movies.

MovieMaker Magazine has ranked Albuquerque at No. 3, behind New Orleans and Austin, for the 2012 annual list.

“We’ve been in the top four over the past five years,” said Ann Lerner, the city of Albuquerque’s film liaison. “That’s an incredible feat for us to achieve.”

In 2011, Albuquerque was ranked at No. 2 and the city topped the list in 2010. Rounding out the top 10 after Albuquerque are Seattle, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Richmond, Va., and Wichita, Kan.

Lerner said the city is very film-friendly and she believes that is a huge draw for filmmakers. She also mentioned that the city’s close proximity to Los Angeles is a plus.

“We had ‘The Last Stand’ film in Downtown Albuquerque, and it was a success,” she said. “Everyone cooperated while the film was shooting and they had some dramatic shots. They were shooting in front of City Hall and a lot of the streets were closed, but it all went off well.”

MovieMaker Magazine takes into consideration cost of living, average income levels, housing rates, employment opportunities and overall quality of life. It also looks at state and city financial incentives, access to talent — behind and in front of the camera — ease of shooting, local movie-related resources and vendors, exposure to other moviemakers, screening opportunities and nearby studio space.

“In 2011, the film industry had a direct spend of $130 million in the greater Albuquerque area. These productions kept New Mexican film crews working and local establishments busy,” said Mayor Richard J. Berry. “This national ranking is a real testament to the hard work put into developing the film industry in Albuquerque.”

The article also highlighted films that have recently been hosted by Albuquerque, including “Due Date” and “Fright Night.” Currently, “The Last Stand” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is filming here and “The Lone Ranger” is in preproduction at ABQ Studios.

Craig Gillespie, who directed “Fright Night,” said filming in Albuquerque helped move along the production at a fast pace.

He said getting permits was an easy process and the incentives made it worth shooting in the city.

“The weather was really great and that’s always a plus when you are shooting a movie,” he said. “The crews were always ready to get started and we found a lot of extra on-air talent in the area.”

Lerner said she is focusing more on the independent filmmaker and bringing more productions to Albuquerque. She works closely with the New Mexico Film Office in Santa Fe on potential projects.

“The phones are ringing, and I have some scouts set up for interested productions,” she said. “It’s great to have the big-budget films, but it’s also great to have these low-budget movies to where our local filmmakers are getting a chance to be artistic.”

As for attaining the top spot again on the list, Lerner said that it can happen.

“Being No. 3 means that we have to work harder, and we will,” she said. “To be recognized in a national magazine for the fifth year means that we’re doing it right.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal