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Albuquerque and Santa Fe are shining stars in film industry

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in “Better Call Saul,” which is filmed in Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television)

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in “Better Call Saul,” which is filmed in Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television)

The light shines bright again for the New Mexico film industry.

According to the new MovieMaker list, Santa Fe and Albuquerque are some of best places to live and work as a moviemaker.

The Duke City comes in three slots down to No. 8 from its 2016 ranking in the big cities category.

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Meanwhile, the City Different moved up one notch to No. 2 in the small cities and towns.

MovieMaker credits the generous 25 percent to 30 percent refundable tax credit with no minimum spend in helping make New Mexico a Southwest stronghold.

Albuquerque has been on the list since 2007, even topping it in 2010. In 2013, it fell to No. 11.

Recent film shoots included “Soldado,” “Horse Soldiers” starring Chris Hemsworth, and the British-produced “Furthest Witness.” Television projects include “Better Call Saul.”

“The versatility of the landscape, the endless textured locations, the gorgeous light – you can shoot year-round and save a lot of money,” said Hannah Macpherson, creator of the AwesomenessTV series “T@gged” and the 2016 feature “Sickhouse,” of Albuquerque in the article.

This talent pool is fed by New Mexico’s Film Crew Advancement Program, training crews on the job and encouraging their advancement.

And the Albuquerque Film Office was a finalist for the Location Managers Guild International’s Best Film Commission honor in 2016.

The magazine also noted the addition of Indigenous Comic Con, which features indigenous creators of all art forms.

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“That event adds more diversity to a lineup that already includes the Pueblo Film Fest, the New Mexico Italian Film & Culture Festival and the Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. The Albuquerque Film and Music Experience counts Robert Redford on its board. And nontraditional festival Movies and Meaning aims for a less violent world through storytelling,” the article stated.

Rising to the runner-up position is Santa Fe in the small cities and towns.

“It’s great for Santa Fe and Albuquerque to be ranked so high,” said Eric Witt, executive director of the Santa Fe Film Office. “To have two New Mexico locations in different categories getting national attention, it validates the strength of the film industry.”

Witt said with Las Cruces making strides with its own film program and he hopes to see it on the list in the not too distant future.

“We’re here to show how great it is to make a film in New Mexico,” he said. “All of us are very complementary. Each city brings in a different type of production.”

The rankings are based on places to work and live, according to MovieMaker.

“This is a testament to the quality of life in New Mexico,” Witt said. “The level of the support services that we have helps us out greatly. From the crew to the studios, we have a strong foundation.”

The article also credits Santa Fe for the production and post-production resources that befit a much bigger city, from MBS Equipment at Santa Fe Studios to Garson Studios at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, housing the largest permanent green screen in the state.

It also mentions the George R.R. Martin-owned Jean Cocteau Cinema, which adds another element to film-watching.

Nick Maniatis, director of the New Mexico Film Office, said he’s not surprised of the two cities’ rankings.

“The magazine mentions our crew, our infrastructure, vibrant culture, lifestyle and landscapes,” Maniatis said. “We also shouldn’t overlook the fantastic support of our governor and Legislature, which keeps our program strong.”

Actor Nick Nolte sits on a bench in front of the Plaza Cafe during the filming of the TV series “Graves” in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Actor Nick Nolte sits on a bench in front of the Plaza Cafe during the filming of the TV series “Graves” in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

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