SANTA FE, N.M. — An unfinished commercial for the state Department of Tourism is already bringing out-of-state visitors to New Mexico.
The problem, according to people who work within the state’s film industry, is that those visitors are actually filming the tourism commercial. That hasn’t gone over well with some in New Mexico’s movie community.
In January, the Department of Tourism announced it selected Vendor Inc., an Austin, Texas-based firm, to head its new advertising campaign. The firm was selected out of 20 bidders, which included New Mexican firms who received a 5 percent preference on their bids.
Vendor still came out on top, according to the department, and was awarded the $2 million contract.
The Texas hire touched a nerve with some locals. Now, New Mexico film production companies are the ones expressing disappointment after learning Vendor went with California-based Papaman to produce a commercial.
The producers shot a variety of locations throughout the state over a period of four days. According to Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson, the project used out-of-state people such as a five-person camera crew.
“It added salt to the wound,” said Dave Roberts of Southwest Productions in Albuquerque.
Roberts said companies like his would have been able to produce the commercial.
Stuart Overby of halflife Digital said her company also could have made the TV ad. She said halflife produced commercials for the state before and had the resources to produce a national spot.
She said the company tried to approach Vendor after they were awarded the contract. The company called her company back once, she said, but then communication from Vendor dropped off.
“We were basically making cold calls,” she said.
Overby said she thought Vendor may have brought in a company they were familiar and comfortable working with. Tom Hollerbach, the managing director of Vendor, did not return a call seeking comment.
Jon Hendry, business agent for the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480 said he saw the Vendor production in action last week on the Santa Fe Plaza. Hendry, at the South by Southwest festival in Austin promoting New Mexico’s film industry Tuesday, said by phone that the decision to use out-of-state workers to promote the state did not send a good message.
“There’s probably half-a-dozen companies here capable of shooting a national commercial,” he said. “It’s not even the money that’s leaving here that’s the issue. We spent a lot of money training people. We’ve built an infrastructure here.”
Hendry said in an e-mail that, out of a crew of 27 people working on the tourism ad on the Plaza last week, only two were from New Mexico, including a driver.
When asked about Hendry’s claim, Jacobson said it was a misrepresentation. She said there was not a crew of 27 people and that while some of the crew was from out of state, the cast and casting agency were from New Mexico. She said the commercial also used local companies and Native American dancers.
One of those companies was New Mexico Kayak Instruction, which provided kayaks for a shot of boating at Abiquiu Lake. Kelly Gosset, of the company, said the water was cold but the shoot went well. He said there were two producers who used a variety of cameras including cameras rigged to what Jacobson said was an octocopter, which took aerial video. Gosset said the shoot was over in about three hours.
“It was my first time on a film set and I was amazed at how efficient they were,” Gosset said.
But Gosset added that he sympathized with local companies who did not get the job. He says he understands how it feels to lose business to an out-of-state company.
“I hate to hear that people who may be qualified didn’t get the job,” he said.
Jacobson said the Department of Tourism works with Vendor and has final say over how the Texas company hires sub-contractors, but the sub-contractors were not selected through a formal bidding process. She said the Department and Vendor had to budget for time.
“I would say this particular shoot was done on an incredibly tight timeline,” she said. “It was a specialized shoot. We just brought this ad agency on board in February.”
Jacobson said there would be opportunities for state companies to work with the department’s tourism campaign.
Overby said she hopes the Department would consider using state companies in the future.
“I don’t know that this one thing affects anyone,” she said. “… I just hope it doesn’t become a trend.”
Jacobson said the commercial will tell potential visitors that New Mexico is “a place full of adventures, steeped in culture” which has activities visitors can participate in beyond sightseeing. She said the commercial will be unveiled in a press conference April 16.