Sound stages, lighting crews, celebrities…it’s what you’d expect in the backlots of Hollywood’s biggest movie and television studios, but it’s now become the norm here in Albuquerque, America’s next star on the Hollywood stage.
If you look closely, you’ll recognize the New Mexico landscape in a growing number of productions including Stranger Things, Better Call Saul, and classics like Breaking Bad and The Terminator. While some of those shows are new, filmmaking in New Mexico is not. According to Amber Dodson of the New Mexico film association, the state has long been a go-to for movie makers with movies dating back to the 1950s and 1960s starring John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. New Mexico also touts being the home of the first documentary film ever made; Indian Day School was filmed here back in 1898.
The current robust film scene is the continuation of a years-long, unprecedented boom in the industry with records consecutively broken year over year. Dodson says the state is on track for $855 million spent here this year, up from $627 million in the fiscal year 2021. With a strong history in the film industry, why is New Mexico now seeing such a surge? Dodson credits three things: “financial incentives, a well-established crew base, and a diverse landscape with film-friendly weather.”
The financial incentives are key to drawing movie studios to any state outside of California and New Mexico has one of the most competitive incentives in the nation. Dodson said the current governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, is a champion of the industry as are the state’s legislators. Together they’ve led the state to bring about this highly competitive offer. “She understands the benefits to the residents and citizens of New Mexico,” said Dodson. “We live in a beautiful place with gorgeous architecture, landscape, and habitats on top of enjoying film-friendly weather. It’s very desirable to studio decision-makers.”
New Mexico’s deep roots in filmmaking have allowed it to cultivate an almost unparalleled resource for production studios: an experienced crew. The state has one of the most robust crew bases and network of film schools in the country. “It takes time for a crew base to be skilled and as knowledgeable as ours. And it takes quality programs to keep feeding that workforce. New Mexico boasts a world-class crew base. It’s a calling card for films to be made here. And all of this has come together in the last couple of years post-covid,” said Dodson. The convenient 90-minute flight to Los Angeles doesn’t hurt, either. “The proximity absolutely helps. It helps producers, actors, directors, and content creators. It makes it really convenient for everyone.” The confluence of these elements has resulted in the birth of several lighting and grip houses, movie ranches, and sound stages. Marvel Studios now has a movie hub in NM as does NBCUniversal (two stages) and Netflix, which houses nine stages and a backlot in Albuquerque. Dodson said other studios are looking to plant roots in the state as well.
Along with its unique and diverse landscape, New Mexico offers filmmakers a unique and diverse community. A community that welcomes the industry with open arms. In 2020, a survey asked residents how they felt about the surge of filmmaking in the state. “More than 70% are absolutely for this. They understand the positive economic impact and have benefitted from it. It has an immense financial impact, and they see that.”
The momentum that has been building for decades shows no signs of slowing. In fact, Dodson said we can only expect to see more movies and shows produced here in the future. She said LA is becoming increasingly crowded and is victim to the global shortage of stages and qualified staff. “We are absolutely on par with Hollywood. Crews, directors, and producers love to work here because it’s so friendly and not a cutthroat ruthless place where people are operating out of fear of being fired. It’s very different here, it’s a community. The industry brings high-paying jobs so you can afford to live here, it’s a win-win.”
Looking for a new home in New Mexico? Mariposa is a master-planned community 30 minutes north of Albuquerque in the appealing town of Rio Rancho. Near so much of what New Mexico offers, Mariposa is designed for living naturally. Mariposa offers a fully equipped fitness center, indoor lap pool and outdoor pools, parks, sports courts, miles of trails, abundant open space, and endless views at the 2,200-acre Mariposa Preserve and surrounding mountains. Learn more at https://liveinmariposa.com/
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