New Mexico, Backdrop Of ‘Stranger Things’, Hits Peak Production

SANTA FE, New Mexico — New Mexico’s film and television industry has reached a new high, with record spending by video production companies in a state that has attracted projects such as the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”

Production companies spent a record $855 million directly on movies, TV series and other media in the fiscal year that ended June 30, the New Mexico governor announced Thursday. Industry executives have been drawn to New Mexico’s unique landscapes since the success of AMC’s long-running “Breaking Bad” series and a generous boost in incentives passed by state lawmakers in 2019.

Industry spending in the state rose about 36% from nearly $627 million in the prior year.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a first-term Democrat seeking re-election, also touted increased spending beyond major cities such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque, fueled by expanding state incentives for production. cinema in rural and small towns.

Local production spending in these outlying areas increased more than sixfold to $49.5 million amid an industry rebound, state economic development officials told a legislative panel in Las. Vegas, New Mexico.

It’s unclear how much the state will eventually spend on the corresponding incentive payments for the movies. New Mexico offers a rebate of between 25% and 35% of in-state expenses for video production, which helps filmmakers big and small underwrite their work.

Incentive payments peaked at $148 million in 2019 before dropping to around $40 million for the year ending June 2021. As the state’s general fund is awash with federal aid revenue to the pandemic as well as a spike in oil and natural gas prices and production, some lawmakers have criticized the rebates as being too costly.

State economic development officials say conversations are underway with lawmakers to review the terms of the state’s film tax rebate program when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2023, possibly redrawing bonus boundaries in rural areas and exploring new incentives tied to reducing emissions of global warming pollution from energy-intensive industry.

Fiscally conservative lawmakers have debated for years whether New Mexico spends too much on the movie industry relative to the jobs it supports. But Lujan Grisham pointed to state data that showed an increase in the number of hours worked in the industry and new highs for the number of film and television productions at nearly 110 for the year.

“Through the work we’ve done to foster a successful production environment and create a thriving base of talented local crews, film and television productions around the world are investing directly in New Mexico communities, supporting our small businesses, and creating jobs. for thousands of New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

Following the success of “Breaking Bad” and the “Better Call Saul” spin-off, other notable recent productions in New Mexico include portions of the fourth season of the Netflix series “Stranger Things” and “Dark Winds.” ‘AMC, based on the mystery book series. of Tony Hillerman and his daughter Anne Hillerman.

Both Netflix and NBCUniversal have set up permanent production centers in Albuquerque in recent years, adding millions of dollars in investment and promises of more jobs.

The 2019 legislative reforms opened up greater incentives to film production companies that demonstrate long-term commitments to New Mexico through a 10-year contract on a qualified production facility. Netflix and NBCUniversal have obtained this “film partner” status which lifts the cap on annual production discounts.

Industry spending had tended to rise before the pandemic halted work due to public health mandates and industry protocols, leading to a sharp drop in 2020. As restrictions were eased, spending rebounded in 2021 as work intensified.

Record-breaking activity has taken place amid allegations of workplace safety violations on the set of “Rust,” where actor and producer Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer in October 2021. No criminal charges was filed in the case and Baldwin has denied any wrongdoing.

Rust Movie Productions is challenging the basis of a $137,000 fine imposed on the company by state workplace safety regulators who say production managers on the set of the Western movie failed to follow the industry standard gun safety protocols.

The Legislature this year allocated $40 million to help establish a collaborative media academy to bolster training for the industry. Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes said the academy’s headquarters will be in Albuquerque.

Leave a Comment