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Film incentives: How does New Mexico stack up?

The New Mexico film industry is coming off another record year with a direct spend of $855.4 million to the state and a record 109 productions during FY22.

Of course, everyone wants a piece of the pie.

In early July, New Mexico’s neighbors to the West — Arizona — approved the Arizona Motion Picture Production Program. The film and TV tax incentive offers productions up to $75 million a year in 2023. It will then go up to $100 million in 2024 and $125 million in 2025.

Arizona is hoping to pull productions from both California and New Mexico with the latest effort.

The bill requires the use of qualified production facilities in Arizona, as well as do pre-production and post-production in the state. Plans are being made for new facilities in Buckeye and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Arizona joins California, New York, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Jersey as some of the states that are competitive with New Mexico.

As the New Mexico Film Office continues to attract productions to New Mexico, state leaders said they welcome Arizona to the mix, as there are enough productions to go all around.

Amber Dodson, New Mexico Film Office director, says that increasingly other states look to New Mexico for ideas because they see the model is successful for the state.

“Thanks to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, SB2 was a forward-thinking initiative that incentivizes production companies to not just film in the state, but to share in building a year-round ecosystem for the industry,” Dodson said, referring to the measure the governor signed in 2019 which offered film companies incentives to collaborate with New Mexico through longer-term partnership agreements. “This includes investing in studios/stages as well as pre and post-production facilities. It includes contributions to workforce development programs and having a long-term footprint in New Mexico so families who live here can rely on industry work for economic security, to raise a family, buy a house.”

The New Mexico Film Office works to educate the community, legislators and stakeholders about the immense economic impact of the film incentive, Dodson said. She added that there is more work to be done.

“One thing we’ve uncovered recently is that New Mexico does not offer the top incentive, nor the lowest,” Dodson said. “We are somewhere in the middle. We need to continue to develop our workforce, the physical infrastructure, and industry relationships if we want to continue to be competitive.”

Building NM’s talent pipeline

The state offers programs to help New Mexicans get involved within the film industry.

The film office worked with Stowe Story Labs to offer a bespoke screenwriting program for New Mexican writers.

Upon completion of the six-month program, those writers will have a pitch-ready script and a solid foundation of screenwriting and how to break into the industry.

“Cultivating our above-the-line talent is essential to transforming New Mexico from film location to an end-to-end film, television and digital media ecosystem,” Dodson said. “We plan to continue the NMFO/Stowe partnership and other programs for above-the-line talent.”

The game changer for New Mexico is the recently announced Next Generation Media Academy, which will be housed in Albuquerque and have a satellite location in Las Cruces. The academy will have 15 post-secondary film and media programs.

“The NGMA will be the epicenter for below-the-line training and is in collaboration with existing film and media programs statewide,” Dodson said. “It is possible that above-the-line training could be something that is offered in the future.”

Finally, NBCUniversal, offers an annual director shadowing program, where a New Mexican resident is chosen among many applicants to shadow a director or showrunner on one of NBCUniversal’s television series being produced in New Mexico.

“This kind of opportunity can open doors to aspiring and burgeoning directors who live here in New Mexico, completely transforming their career’s trajectory,” Dodson said.

The film industry does bring jobs to the state. Once a production is wrapped, there are often tangible benefits to the state.

“We all know about the ‘Breaking Bad’ tours in Albuquerque, but now we are seeing interest in ‘Stranger Things’ tourism,” Dodson said. “’Oppenheimer’ and ‘Dark Winds’ should bring new interest to tourism in Los Alamos and the Navajo Nation.”

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