On Saturday, the Las Cruces Sun News published a story as part of “an occasional series about the film industry in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico”, titled “Officials discuss plans for film industry in Las Cruces”, which says in part, “With new tax incentives for filmmakers passed by the New Mexico Legislature this year and money being gathered to build a soundstage in the Las Cruces area to attract more big-name productions, local film advocates are searching for a way to get a piece of New Mexico’s growing film industry, which spent more than $1 billion over the past five years.” Going on to cite a “bill passed in the 2015 legislative session, specific to Las Cruces, is the reappropriation of $555,000 for the construction of a soundstage, or studio, that would provide production companies with a fixed facility to shoot films or television shows in Doña Ana County.” All in support of spurring film and television growth in the southern region of the state the likes of which both Albuquerque and Santa Fe already benefit from.
Santa Fe based business agent for the state’s film workers union issued the following retort to the piece via his Facebook page on Sunday night.
“First I love that there’s a conversation on the future of Film in Las Cruces but as always I believe that conversation is happening in a vacuum. Those of us who actually talk to picture companies daily ( like me, I talk to at least 10 to 15 companies a week who are either here, thinking of coming here or were here and are in the rebate process ) have never heard that pictures bypass LC for Abq or SF because of lack of stage space. The number one reason is lack of crew. Number two is lack of something unique or at least better than the other options. We had a good start on crew when Mike Lawrence was there. He was 100% with us on the best way to learn how to make movies is to work on a movie set and learn from real technicians and we shot multiple projects including (my favorite filmmaker ever ) the multiple award winning “Red Mesa ” with Union funds. Now [they’re] back to theory and classroom at DACC and your best assets Mark and Ross and shooting with kids who will leave the state and take [their] knowledge elsewhere ( which is ironic since the best thing you have going is Mark staying home ). You build crews from the strong, the willing and the invested. Give me someone who loves movies and I will give you a film technician. Like Dan or Pepper.
On infrastructure me and the NMFO are 100% in agreement. The investment needs to be private so there’s skin in the game. But the seed and the field comes from the government. Again find me a place and we can build you enough of a set that we can hang our hats in and we can do the rest. Can’t find a western backdrop? Close a street and let us haul in dirt. Or a hacienda. Whatever. Build it and they will come (note the big hoopty the paper missed is designed to kick start the production of commercials a natural for Southern NM) Finally you need a hook. Not sure it’s good that the WSFF went away but honestly I’m the last couple of years it wasn’t the national fest you deserve. Let’s build a great one around Mark’s big whoop. I will lend you the best fest planner in the state who works for us. And put some other resources in if I’m matched. But it just doesn’t take competence it takes [concern] and cash, which we can find if there’s a real commitment from the community.
You can’t wait till you figure out sound stages. We had a business in Santa Fe and Albuquerque for 40 years based on locations crew and sets before we built stages. That’s the end game. That’s where [they’re] at in GA now and were in Nola 5 years ago and ABQ 8 years ago. If “build it they will come ” won’t work and you’re walking away from years of work, health Insurance and pension contributions while you wait to see if it works. My plan, the industries plan is quicker and cheaper. Plus it’s proven. Your call”
Commentary by IATSE Local 480, Business Agent, Jon Hendry
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