A message from New Mexico IATSE Local 480 Business Agent, Jon Hendry:
Having just returned from the LA Locations Expo, I have a few observations on where I believe we are going with our business here in NM. In LA, I also had the chance to talk to various people from around the country to confirm what I believe is happening nationally.
First, congratulations to everyone who attended the show and participated in the many events. Our Shoot Santa Fe partners reached into their own pockets to finance a booth, two parties, and several in-person meetings with possible clients, and they did an excellent job. Nick and Tobi from the NM Film Office along with Ann from ABQ, Jan from Otero County, and Lisa from Santa Fe did a great job at the NMFO booth which as usual looked spectacular. I can’t help but believe we had a large positive impact in allaying the many rumors I heard about NM’s demise. It’s just unfortunate that we only got to talk to the people who attended the show. Thanks to Santa Fe Studios and Santa Fe County for the full page ad in Variety which allowed us to reach a larger audience.
I had a frank discussion with a senior representative for a major studio and a production entity as well as a representative from one of our facilities about their belief that we need to rebate out-of-state crew members (particularly above the line) in order to remain competitive. It may surprise some to know that we have already done this on a couple of occasions for a limited amount of crew on major motion pictures. There is a provision whereby this can occur, but of course the taxes have to be paid and the circumstances have to be extraordinary. (On that note congratulations to NM Taxation & Revenue for auditing actors and loan-out companies to ensure they have paid their entire NM tax liabilities. It’s important that those of us who pay NM taxes know that everyone is being treated equally.)
If we were to expand our definitions…and be able to rebate more out-of-state hires we would become much busier, but what’s the point? There is a strong economic development argument and solid figures that show we get a return for each dollar we spend on rebates if the money stays here with residents. The reverse argument is much harder to make (though I have seen attempts to make it in Louisiana when you spend your rebates on out-of-state hires). Certainly it will be more business which would result in more rentals, hotel rooms, cars, etc., but is that the point? When we had an uncapped amount this argument was much easier to promulgate and defend. Now that we have only $50 million, we must not only be mindful of where it goes but judicious in how we allocate the amounts. An actor who through his or her loan-out company pays double taxation (both GRT and NM income tax) and who ensures financing for the picture ,I get. An extremely specialized technician on a limited basis who can bring skills and hopefully increase and expand our knowledge base, I can consider. Merely rebating because someone is not available here with no other justification, I struggle with.
The word that was used in SB 44 (Senator Keller’s bill) for the required study was “econometrics.” What that means is not merely a study of what goes out and comes in (because if you do that you get these ridiculous results that show huge losses; there is much more to it than checks written, we also have to calculate the return. It looks at the impact that the incentives have across the board on everything from quality of life to education to tourism to long term economic development, and a host of other factors. I can tell you without a study that our best bet is TV series because looking at the crew lists from “Breaking Bad,” “In Plain Sight,” “Crash,” “Wildfire,” and now “Longmire,” by the time we hit seasons two or three 90% of the crew and much of the above the line were NM residents. It’s also year round activity, long term rentals and I can point to an interesting letter in the Journal yesterday as yet another example of the benefits to tourism. Next would be smaller and medium range motion pictures who hire many more New Mexicans and often shoot outside Albuquerque and Santa Fe. “Last Stand” and the upcoming “Tags: Ann Lerner, Film ABQ, IATSE Local 480, Jan Wafful, Jon Hendry, Lisa Van Allen, New Mexico Film Incentives, New Mexico Film Office, Nick Maniatis, Santa Fe Studios