POINT via Ann Lerner, City of Albuquerque Film Liaison:
The film industry is alive and well in Albuquerque.
We’ve seen a variety of film activity in the area this year. “In Plain Sight” finished Season 5, filming out at I-25 Studios and on location around town. “Breaking Bad” shot eight episodes of Season 5, and will be back in December for eight more episodes. “The Last Stand,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, filmed in Downtown Albuquerque in January. (Watch the trailer to see an impressive stunt across the intersection of Fifth and Marquette.)
And, oh yes, the largest movie being made in the world this year, “The Lone Ranger,” chose Albuquerque Studios as its home for offices and sets and built two western towns out by the Rio Puerco, filming here for months.
“2 Guns” just wrapped, “Lone Survivor” starts filming in October for nine weeks. Two other films will be shooting this fall as well.
Numerous independent filmmakers are making low-budget projects – from features, to shorts, to webisodes.
So why do people like to film in Albuquerque? Besides the 310 days of sunshine, no natural disasters, close proximity to Los Angeles, an easy-to-use film tax incentive and a strong film crew base, we have a world-class infrastructure of stages, equipment companies, suppliers and businesses relating to the movie industry.
And Albuquerque can double for many different location looks – we can be Cincinnati (“Wild Hogs”); Munich (“Beer Fest”); Mexico border crossing (“2 Guns”); Los Angeles (“Crash TV”); New York (“The Resident”).
But I think a large part of the reason people like to film in Albuquerque is because of the open reception filmmakers receive from neighborhoods and businesses and the administration.
We offer one-stop film-permitting. We recognize that filming dates may change due to weather or illness or some other factor and are flexible.
Our filming guidelines require production companies to limit the number of large vehicles in a neighborhood and provide notification of filming dates and times. We have a program asking productions to give $100 to the neighborhood association for each day of filming. To date, over $60,000 has been raised.
We respect the production companies and welcome them for bringing in new money and providing well-paying and creative jobs for our citizens.
Production companies respect our highly skilled labor force and willingness to allow filming in the area.
Our reputation is strong. The Film Office is busy reading scripts and leading location scouts for potential future work. We’re issuing permits. Our phones are ringing.
Thank you for keeping Albuquerque film friendly!
COUNTERPOINT via Jon Hendry, President New Mexico Federation of Labor:
Our film liaisons are a hidden treasure.
The hard work of such great people as Ann Lerner in ABQ, Jan Wafful in Alamogordo, and Lisa Van Allen in Santa Fe, along with a dozen others around the state who back up the New Mexico Film Office and do great work in their communities, is a huge part of our industry success. I believe that Ann’s excellent editorial in today’s Journal speaks highly of her office, her pride in the community, and the effect that we in film have had on so many ancillary businesses. Bravo!
However, I respectfully disagree on the state of the NM film business. When 50/1 wraps, there will be slim pickings for NM crews through Breaking Bad‘s final eight episodes. While Lone Survivor is trying hard to employ as many locals as they can, for technical reasons they have to bring in more crew than we would like in fields where we are not strong. Hopefully, that is something we can all address in the future. One film can’t carry more than 1000 qualified technicians plus actors, stunt people, drivers, PA’s, and the host of others who have come to rely on this business. Rumors of an eminent super-hero movie only help a little, since we know that the vast majority of key or best boy positions will not go to locals. While they may fill hotel rooms, rent cars, and buy lumber, these kinds of movies don’t always help the working crew. We can’t expect micro budget pictures to pay comparable rates or the benefits we need; that’s ok, bring them on, we appreciate them, but it’s not the road to full employment.
As well as things are going, the warning lights are also flashing, and I believe we’re reaching that critical area where we need to deal with these situations in the upcoming legislative session. After two years we know what works and what doesn’t. My suggestions follow. On most I think you’ll find general industry consensus and on others some dissension, but I think we’ll find some suggestions that the legislature can agree with and that will allow the taxpayers to feel they are getting a good return on their investment.
1) We need to return to the original legislative intent of $50 million. In order to do that we need a cost of living increase as we’re the only “capped incentive”. That is going to seem extremely moderate now but we need the protection for the hyper inflation that may occur and could basically wipe us out of the business. By doing so we ensure that in real dollars the $50 million stays constant.
2) TV series employ more New Mexicans in all facets of the business than anything else, and we need to give them the certainty they will get their money when they make a commitment to us which could be up to five years. I’m open to suggestions on how we do this but I think the way is to exempt them from the cap.
3) We need to make some technical changes in the language of that rather rushed bill that allows a rollover of unused credits that we can accumulate as we already have a substantial balance from the last few years and a payout of $50 million. There is no reason for it to be staggered if we have the money. Sitting on it doesn’t help anyone, especially the state budget process.
4) We need to set up a system that, when Tax & Rev has approved a rebate, picture companies can monetize this. I believe the private banking system can look at doing this. I also believe some of us in NM might contribute to a fund that would not only give a return but help us get more pictures and, most importantly, ABQ, Bernalillo County, SF city & counties, Alamogordo, and Otero County could look to their bonding capacity to help this occur. It would be very useful if we could put this money in to the project while they are still here shooting and spending money and not two years down the road when they are long gone. Alaska is looking at a cash flow model, private funds can move much quicker than governmental entities, but Tax & Rev would have to come up with a certification program.
5) Perhaps most controversially, I think we need to do much, much more to ensure that the companies generating the rebates for the production entities are NM based and the money stays in the state. It’s almost a game to figure out how to make out of state people and equipment and other purchases rebateable. We shouldn’t be asking Tax & Rev to play “whack a mole”. When we solve one issue another pops up and that’s not good. We thought the bricks and mortar requirement solved this but in some cases it made it worse. I want to be able to say with hand on my heart that we rebate no one from out of state and we keep the money here where it was generated and where it’s needed. Any perception that this is welfare for Hollywood isn’t good. This should be a legislative priority.
I’m open to other suggestions. What I can’t work with is a situation where on the top end we’re being squeezed by the amount of money we can put out and on the bottom end we are squeezed because these companies are employing fewer New Mexicans and spending more money with large chains who don’t pay taxes here or out of state companies are working through facilitators instate that help them get an undeserved rebate. If anyone else feels we’re doing sensationally well I am happy, after ensuring confidentiality, to share payroll figures with you – it’s not great.