January 2020 - Behind the Scenes: Welcome to New Mexico - Your New Location Spot
Part of the filmmaking process is finding the perfect location that reflects the story a filmmaker is trying to convey. Experiencing conflict in war-torn Iraq? Looking for that amazing party spot in Las Vegas? Zombies in California? It would surprise many that each of these scenarios has all been achieved in the state of New Mexico. The Albuquerque and New Mexico Film Offices have been working hard to spread the word about this asset we call “The Land of Enchantement” to many in the movie world that are not aware it exist. Amber Dodson, Film Liaison of the Albuquerque Film Office shares why New Mexico is a hot spot for film and emerging media.
NEW MEXICO’S $110 MILLION FILM PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT
This is the keystone to consider New Mexico for your next film project. As Dodson shared, *New Mexico offers one of the most competitive incentives for film, direct to streaming, gaming, music videos, post-production and more, which includes a 25-35 percent credit for qualified expenditures that are subject to taxation in New Mexico. Qualified expenditures include; wages and fringe benefits for New Mexico residents; payments to nonresident performing artists; and, 15% of wages paid to the qualified nonresident below-the-line crew. Expenditures associated with producing digital media and entertainment products, including video games, also qualify. Last spring, the State of New Mexico more than doubled the cap on rebates from $50 million to $110 million.
Specifically, New Mexico offers a 30% refundable tax credit on qualifying TV projects, and a 25% refundable tax credit on film projects. A similar 25% refundable tax credit applies to standalone post-production projects, and that number increases 5% if done in a rural area. As defined by the state, the production tax credit is meant for production companies that have direct production and direct post-production expenditures that are subject to taxation by the State of New Mexico.
New Mexico recently created the “Film Partner” designation, which allows a production company that has made a long-term commitment to produce films, TV, or digital media and entertainment products in New Mexico and has purchased or executed a 10-year contract to lease a qualified production facility, to be exempt from the annual Film Production Tax Credit cap.
The rebate isn’t just for the major film companies. This incentive applies to indie and student filmmakers as well and they are strongly encouraged to apply. “We love our indie filmmakers,” said Dodson. “We want those up and coming artists and creators to come here as well and take advantage of the world-class infastructure and get that rebate.”
BIG PLAYERS ARE NOW IN THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT
New Mexico has been recognized as a powerhouse to some heavy hitters. In less than two years, both Netflix and NBCUniversal have seen this state’s potential and has put New Mexico on the radar worldwide as a premier production hub. They also put their money where their mouths are, providing a large production spend and creating jobs for the state. Netflix has agreed to a one billion dollar production spend over 10-years and 1000 jobs per year minimum. NBCUniversal is 500 million over 10 years and 333 jobs over 10 years. “We call them our ‘New Mexico Studio Partners,’ shared Dodson. “They have a long-term commitment - investing in the community with the amount of production spend. Plus, as a deal, which I think is brilliant, as part of Senate Bill 2, they are not subject to the cap. So they can produce loads and loads of content, get the rebate on all of that and not eat up that cap of 110 million for everyone else who wants to come here and take advantage of the incentive.”
NEW MEXICO IS A CHAMELEON
Need that perfect location to represent Burbank, Las Vegas or Afghanistan? New Mexico is the right spot to create the storyline you’re looking for. Our locations and landscapes offer wonderful options for production, a benefit that Dodson hears all too often. “I hear this a lot from production executives when they come that they didn’t realize we had such a wide array of looks - we have everything from rural, suburban urban desolate, forested, New Mexico has doubled for Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Juarez, Afghanistan, Mars,” shared Dodson. “If you go to Taos you can double it as Switzerland, Colorado or Montana. We have a lot of different looks and landscapes that are in close proximity to each other, so that really helps producers save on the bottom line when a unit can get two different looks in one day. They can move a unit 30 minutes away and have a totally different look on the same day. That you can’t find many places.” With the many productions that film here, New Mexico has doubled for post-apocalyptic Burbank, California, in Daybreak, New York high society in The Goldfinch, and ground zero for a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas in Army of the Dead.
New Mexicans make jokes about how if you don’t like the weather, just wait, it will change to something you like in 5 minutes. Well, that is a major benefit for productions. The weather in New Mexico offers the ability to plan accordingly for a certain shot and know that there won’t be an extreme change in the process. “Hollywood is here for a good reason, lots of sunshine not a lot of extreme weather. We have on average 310 days of sunshine every year. We have four seasons, but they’re mild, so that’s actually a win because you can get four different seasons - four different looks. Very little rain and low risk of natural disasters are very appealing to other companies.
NEW MEXICO CREW AND BUSINESSES SUPPORT IS SECOND TO NONE
When it comes to creating a project, you need the right now. New Mexico crew members are knowledgeable in their field and some of the hardest working people in show business. Dodson has nothing but high praise for them. “Our crew base is world-class,” says Dobson. “Look at the content that has been produced here in Albuquerque - Breaking Bad, El Camino, - Netflix shows NBCUniversal, Disney - we’ve had every studio here. We can produce and create world-class content here because of our world-class crew.” According to the New Mexico Film Office, it is the deeper crew [pool] between coasts (with Atlanta counting as a coast). Between New York, Atlanta, and L.A, we have the deepest crew base in the United States. “And it’s growing,” shared Dodson. “There is a lot of effort - spanning educational institutions to the film offices to our local union - 480 to grow our crew base - we’re scaling our crew for this growing demand. There has been a migration of New Mexicans who have had to leave New Mexico due to the previous administration and the effect on the incentive. They are actually coming back now for work - so it’s exciting to see that migration happening. We also have production support businesses that are world-class. We have Panavision here, Production Resource Group. We’ve got all kinds of vendors that support production - light and grip houses, supply houses of all kinds like catering and craft services, special effects and makeup supply - everything you would need to make a 100 million dollar movie.” If we don’t have it here we are in very close proximity to locations that do and it’s just a quick plane ride or drive to pick them up, saving on the bottom line and time. “It’s a 90-minute flight for these executives and talent to go back and forth. The fact that we have a lot of direct to LAX flights here, in theory, a production executive could fly in the morning, work on their show and be home that evening,” explained Dodson.
NEW MEXICO HAS A RICH FILM HISTORY
New Mexico has been seeing the bright lights of film since 1898. Over time, The Land of Enchantment has been the backdrop for many films including The Man Who Fell to Earth with David Bowie (1976), The Muppet Movie (1980), Natural Born Killers with Woody Harrison (1994), and The Avengers (2011). The film office is working hard to keep productions coming, developing record-breaking numbers in the process. “New Mexico has had a long history of television and film productions going back to 1898 with the first-ever documentary that was shot that was documented called ‘Indian Day School,’” shared Dodson. “But over decades and decades, we’ve had a lot of production here. Fiscal year 19 was a record-breaking year. $525 million done statewide in production spend and approximately $225 million of that was spent in Albuquerque.” To learn more about the incentive and all that New Mexico has to offer, visit nmfilm.com and cabq.gov/film.