New Mexico introduced an aggressive tax incentive in 2003 and has benefited hugely as a result. By 2010, the state incentive was attracting around 40 projects a year, contributing an estimated US$1bn in production-related economic activity. Since then it has continued to grow so rapidly that movie capital California has started to get a little worried. At the time of writing, California was looking to increase its own incentives to prevent even more productions running away to New Mexico.
Producers that decide in favour of New Mexico have found a highly-skilled talent base and well-oiled infrastructure. Back when the incentives were introduced, there were 100 people working in the sector. Today, thanks to inward migration and a concerted training programme, that figure is more than 3000.
While the incentive is the big pull, New Mexico also has some stunning natural locations. For example, Albuquerque has also become a tourist hotspot thanks to the success of drama series Breaking Bad.
New Mexico has hosted a huge array of blockbuster movies. Film credits include The Lone Ranger (2013), The Host (2013), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Crazy Heart (2009), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Transformers (2007) and No Country For Old Men (2007). It’s also a popular site for independent features, recent examples being Big Sky, La Vida Robot, Gunslingers, X-Species and The Reach.
As for TV, the big story of recent years was the decision to set AMC’s acclaimed drama series Breaking Bad in New Mexico. Speaking to the New York Times, series creator Vince Gilligan said: “All the wonderful topographical and geographical elements we put to good use in the show. Quite a few of the scenes that seem truly in the middle of nowhere, if we swung the camera a few degrees to the left or right, you’d see Albuquerque Studios, this enormous soundstage where we shot. It’s amazing how close to town you can be in Albuquerque and still get amazing cinematic visual desolation.”
Other productions to have shot in New Mexico or which are lined up to shoot there include NBC’s The Night Shift, which uses New Mexico to double for Texas, A+E’s Longmire and ABC’s Killer Women.
The movie Dirty Weekend (2014, starring Matthew Broderick) also shot in and around Albuquerque. The production employed 60 New Mexico crew members, 11 New Mexico actors and 140 background talent.
New Mexico's desert vistas also make it a convenient double for Middle-East conflict zones, as seen in recent productions like Peter Berg's Lone Survivor, which used the state as a stand-in for Afghanistan.
Although comparatively few permits are necessary for filming in New Mexico, permits are required for production on federal, state-owned and tribal properties and lands. Permits are also often required for production on city properties, especially historical sites and public streets, as well as for special use of county roads and state highways. To get a permit, the New Mexico Film Office (NMFO) provides a list of actions that can be found by clicking here.
Mentioned earlier, Albuquerque Studios is a world class, state-of-the-art, full service studio complex. It features eight sound stages varying in size between 18000 sq ft and 24000 sq ft, though it is possible to combine two stages to create 36000 sq ft and 48000 sq ft stages. Projects to have been based there include The Lone Ranger (2013), Due Date (2010), The Host (2013), Breaking Bad and Killer Women. Aside from studio space, the studio offers location services, lighting and grip, equipment rentals, set construction, truck rental, production offices, storage space and much more.
Another important studio site is Santa Fe Studios. Opened for business in 2011, it has two state of the art stages both sized at 19275 sq ft. It also offers complete on-site production services. In 2013, it signed a deal which saw leading edge rental firm Daufenbach Camera open up a branch on its lot.
As mentioned above, post-production is eligible for rebates. To find out more about this sector visit the website for the New Mexico Post Alliance, where you’ll find an industry directory and contacts who can answer questions.
New Mexico’s terrain varies from 12,000ft snow-capped mountains to dry, cracked salt flats near the Mexican border. According to the New Mexico Film Office: “There are eerie otherworldly, ultra modern cool, classic western sets, traditional military, historic Native America, big city skylines, "Anytown" USA, the famed Rio Grande and endless miles of unique landscapes.” The Film Office library offers interactive mapping through Google and live weather data through The Weather Channel. It also has 60,000 photographs of around 8,000 locations that cover the diversity found in the state.
First point of contact for more information on New Mexico locations is Location Coordinator Don Gray (click here to email). However the NMFO also has film liaisons spread across the state. These liaisons assist in scouting for local filming locations, relaying location information, submitting location photographs, collecting statistics, securing permits and facilitating production and community relations.
Many communities have designated specific individuals as their film liaison and these individuals have relationships with fire and police departments, chamber of commerce, airports, businesses and property owners.
As explained, the talent base in New Mexico has grown hugely thanks to the introduction of incentives. These days there are sufficient crew members to manage the multiple productions that are moving in and out of the state. A lot of the necessary talent and equipment can be accessed via the studios mentioned above. New Mexico Lighting and Grip Company, for example, offers an extensive inventory of lighting and grip equipment. With a warehouse at Albuquerque Studios, it serves motion pictures, television and commercial productions.