New Mexico wants more admin staff to keep up with film industry’s ‘explosive growth’

Report comes from state economic development department presented to lawmakers Monday

By: - December 12, 2023 4:29 am

The main street shown in “Outer Range” was shot on Bridge Street in Las Vegas, N.M. (Photo courtesy of the New Mexico Film Office)

Hollywood is back to work and state officials that help oversee productions in New Mexico say they need more people to keep the show going.

In a budget presentation to the Legislative Finance Committee, New Mexico Economic Development Department leaders on Monday asked state lawmakers to fund five new positions for the New Mexico Film Office and the Media Arts Collective.

“Really, it comes down to staffing,” said Jon Clark, the department’s acting cabinet secretary. “We have not had any additional staffing provided to the film division in years, and yet we’ve seen explosive growth in the industry.”

Two of the staff positions the Economic Development Department is requesting would work for the New Mexico Film Office, while three would work for the Media Arts Collective. The department is also requesting $300,000 to fund operations at the Media Arts Collective.

The film office, which currently employs seven people, oversees the state’s role in incentivizing film and television production in New Mexico. 

In 2022, spending by those industries reached a record $855.4 million, according to the New Mexico Film Office.

In 2023, despite labor strikes halting productions for months, film and television industries spent $794.1 million in New Mexico.

The Media Arts Collective, a film industry training program announced in 2022 and formerly referred to as the New Mexico Media Academy, is planned to be headquartered at the Albuquerque Rail Yards, with a satellite location in Las Cruces.

The program will be led by executive director Chad Burris, and will try to equip more New Mexicans with the skills needed to work on film and television productions.

Rep. Harry Garcia (D-Grants) raised concerns during the meeting about how well the state’s tax credits for film and television serve rural parts of the state, including his district in Cibola County.

“There is no film industry ever going out there,” Garcia said. “And yet, … these people are paying the same amount of taxes.”

Clark pointed to this year’s expansion of New Mexico’s rural filming uplift incentive, which now offers an extra tax credit on qualified expenditures by productions filming outside of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. That’s in addition to the 25% base tax credit offered on qualifying production.

In 2023, lawmakers raised the film credit from 5% to 10% and expanded the geographic area where the incentive applies, according to state film office spokeswoman Dolores Martinez. 

Clark said the state is also considering hiring a liaison to work with tribal communities and the film industry to get more productions onto tribal land.

In addition to the film-related requests, the department asked for funding for new positions in its Economic Development Division and its newly-founded Creative Industries Division. 

It also requested funding for a pair of programs the state uses to help recruit businesses to New Mexico that include $30 million for the Local Economic Development Act and $5 million for the Job Training Incentive Program.

The Economic Development Department was just one of several to talk before the Legislative Finance Committee Monday as the body prepares to make its comprehensive budget proposal ahead of January’s legislative session.

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Gabrielle Porter
Gabrielle Porter

Gabrielle Porter is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She's worked with the Albuquerque Journal and other outlets in the Mountain West. Porter graduated with a degree in journalism from Metropolitan State University of Denver.