This is a problem to be desired — the New Mexico Film Office needs more staff to keep up with increasing number of productions in the Land of Enchantment.
Currently, some 29 productions are either ongoing or wrapping up, according to the office. The office can’t keep up with demand, so it will ask the Legislature for an additional $118,000 to hire more full-time workers. Its chief responsibility? Keeping track of film credit incentive dollars that productions working in New Mexico receive. Proper accounting of the millions of dollars is crucial.
The film credit cap has been raised from $50 million to $110 million by legislators, and the state also has been paying off a $300 million backlog in tax credits owed to past productions. The state is two-thirds of the way to paying off the debt.
In addition to the blockbuster movies or indie films that shoot and leave the state, New Mexico has made important investments in providing additional supports, providing film studios and training workers so that the economic benefits of the film industry become a permanent fixture.
Netflix and NBC Universal have established presences in Albuquerque and discussion of the future of Santa Fe’s midtown campus has included both new film education programs and additional soundstages. The movie business doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Making sure tax dollars are tracked properly seems to be a prudent investment.
Such eye to detail also will make it easier to measure the impact of the film business on the New Mexico economy — tax credits have to produce results, not just in increased production, but in jobs, spending on local businesses and generation of other tax benefits to the state. Good jobs in the film industry also keep smart young people at home, attract creative new residents and even offer mid-career people new opportunities. This is an industry we want to see flourish.
There are other benefits to a burgeoning film industry. TV and movies attract attention, and people who watch want to know more about the places where their favorites are filmed. At newmexico.org, the New Mexico Film Trails is available, so movie buffs can learn more about the 100-year history of filming in New Mexico. That’s an initiative we have long supported.
Recently on the Jimmy Kimmel show, star Tom Hanks was discussing his role as Mister Rogers — but of interest to New Mexico, he also was discussing filming in our state. Hanks has been in the state to film a post-Civil War adventure, News of the World.
“Where were you shooting? Kimmel asked.
“We were in New Mexico, vast stretches of New Mexico,” Hanks said, describing climbing Lone Butte to get two bars of cell phone service. “There’s a vast movie history to New Mexico … all these places where really famous movies have been.”
That history is deep and broad, becoming ever richer as New Mexico expands its film industry. Running tax incentives properly, keeping track of every dime, will be important for the healthy future of this important industry.