New Mexico isn’t just a huge draw for high-profile, big-budget studio blockbusters and tentpoles — it’s also home to a busy local creative community of producers, directors, writers and independent filmmakers.
“We’ve had a very good year so far, especially with all the new TV business we’re getting since the new TV incentive kicked in last year,” says producer Chad Burris (pictured).
Burris, who’s made 10 movies and is based in Santa Fe, is shooting “Bare” in Moriarty, near Albuquerque, “an indie drama we’re making for under $1 million on a tight 20-day shoot,” he says.
He stresses that the state has a lot to offer, from great scenery and locations to “very competitive tax breaks and seasoned crews — and even as busy as we are locally, with several big movies and TV series going on right now, we had no trouble crewing up, and we’re hoping to get it done in time for the Sundance festival next year.”
The producer next starts another film, “probably in Moriarty again, as we have a great warehouse and production office set up there,” he says. “And we have all the local infrastructure we need, along with the right locations for the project.”
Former Disney exec Alicia Keyes, now a writer-producer, has been based in Albuquerque since 2008, along with her British husband, Peter Touche, who’s putting together a film fund to make local projects, “mostly in the under-$5 million range,” she says.
Last year, Keyes produced the Lionsgate thriller “Blaze You Out,” made for under $5 million and shot in Espanola, near Santa Fe. She’s in post on her latest project, “Biomass,” a sci-fi horror film directed by Anthony Riazzi, an experienced visual-effects technician, “who’s also overseeing the 300 VFX shots we have,” she says. The film, also in the under-$5 million budget range, was shot in just 25 days at I-25 Studios in Albuquerque.
Keyes’ next film will be slightly more ambitious — “in the $10 million range.” She says local filmmakers “really benefit from the big studio movies that come here for the locations and tax breaks, as we now have these great crews to draw on for our own, smaller projects.”
Based in Las Cruces, in the southwest of the state, filmmaker Dan Williams, who previously shot a one-hour drama, “Close Enough to Perfect,” just finished shooting a 30-minute sitcom pilot he wrote and produced, titled “Roadside Motel,” “about three guys who remodel a run-down old motel,” he says. “We shot 15 scripted pages at a motel the local is remodeling up in Truth or Consequences, and then added some in-character cast interviews, like you see in ‘The Office.’”
Many local projects are also generated by the two local colleges, including the New Mexico State U.’s Creative Media Institute, he says, “and we have a lot of student films.”
The local scene is thriving, says Williams, “although it can always be busier. We have fewer union members down here than up north, and fewer big productions, but great crews and wonderful locations.”