Where movies tread, soundstages rush in.
As production activity in New Mexico — spurred by generous tax credits and the state’s proximity to Hollywood — has grown significantly over the past two decades, production facilities have sprouted and expanded.
Three large complexes handle the bulk of New Mexico’s interior production: Albuquerque Studios and I-25 Studios in Albuquerque, plus Santa Fe Studios, located just south of Santa Fe. All have benefited from New Mexico’s incentive program, which attracts tentpole features (“Transcendence,” “The Avengers,” “The Lone Ranger”) and TV skeins (FX’s “Better Call Saul,” USA Network’s Anne Heche starrer “Dig”) as it offers a competitive (up to 30%) rebate for qualifying expenditures.
The relationship among these facilities can be characterized as “co-opetition.” “For producers, the decision is more about the economics between Louisiana, Georgia or South Carolina vs. New Mexico,” says I-25 Studios’ Rick Clemente.
Matt Rauchberg, senior veep, business development at Albuquerque Studios, finds that each facility serves different segments of the market. The draw at Albuquerque Studios is the full-service facility and its eight soundstages. Four are 24,000 square feet; the other four are 18,000 square feet; several have movable walls between them for even greater combinations of square footage.
Albuquerque Studios is home to the “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul” and the Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro starrer “Sicario.”
“Super versatile,” is how Wayne Rauschenberger, Albuquerque Studios’ senior VP and chief operating officer, describes the sprawling complex.“We’ve had up to 3,000 people on the lot at one time.”
The latest expansion to the full-service lot is a three-wall cyc greenscreen stage designed as an insert stage. The permanent 7,000-sq.-ft. addition is available for ongoing productions as well as commercials and video shoots.
Also to meet demand, I-25 Studios has added a greenscreen stage to complement its five existing stages. “It’s a better and better facility every day. I-25 is not a vacant factory building anymore, it’s now a real studio,” Clemente says, pointing to the many infrastructure upgrades, such as soundproofing, back-up generators and the just-built greenscreen stage.
Santa Fe Studios’ twin 19,275-sq.-ft. soundstages and 25,000-sq.-ft. production facilities are also on Hollywood’s radar. “We’re the Millers” used the studio for several interior sets, as did Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” Jason Hool, president, says the facility has received “tremendously positive feedback.”
The sheer number of productions in the state do their part to keep crews and vendors busy and skill levels high. “There’s a lot of advantages to the 12 years of skills growth among crew population,” Rauchberg says. “It’s a total package.”