New Mexico’s vast landscapes, quietude and spirituality are what appeal to makeup and special effects artist Isabel Harkins. With more than 35 years in the business, beginning in Gotham’s theater world, Harkins has been working on and off in New Mexico for 28 years; for the last five, she’s made Santa Fe her permanent home.
Although she often travels to Los Angeles and other cities for makeup gigs, film and TV production work keep her in-state, most recently on “Legion” and “The Spirit.”
She believes there’s a different atmosphere on film and TV sets in New Mexico. “Crews in New Mexico are very giving and not so anxious as in Los Angeles,” Harkins says. “People here are more willing, more open to give and to do and very eager to learn and be trained.”
In Harkins’ experience, crews are friendly and “more like a team or family,” with remarkable on-set camaraderie.
Because of Los Angeles’ faster pace, Harkins says, there’s a sense of urgency, often coupled with exhaustion, on productions. New Mexico has more of a “small-town quality of life, where everybody knows everybody,” she says, adding, “It’s a very authentic kind of lifestyle. Things shut down early; there aren’t as many distractions.” And what’s more, she says, the traffic is better.
Harkins first fell in love with Santa Fe when she worked on the “Lonesome Dove” miniseries. She’s now able to combine her work and retreat space. Her husband, Steve Watson, also works in the biz, running the environmentally friendly film-catering company Reel Chef.
One important difference for Harkins: There’s no scrambling for work. She has her next job lined up and contends she has more work possibilities than time. “There’s less stress because you always know where the next job is coming from,” she notes.