For Mayors of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Filmmaking Spurs Economic Growth

For those who’ve been following the development of the film industry in New Mexico across the past decade, there’s a word that has continually popped up whenever anyone in the state has discussed the crew base of the future: “permanent.”

What might have been voiced wistfully, cautiously, hopefully even five years ago when the opening of Albuquerque Studios helped cement the foundation for New Mexico filmmaking now seems more rooted in reality. It’s also more clearly the center of the political discussions that have, over that time, ranged from fractious to today’s dialogue that is almost, well, melodious.

One of the most important synchronicities for the state’s media business lies in the geography of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, which both lie inside the critical IATSE production zone. This means that three key facilities — Albuquerque Studios, Santa Fe Studios and I-25 Studios — can all house productions without any overnight stays required for traveling among them.

More than mere geography though, there’s a unity of purpose in the offices of both cities’ mayors, and that purpose is all about what Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry calls “an entire ecosystem to make movies, which is much more than just infrastructure.”

“Our crews have grown roots here,” says Berry, “and they have both the skill sets and the gumption that goes with being in the movie business. It’s an attitude.” Berry also cites the involvement of the local schools, noting the Running Start for Careers initiative “now includes industry training at the high school level. And the University of New Mexico and our community college are both places to prepare for working in the film industry.”

For Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, the big question is no longer whether there is a permanent crew presence, but “Where do we go from here?” He then sets out an ambitious list of goals and projects that clearly define the endgame as he sees it.

“We need to build broadband infrastructure. Film festivals can be important and they need city support to get to the next level. Our positive steps with the ‘Breaking Bad’ legislation is a key to the future, but so is our strong cultural tradition and the benefits of film tourism. Many Silicon Valley companies are getting displaced because of rising costs, so we are on the map as an appealing destination for high-quality jobs. We are in the process of broadening the vision of what our creative economy looks like.”

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