New Mexico, ‘Stranger Things’ backdrop, hits production peak

Jul 14, 2022, 6:56 AM | Updated: 7:32 pm
FILE - New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivers the State of the State address during the 56...

FILE - New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivers the State of the State address during the 56th legislative session on Jan. 18, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says direct spending by production companies on films, TV series and other media has never been higher in the state, topping $855 million in fiscal year 2022., Thursday, July 14, 2022. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, Pool, File)

(Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, Pool, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s film and TV industry has hit a new peak, with record spending by video production companies in a state that drew projects including the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”

Production companies directly spent a record $855 million on films, TV series and other media in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, New Mexico’s governor announced Thursday. Industry executives have been attracted to New Mexico’s unique landscapes since the success of AMC’s long-running series “Breaking Bad” and a generous increase of incentives passed by state lawmakers in 2019.

In-state spending by the industry increased about 36% from nearly $627 million the previous fiscal year.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a first-term Democrat running for reelection, also touted an increase in spending beyond major cities such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque, fueled by expanded state incentives for rural and small-town film production.

Local production spending in those outlying areas jumped more than six-fold to $49.5 million amid an industry rebound, state economic development officials told a legislative panel gathered in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

It was unclear how much the state will eventually spend on corresponding film incentive payments. New Mexico offers a rebate of between 25% and 35% of in-state spending for video production that helps filmmakers large and small underwrite their work.

Incentive payments crested at $148 million in 2019 before falling to about $40 million for the year ending in June 2021. While the state general fund is awash in income linked to federal pandemic aid along with a surge in oil and natural gas prices and production, some lawmakers have criticized the rebates as being too costly.

State economic development officials say conversations are underway with lawmakers to revisit terms of the state film tax rebate program when the Legislature meets again in January 2023, possibly redrawing the boundaries for bonuses in rural areas and exploring new incentives linked to lower emissions of climate-warming pollution by the energy-intensive industry.

Fiscally conservative legislators have questioned for years whether New Mexico may be spending too much on the film industry in comparison with the employment it sustains. But Lujan Grisham pointed to state data that showed an increase in the number of industry worker hours and new highs for the number of film and television productions overall at nearly 110 for the year.

“Due to the work we’ve done to foster a successful environment for production and build a thriving base of talented local crews, film and television productions from around the world are putting money directly into New Mexico communities, supporting our small businesses and creating jobs for thousands of New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

After the success of “Breaking Bad” and spinoff “Better Call Saul,” other notable recent productions in New Mexico include portions the fourth season of the Netflix series “Stranger Things” and AMC’s “Dark Winds,” based on the the mystery book series from Tony Hillerman and daughter Anne Hillerman.

Both Netflix and NBCUniversal have set up permanent production hubs in Albuquerque in recent years, adding to millions of dollars in investments and promises of more jobs.

Legislative reforms in 2019 opened up greater incentives to film production companies that demonstrate long-term commitments to New Mexico through a 10-year contract on a qualified production facility. Netflix and NBCUniversal have secured that “film partner” status that lifts the cap on annual production rebates.

Spending by the industry had been trending upward before the pandemic brought a halt to work due to public health mandates and industry protocols, resulting in a precipitous drop in 2020. As restrictions were eased, spending rebounded in 2021 as work ramped up.

Record-setting activity took place amid allegations of workplace safety violations on the set of “Rust,” where actor and producer Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer in October 2021. No criminal charges have been filed in the case and Baldwin has denied wrongdoing.

Rust Movie Productions is challenging the basis of a $137,000 fine against the company by state occupational safety regulators who say production managers on the set of the Western film failed to follow standard industry protocols for firearms safety.

The Legislature this year allocated $40 million to help establish a collaborative media academy to bolster training for the industry. Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes said the headquarters of the academy will be located in Albuquerque.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

New Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna is sworn in by the Honorable Samantha Jersey, Presiding ...
Associated Press

New LA sheriff vows accountability, integrity for department

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The new head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department vowed Saturday to usher in an era of integrity and collaboration after his predecessor’s tenure was marked by clashes with other public officials and allegations that ganglike groups of deputies ran amok within the agency. Robert Luna took an oath of office […]
15 hours ago
In this photo provided by the Royal Collection Trust/© His Majesty King Charles III 2022 on Saturd...
Associated Press

St. Edward’s Crown moved out of tower ahead of coronation

LONDON (AP) — St. Edward’s Crown, the centerpiece of the Crown Jewels viewed by millions of people every year at the Tower of London, has been moved to an undisclosed location for modification in preparation for the coronation of King Charles III next year. The move was kept secret for security reasons until the operation […]
15 hours ago
FILE - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. ...
Associated Press

Pentagon chief: US faces pivotal years in countering China

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — The U.S. is at a pivotal point with China and will need military strength to ensure that American values, not Beijing’s, set global norms in the 21st century, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday. Austin’s speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum capped a week in which the Pentagon was […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Jury awards ex-Maine trooper $300,000 in whistleblower case

BANGOR, Maine (AP) — A jury in Maine awarded a now-retired state trooper $300,000 Friday after finding that the state police retaliated against him when he raised concerns about the agency’s intelligence gathering work. George Loder, 53, filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that he was unfairly punished after he went to his superiors with concerns […]
2 days ago
This undated photo from Wise County Sheriff's Office shows Tanner Lynn Horner. Horner, 31, was arre...
Associated Press

Body of 7-year-old Texas girl found, FedEx driver arrested

PARADISE, Texas (AP) — A 7-year-old Texas girl has been found dead, two days after being reported missing, and a FedEx delivery driver arrested in her death, authorities said. The body of Athena Strand was found Friday and Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, was arrested on kidnapping and murder charges after confessing to killing the girl […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Scientists call for action to help sunflower sea stars

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — Scientists along the West Coast are calling for action to help sunflower sea stars, among the largest sea stars in the world, recover from catastrophic population declines. Experts say a sea star wasting disease epidemic that began in 2013 has decimated about 95% of the population from the Aleutian Islands of […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
New Mexico, ‘Stranger Things’ backdrop, hits production peak