News & InfoEP StoreAcademySupportCommunityProducts by Country
Blog Home

Forging the Future of Filmmaking in New Mexico

As the film industry expands in the Southwest, New Mexico leads the region as top destination thanks to competitive incentive and infrastructure programs.
June 29, 2022

Joseph Chianese

EP Blog-Filmmaking in New Mexico

Are you scouting locations for your next project? Are you seeking lush forests? A snow-capped mountain range? An otherworldly expanse that could double as a Martian landscape? Look no further than New Mexico. A rising production hot spot in the US, the diverse locations are just one of the myriad reasons to consider this Southwest destination for your next project.

In 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a champion for the film industry, passed one of the most competitive film bills in the nation with a 25%-35% refundable tax incentive. Also built into the bill is an uplift that supports filming in rural areas. A long-standing workforce development program unique to New Mexico, the Film Crew Advancement Program, also adds another reason to consider the state – the program provides an additional incentive to help train and advance resident crew members.

Amber Dodson, Director of the New Mexico Film Office, understands the challenges of “making it” in the film industry after working in Hollywood for years. She came to New Mexico to start something different.

“New Mexico is an ecosystem for creative, disruptive, interesting, and progressive storytellers and content creators” she says, “We want to create an industry that supports everyone – all age groups, people of all backgrounds and creeds, to make a good wage, have a good quality of life, and a lifelong career that rewards them…a career they enjoy and provides a sense of pride.”

Behind the New Mexico film boom

The availability of crew, locations, and production resources like costume houses and rental companies continues to surprise filmmakers newly introduced to New Mexico as a place to film. “New Mexico has the reputation of spaghetti westerns, but we can double for 100 different places around the nation, even globally!” Dodson says. “We're a film-friendly state with a deep appreciation for the arts. That's just our legacy here."

Not only are the residents and companies in the state welcoming of the film boom, they are also savy in the way the engage with it. "Businesses here know how to work with the film industry. They welcome the film industry," Dodson says, "People are happy to have their house used as a location. So, there's a savviness here – New Mexicans understand the positive economic impact this industry has on communities statewide.”

‘Independence Day,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘The Avengers,’ and ‘Better Call Saul,’ are just a few Hollywood hits that were filmed in New Mexico. And the 20th Century/ABC hit series, ‘Big Sky’ Season 2 moved their production from Vancouver to New Mexico partially because of the tax incentives, access to more space, skilled crew, COVID protocols, and being in closer proximity to Los Angeles.

09a_Briarpatch_S1_Set_Photo_rs.jpg
Rosario Dawson in 'Briarpatch' / USA Network

Studios also see the opportunity for the long haul. Netflix and NBC Universal have production bases in New Mexico and have committed to long-term contracts to stay. Netflix has nine stages with plans to double that number; their footprint in New Mexico will be one of their largest production hubs in North America.

Union hosts approximately 1,700 members with another 1,000 on overflow, and as Dodson explains, “That number is growing monthly because we're seeing a huge interest in people wanting to be in this industry, signing up for the overflow list and working toward membership. With the massive exodus of industry professionals moving here from California, Georgia, and New York, we're seeing a lot of people coming in from other jurisdictions and helping our crew base scale up quickly.”

Benefits of filming in New Mexico

The eligible incentive spend in New Mexico is 25% to 35%. The uplifts include options such as making a TV series (some eligibility requirements), shooting in the rural zone, or utilizing a qualified production facility – various stages and movie ranches around the state. A comprehensive look at the state’s incentives is available on our New Mexico incentives page; here’s a summary of how few of the incentives work:

  1. Qualifying TV Series: Productions will receive a 5% uplift for a qualifying TV series, meaning they have a minimum New Mexico budget of $50,000 per episode, and at least six episodes are intended for commercial distribution.
  2. Rural Location Filming: Las Cruces, Farmington, and Gallup are some of the rural locations outside of the bigger cities, and productions receive an extra 5% uplift on all eligible spend in these areas. This uplift especially helps offset the costs if a production needs to bring in a crew or goods from the larger cities, like Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Another benefit of expanding into rural locations, your production can discover new locations that have never been shown on screen before!
  3. Qualified Sound Stages: Buildings intended specifically for filming purposes can be found throughout New Mexico. Productions can receive a 5% tax credit if they meet certain criteria when using these qualified production facilities. The full list is available here.

Film Crew Advancement Program (FCAP)

A renowned workforce development program, FCAP offers a wage reimbursement incentives to productions that hire and mentor New Mexico resident crew members. Certain qualifications apply, but this has been and continues to be a very popular, highly-effective workforce development program, helping to advance resident crew year after year.

Productions who hire from the FCAP program receive a 50% reimbursement of the qualifying participants’ wages for up to 1,040 hours physically worked by the crew member. Additionally, if a participant is a veteran, there are additional benefits available.

Training New Mexico film crews

$40 million dollars from the legislature has been allotted to the upcoming Next Generation Media Academy, a soon-to-be established epicenter for film, TV, and digital media training. Whether students choose to be a gaffer, a costume designer, or another in-demand member position of a crew, students can hone practical production skills that can be applied to a range of career paths and begin working right away on a professional film set.

How the program works:

  • Module 1: Students complete Film 101 coursework at any of the participating existing film schools across the state of New Mexico. In this initial module, students will learn the basics of production and be exposed to all film departments and crafts – and find their preferred track.
  • Module 2: Students transition to the Next Generation Media Academy in Albuquerque and complete their training. The development and planning of the facility is currently underway and will feature a traditional soundstage, a volume stage, a motion capture stage, classrooms, and state-of-the-art equipment. During Module 2, students will take a deep dive into their chosen craft alongside faculty that are industry veterans.
  • Once training has been completed, students then move to Module 3, a paid apprenticeship where they specialize in their chosen craft on a working film set while accruing union hours. By the end of their paid apprenticeship, students will have the competency and relationships in the industry to secure their first professional job.

Dodson believes this model is the ideal learning environment for crewing up New Mexico film sets and can serve as an example for other states seeking to grow their film training programs. Not only is it a fast track to providing more crew members, but as Dodson says, “It fosters a spirit of mentorship that ushers in other New Mexicans into this great industry.”

Flamin-Hot_AIK_5711_rs_2.jpg
Eva Longoria (center) on set of 'Flamin Hot'. Also pictured: DeVon Franklin (far right), Amber Dodson (far left), Cabinet Secretary of Economic Development Alicia Keyes (center left), and NMFO Deputy Director Carrie Wells, (center right) / Courtesy of Amber Dodson

Dodson is a proponent of pioneering a new path for future filmmakers, saying, “We don’t want to become another LA where it can be cutthroat with a relentless and often misleading perspective that there is a scarcity of jobs. We want to preserve our unique, friendly community that operates with a spirit of collaboration, generosity, and helping each other succeed – there’s room for everyone.”

‘Better Call Saul’ Production Designer and Art Director, Paula Dal Santo, is one of these community members who is giving back as a mentor and who Dodson eagerly calls, “just brilliant!” because of Dal Santo’s desire to share her expertise with the next generation of New Mexico’s crew.

To learn more about the Next Generation Media Academy, and other training programs around the country, watch the EP Master Series panel ‘Solving the Crew Shortage,’ available on-demand here.

Collaboration with Tribal Nations

Other avenues of collaboration can be found through the state-wide tribal liaisons that offer filmmakers the opportunity to work in partnership with the Native tribes. Speaking to the importance of this partnership, Dodson reminds us “Tribal lands have different requests and cultural sensitivities and typically productions are very respectful. We remind production teams that we expect respect and the honoring of tribal regulations and sensitivities – that you are a guest. There are a lot of beautiful, pristine locations on tribal lands here and [they are] very film-friendly areas.”

The New Mexico film office offered a grant program in 2020 for Native filmmakers of New Mexico. A screening of the 20 Native film projects is slated for 2022. “Anytime we are marketing an opportunity, we make a concerted effort to reach out to the tribes, rural communities, and underserved communities,” explains Dodson. “We're a majority-minority state and we take a lot of pride in that. I would dare say we might have one of the most diverse crews in the nation, if not the world, because of the nature of our state.”

Camel Rock Studios, a former casino, owned by the Tesuque Pueblo, and the first Native-owned studio in the nation in the Santa Fe region, is consistently booked with major film and television productions that take advantage of the one-of-a-kind vistas and landscapes in the area.

SILT -3 Photo John Otterbacher.jpg
SILT (2021) / Photo by John Otterbacher

With the recent long-term commitments by the studios setting down roots with expanding soundstages, it’s clear that New Mexico’s film industry is on an uphill trajectory to be the next big filmmaking destination.

Dodson believes whole-heartedly in that dream, leading the NM film office to record-breaking production spend and forging the future of filmmaking, “We envision our talent, crew and filmmakers flourishing in New Mexico for decades to come, and others flocking here, to create a robust and sustainable ecosystem where exceptional, diverse content is made – from concept to completion – from the first pitch to post."

Reflecting on the often transient-nature of production, she says "We want to attract creators for the long-haul, and not just be a flash-in-the-pan location. That’s what’s exciting about the film industry in New Mexico right now – we have the incentive, the locations, the crew, the infrastructure, but maybe one of our most special assets is that we have so many people who are adept in storytelling, crafts, trades, arts, and technical vocations…and the film industry plays to all of those strengths. We are laser-focused on educating, recruiting and nurturing New Mexicans to be participants and vital members of this industry – it’s a pathway to a great career in a beautiful state.”

Topic: Spotlight

Related Content

Mount Hood, Oregon

Building on Oregon’s Cinema Legacy

7/19/2022
How improved tax Incentives, job training, and production infrastructure is expanding the filmmaking...
Topic: Spotlight
More
Oklahoma route 66 sign

A New Frontier in Filmmaking

5/5/2022
Oklahoma is becoming a production destination, thanks to new incentives and infrastructure programs.
Canadian flag flying over Quebec City

5 Reasons to Consider Canada for Your Next Production

7/12/2022
Here's why Canada deserves a spot on every producer's shortlist.
Topic: Canada
More
EP Blog_SQUARE_Fighting Hollywood Stereotypes-TTEI

Fighting Stereotypes and Rethinking Representation

5/10/2022
How TTIE is advancing authentic storytelling in Hollywood by empowering historically excluded writers and...

Georgia Proposes Capping and Prohibiting Sale of Film Tax Credits

3/30/2022
The changes, if signed into law, would cap the amount Georgia hands out in film and TV tax credits at $900...
EP Newsroom-Thumbnail-Portland Business Journal

How Oregon’s updated film incentive law could boost the local economy

3/29/2022
A new Oregon film and media incentive law could draw more movie productions to the state.
International Financing-John Hadity-ft

The Beginner’s Guide to International Film Financing

2/15/2022
What to know before you begin an international financing plan
EP Blog_SQUARE_Island Incentives

A Ticket to Paradise

1/26/2022
Island Incentives Bring Productions Ashore
5 Master Series panelists discussing Atlantic Canada production incentives-square

Production Incentives Update: Atlantic Canada

7/15/2022
Learn how productions can benefit from newly expanded incentives in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador,...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Wes Hagen

Meet the Location Manager

7/7/2022
A conversation with award-winning location manager Wes Hagen ('Ozark,' 'Hidden Figures.')
Sian Richards and Queen Latifah-square

A Face Kit for Every Skin Tone

6/14/2022
Hollywood makeup artist Siân Richards is transforming the makeup industry for actors of every shade.
Jennifer Liscio

Spotlight: Jennifer Liscio, VP of Legal Affairs and Tax Incentives

5/31/2022
Meet EP's Canadian legal affairs and tax incentives domain expert, Jennifer Liscio, and learn how she’s...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Historical content and new media

Residuals and the Streaming Model

5/24/2022
How residuals apply to historical content on new media platforms.
contracting-in-a-covid-19-world-LC

Contracting in a COVID-19 World  

5/3/2022
The pandemic has affected how UK production companies contract crew. Here’s how to reduce the impact of...
terms-to-include-uk-contracts-LC

Terms to Include in UK Crew Contracts

5/3/2022
Common terms which studios and production companies include in their UK crew contracts.
Topic: UK
More
KJ Lamb and Simon Donovan

Empowering the Next Wave of Production Accountants

5/2/2022
The EP Production Portal team was delighted to participate in the biannual Netflix Assistant Production...
cell phone with sticky note stating sign here

Six e-Consent Myths (and Why They’re Not True)

5/2/2022
Sheridans Associate, Sarmad Saleh, debunks some common e-consent myths.
Topic: Legal
More
recycling conversation

Sustainability in Production: Q&A with Nikki Saunders

4/22/2022
Nikki Saunders on sustainable filming practices, COVID-19, and why carbon offsetting isn’t a...
Master Series Panel-Solving the crew shortage

Solving the Crew Shortage

4/13/2022
Learn how EP Academy, the Georgia Film Academy, Reel Works, the New Mexico Film Office, and others, are...
EP Blog_SQUARE_meet the cinematographer-dan-laustsen

Meet the Cinematographer

4/12/2022
A conversation with Dan Laustsen ('John Wick', 'Nightmare Alley').
EP Newsroom-Thumbnail-480-the olympian

More Movies Could Soon be Filmed in WA as Inslee OKs Film Incentives Passed by Legislature

4/5/2022
The law will provide tax breaks for filmmakers looking to make movies in Washington
EP Blog-proud to support-square

Proud to Support: Celebrating Client Nominations at the 94th Academy Awards

3/22/2022
A look at the evolution of the Oscars and the notable films powered by Entertainment Partners technology.
Bradley Cooper-nightmare alley

Meet the Assistant Director

3/16/2022
A conversation with Myron Hoffert ('Nightmare Alley')
EP Blog_SQUARE-Sound Mixer-Lora Hirschberg

Meet the Sound Mixer

3/1/2022
A conversation with Oscar-winning re-recording mixer, Lora Hirschberg ('Inception', Skywalker Sound)
Digging Out of a Deficit-featured

Digging Out of a Deficit: What to Expect in the Second Quarter of 2022

2/25/2022
Federal and State Unemployment Insurance rates are rising. Learn how these changes will affect 2022 and...

Russian Invasion Hits Ukrainian Production Industry Just Starting to Go International

2/24/2022
"Ukraine was just starting to open up to the world, now everything has closed up again."
Site Selection Magazine logo-sq

The Stage is Set

2/8/2022
Puerto Rico Beckons to Film & TV Production Industry
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Why the Cherokee Nation is Offering Rebates to Film in Oklahoma

2/5/2022
Joseph Chianese speaks to the LA Times on new incentive
EP-Blog-Meet-the-Set-Decorator-2

Meet the Set Decorator

1/19/2022
A Conversation with Claire Kaufman ('Little Women')
creating-a-winter-wonderland-elf

Creating a Winter Wonderland

12/21/2021
How ‘Elf’ Production Designer, Rusty Smith, Produces the Perfect Snowy Scenes for Film and Television
2022 Budgeting-sq

Budgeting for 2022: A Production Accountant's Guide

12/15/2021
EP's Payroll Tax, Production Incentives, and Business Development experts explain how inflation,...
Master Series: Budgeting for 2022-1

Budgeting for 2022: What Productions Need to Know

12/10/2021
From unemployment taxes and worker's compensation to the price of labor and materials, production costs...
Shiran-Amir-Randy-Bricker-Meet-the-Editors

Meet the Editor

12/7/2021
‘Chucky’ editors Randy Bricker and Shiran Amir on navigating the entertainment industry and how they...
Streaming platform on tablet device

The Evolution of Residuals: How Streaming Changed the Model

8/11/2022
Understanding how residuals payments are calculated for new content on streaming platforms.
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Explaining Hollywood: How to get a job as a production accountant

8/10/2022
Mark Goldstein speaks to the LA Times about the high demand for production accountants
EP Blog_SQUARE_Penka Kouneva-2

Meet the Composer

8/2/2022
A conversation with award-winning orchestrator and composer Penka Kouneva (‘Revenge,’ ‘Pirates of the...
Compliant crew contracting panel-square

Compliant Crew Contracting in the UK

8/1/2022
Learn how to ensure your crew contracts are compliant with UK regulations and why the Production Portal is...
Topic: UK
Watch

Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Festival 2022 Winners Include ‘Please Baby Please,’ ‘Mars One’

7/27/2022
‘Please Baby Please’ and ‘Mars One’ among winners of the 40th Anniversary Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film...
dollar signs representing digital crowdfunding

The Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding

7/26/2022
How filmmakers can leverage the power of social networks and online platforms to build buzz and secure...
EP Blog_Jesse Wente

Supporting Indigenous Storytellers of Canada

6/21/2022
How the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) offers advocacy and funding for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis...
Topic: Canada
More
uk-gdpr-and-how-productions-reduce-exposure-LC

The UK GDPR and how Productions can Reduce their Exposure - Q&A with Sheridans

5/3/2022
Sheridans’ Associate Krishan Neelendra answers key UK GDPR questions from production companies and...
Topic: UK
More
six-elements-for-uk-contracts-LC

Six Elements for Enforceable UK Crew Contracts

5/2/2022
Although parties to a crew contract can largely enter into whatever terms they choose, certain elements...
Topic: UK
More

Producing with Purpose

4/27/2022
Creative Producer, Kimberly Goodman ('Selling Sunset', 'Project Runway') shares insights on creating...
EP Blog_The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

4/20/2022
Film and television studios are embracing the green movement in a big way. Here’s what you can expect to...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Tips for tax day

Tips for Tax Day 2022

4/5/2022
Your ultimate tax filing checklist - the deadline this year is Monday, April 18th!
EP Blog_Marge Dean

Opening Career Doors

3/29/2022
How WIA President, Marge Dean, is shaping the future of animation and empowering underrepresented genders
Master Series Women in Animation-thumbnail

Women in Animation: A 3D View

3/24/2022
Marge Dean, Mandy Tankenson, and other women leaders from across animation come together to celebrate...
International Film Financing panel-featured

Film Financing Explained: International Financing

3/10/2022
International production experts discuss how producers can utilize financing systems outside of the US,...
Crew contracting in the UK-panel

Quick and Compliant Crew Contracting in the UK

2/9/2022
Neisha Glynternick and Sarmad Saleh from UK-based entertainment law firm Sheridans discuss crew...
Topic: Legal
Watch
meet-the-executive-producer-just-mercy-sq

Meet the Executive Producer

2/8/2022
A conversation with Mike Drake ('Just Mercy') on the path to becoming and EP, and the role of social...
35-production-accounting-terms-feature

35 Production Accounting Terms You Should Know

1/11/2022
Ready to test your production accounting vocabulary knowledge? See how many of these 35 common terms you...
Future-of-production-virtual stages

The Future of Film and Television Production

1/4/2022
Virtual stages, remote production offices, and other advances in technology drive the evolution of...
EP BLOG_Gucci

How Costumes, Hair, and Makeup Tell the 'House of Gucci' Story

12/28/2021
Talented production crew leaders Marco Alzari, Federica Castelli, Stefania Pellegrini, and Romina Ronzani...

Film Commission Report Highlights Covid Costs as Production Ramps Up

12/6/2021
Covid-compliance measures impact production budgets, estimating $90 million or more
EP BLOG_Payroll_Cleanup_Becky_Harshberger_sq

Everything You Need to Know About End-of-Year Production Payroll Cleanup

11/30/2021
Reconciling payroll errors and generating accurate W-2s can be a tedious process. These proactive steps...

Payroll & Finances

PayrollResidualsSmartStartNew SmartTimeProduction PortalEP On LocationSmartAccountingEP LiveSmartPOCASHétPayPaymaster Rate GuideEP Residency

Manage Multiple Productions

AssetHubSmartHubSmartHub Vault
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2022 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.