New Mexico’s film industry began back in 1898, when director James H. White showed up at Isleta Pueblo to shoot the 30-second short “Indian Day School” on one of Thomas Edison’s newfangled motion picture cameras. The industry didn’t become a major contributor to our economy, though, until the early 2000s when Gov. Bill Richardson pushed through tax incentives that refunded a percentage of the cash movie producers spent in state. That’s when N.M. became a movie-making destination, hosting blockbusters like Transformers: The Movie and The Avengers and regularly topping lists of “Best Places to Live and Work as a Filmmaker.”
Just last year Netflix and NBCUniversal announced plans to expand production facilities in the Duke City. Unfortunately, the pandemic put a temporary damper on those plans. The Netflix feature Western The Harder They Fall starring Idris Elba saw production start and stop several times toward the end of 2020 as COVID outbreaks troubled the set. But Season 4 of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and the final season of AMC’s “Better Call Saul” are expected to start shooting here this month. And Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took time out of a recent Zoom meeting touting those tax breaks to praise the industry’s COVID-safe practices. “The film industry was the first industry to engage independently for their own COVID testing,” Lujan Grisham said. “They have done more than 60,000 tests with a .18 [percent] positivity rate.”
So, as film production ramps back up in our state, The Paper. takes time to look at where New Mexico’s future lies—both behind and in front of the camera.