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It should come as no surprise that the film industry in New Mexico is experiencing a renaissance. There are currently nine projects registered with the New Mexico Film Office that are in production, and since 2002, the industry has contributed approximately $3.5 Billion in direct spending to the local economy. “Albuquerque is currently experiencing a return to production surge as restrictions from the pandemic ease,” said Karen Criswell, film liaison for the Albuquerque Film Office. “The recent uptick in production filming in the city has been an added boon to the economic recovery and is a testament to the vitality of our entertainment industry ecosystem.” Also impacted by the return of filming in New Mexico are the locations and businesses featured in the various productions, many of which are experiencing financial boosts of their own as a result.
As fans of the new Netflix movie Army of the Dead (which was filmed in New Mexico) watched zombies chase superstar Dave Bautista through a destroyed Las Vegas, keen-eyed New Mexicans were able to point out famous local landmarks such as the historic Rail Yards, the Route 66 Bingo building and the Lucky Boy Diner, located on Carlisle and Constitution. “We really enjoyed the experience and everyone was very professional” said Lucky Boy Diner owner Susie Yip. “They were just great, and we have been swamped since.” The diner, which has been around for 45 years, had to close for three days to accommodate filming but is no stranger to movie productions. Their location was also featured in the 2008 film Sunshine Cleaning. “By and large, the impact to businesses can be very positive, and it helps fuel the local economy when productions are in town,” said Criswell.
With plenty of tax incentives for filming in New Mexico but no direct incentives for featuring local businesses, it is predominantly the job of local location scouts like Ariel Lopez to be the source of information for content creators. “A lot goes into this,” said Lopez, a 10-year veteran of the industry. “First and foremost we want to find locations that match what’s written in the scripts or what the director is looking for. Most of the time, the director is looking for something that’s a bit unique or cinematic.” Locations like the famous car wash from “Breaking Bad,” The Dog House on Central Ave. (seen in “Better Call Saul”) and even Cottonwood Mall (the setting for Netflix’s “Daybreak”) have all had their time in the spotlight.
Despite the opportunity for a slice of fame, not all businesses are keen on being featured in film productions. According to Lopez, big businesses with a lot of red tape will turn down offers if they feel the productions will disrupt their day-to-day operations. “Businesses can also be a bit wary if they do not approve of the content or are not familiar with the film industry as a whole,” said Lopez. For those business owners that are ready to throw caution to the wind, however, the New Mexico Film Office keeps a database of filming locations that anyone can register for by following a few simple instructions. “We are very near pre-pandemic levels and have multiple projects of varying size and scope filming in the Albuquerque area,” said Criswell from her desk at the Albuquerque Film Office. “We definitely hope to see other local locations positively impacted by their involvement in filming.”