With movie and TV productions racing back to work to fill the deficit left behind by the pandemic and our lockdown-fueled viewing habits, New Mexico is back in the entertainment biz. Big time. Fiscal year 2021 was a record breaker, luring some 70 productions to our state which spent roughly $623 million combined. Between Netflix’s production hub at the old Albuquerque Studios, NBCUniversal’s new facilities near Downtown and A-list features like the Christopher Nolan-directed Oppenheimer getting under way, New Mexico is likely to see even more business in 2022. But can our state handle the growth? One group of film industry folks is betting on it.
As more and more Hollywood productions move into our state, they fight over resources. Those resources can be actors, film crew, locations, props, costumes and even studio space. That last one is particularly precious, as companies like Netflix will not rent out their facilities to other companies—even if the space is going unused. If movie producers can’t find a place to lens their film or TV show, they’re likely to bypass our state and move on to Louisiana or Georgia or any other state that tries to compete with us by handing out tax breaks. Hoping to alleviate this logjam, the folks behind the newly proposed New Mexico Film Studios broke ground last week in a celebratory ceremony in Albuquerque’s South Valley.
Located on 13 acres of roadside desert off South Broadway between Isleta Amphitheater on the east and Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge on the West, the proposed New Mexico Film Studios (NMFS) will be the first independent film studio backlot in New Mexico. Latina filmmaker, producer and actress Tsailii Rogers hosted the site’s opening ceremony on March 29 and said, “With this historic groundbreaking event and investment in the community, New Mexico Film Studios is filling a demand for independent soundstages, backlots and production facilities that producers like myself can use, which will bring more production projects and plenty more jobs to New Mexico.”
President of NMFS, Kurt Young—whose background is as founder and chairman of the board for the Santa Fe Film Festival—told the gathered politicians, reporters and films industry guests that now was “a unique moment in time for New Mexico” and that the studio is a way to “push film in a new direction,” allowing “New Mexicans to begin telling their own story instead of telling other people’s stories for them.” The studio complex, which is just now beginning construction, has already lined up as many as seven productions in the coming months, which Young said would be a mixture of major studio efforts and homegrown indie productions. He mentioned that the first film to shoot at New Mexico Film Studios will be the Tombstone prequel Dodge City. Expect to see a new Western town sprout up on Albuquerque’s south side in the next month or two.
NMFS’s Chief Executive Officer David Montoya also spoke at the groundbreaking event. Montoya previously worked for Los Alamos National Labs and the Department of Veterans Affairs and served as National Security Adviser to U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman. He said the Broadway backlot was only the beginning of a proposed “network of film studios” which would stretch from Santa Fe, through Albuquerque and down to Las Cruces. Montoya called it, “a studio system by New Mexicans for New Mexicans.” The group’s initial investment of “over $100 million” is expected to result in facilities that are “cutting edge, first class and truly New Mexican.” Ground is expected to be broken at The Yard, a larger indoor production facility located on Woodward and Broadway, later this month. You can follow the growth of New Mexico Film Studios yourself at nmfilmstudios.com.