As New Mexico’s film and television industry pick up for another season, local entrepreneurs are rushing to fill the gaps in our state’s business model. There are many moving parts to the industry beyond just directors and actors. A studio film or network TV series employs people and resources from dozens of areas the general public never really thinks of: from catering to vehicles to prop rentals to stunt performers to set painters to hairdressers to costuming.
Dani Payne is co-owner and operator of the newly opened Costume House@Monumental Studios, and she’s seen the film business from a number of different perspectives. She started out as an actor, eventually sitting on the local Screen Actors Guild board. From there she moved to casting and eventually tried her hand at costuming on a couple of low-budget films. It was during this time that Payne saw film major and TV productions shipping most of their clothing in from other areas of the U.S.
Payne doesn’t want the entertainment industry to think of New Mexico as “a place where we have to call LA” in order to make things happen. “We have a lot more here than just crew positions,” she points out. Although electricians, lighting techs, set builders and other “craft industry” workers make good wages for New Mexico, Hollywood productions still tend to rely on East and West Coast talent for “above the line” positions (writers, directors, lead actors). They rarely stay here for pre-and post-production and frequently turn to businesses outside of the state to handle many of their supply needs. Hoping to keep more of that movie money in New Mexico, Payne helped launch The Costume House@Monumental Studios, a new costume house on Edith Blvd. which specializes in vintage wear, uniforms and general stock. The Costume House offers an 8,000 square foot warehouse with a 2,000 square foot office component appropriate for fittings, production workspace and meetings.
Payne estimates the business already houses about a quarter-million pieces—some of it sourced from previous productions and retired costumers, some of it hauled in from other areas of the U.S. Payne is also in the process of “forming relationships with local vintage stores” to make some of their period outfits available for rental. Near the entrance to the Costume Shop, 200 pairs of steel-toed military boots sit on pallets waiting for a pallet jack Payne hopes will arrive soon. Police uniforms, cowboy hats, prom dresses, suits and ties line towering racks and spill into the crowded aisles, all tagged and ready for the right costume person to come looking. According to Payne, much of the demand now is for “Western gear.” Cowboys, military and law enforcement seem to be popular categories for filmmakers working in New Mexico’s desert environs.
“A lot of the bigger studios have raised the game,” says Payne regarding the recent flood of productions from Netflix, NBCUniversal and the like. And large productions require a lot of resources. The Costume House is even shipping “a bunch of period stuff” out to Atlanta for a big studio effort. But Payne isn’t relying simply on Hollywood to fuel business. She hopes to work with lower budgeted, local productions as much as their big-budget studio cousins.
“We need to create our own market for supplies,” says Payne. After all, it’s those homegrown, independent productions (alongside local businesses like The Costume Shop) that will “keep money in state and going back to the local community.”
The Costume House@Monumental Studios is located at 5048 Edith Blvd. NE. For more info go to monumentalstudios.com.