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The Hoot Smalley Report #6: Tom Ortenberg

Here is a person of interest that the filmmakers of New Mexico might want to emulate in some kind of way.

Tom Ortenberg, a Lionsgate Veteran and recent expatriate of the Weinstein Co., has decided to launch an independent production company that will finance films up to the magic number of $ 5 million (sounds familiar) and provide a multitude of other services ranging from consulting to distribution. Why is this so interesting and so sad at the same time?

It’s interesting because the individual is providing a business model for independent productions to actually be viable economic entities. It’s sad because Mr. Ortenberg has decided to set up shop in Santa Monica as opposed to a locale in New Mexico.

Mr. Ortenberg might utilize the studios and the work force here locally at some point in the future, because New Mexico is not his home base and does not have a claim for taxation on his business. The state of New Mexico needs this type of revenue to keep the film industry strong here.

Santa Fe and Albuquerque alone have already invested so much money in their studios, and the state as a whole has invested a significant amount more in terms of training and education; if we don’t find a way of attracting these high dollar independents to take root here, then we will have wasted millions of tax dollars on a pipe dream.

Folks, we are past the point of no return on this issue in terms of making Santa Fe and Albuquerque Studio Cities. (This is an industry term that basically regards a town or city as being on the same level as New York or L.A. in regards to filmmaking in general.) If we turn back now we will lose more than we could ever hope to recoup, leaving us with a Gross Loss of revenue and assets.

H.B. 634, the bill sponsored by our new Mayor-Elect R.J. Berry, would be a good means by which we could establish our own Independent Film Community and lead to more jobs and a better rate of collectible taxes. This along with a collective entrepreneurial might actually help to pull us out of our current economic slump (which, truth to tell, wouldn’t take much; as last I checked the current unemployment rate for New Mexico is at an incredibly low 7.5% +/- 0.2% –, well below the national average) and create a more stable film industry overall.


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