Hoot Are You?
I’m not sure who is writing the “Hoots Smalley” blog, but the recent entries regarding the New Mexico Film Industry have been inaccurate and very misleading. Contrary to the assertions made in the blog, the state’s film industry remains strong and among the most successful and respected in the world. An upcoming edition of a major trade publication ranks New Mexico third, after California and New York. There are currently six major films prepping or shooting in the state, including Due Date starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, Passion Play starring Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox, and Let Me In starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz and Richard Jenkins. In addition, the award-winning TV series “Breaking Bad” (AMC) is shooting its third season here, the series “Crash” (Starz) just wrapped its second season and “In Plain Sight” (USA) has announced it will return to New Mexico to shoot its third season beginning in January. And there are many more major film and television projects heading to New Mexico in the next six months.
New Mexico was one of the first two states to offer incentives for film and television productions. Today, 43 states offer a variety of incentives. New Mexico’s primary incentive is a 25 percent refundable tax credit offered to productions for New Mexico workers, goods and services. Our program is fiscally responsible—a recent in-depth study performed by the respected firm of Ernst and Young determined New Mexico receives $1.50 in tax revenue for every $1 spent. And that doesn’t include the money that rolls over in the community from the workers and businesses. Film production makes money for New Mexico, our citizens and our businesses.
Other states are trying to replicate our success and offer higher percentages in tax credits (Michigan: 42 percent; Iowa: 50 percent). However, all indicators point to those percentages not being sustainable, as those states offering such large incentives are seeing minimal, if any, return on investment. Iowa has just been shut down with the threat of major lawsuits waiting in the wings. Michigan is reconsidering its program, as it should, with the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. Other states have placed caps on the amount of incentive money available, which actually discourages production and makes it virtually impossible for production companies to plan or count on actually seeing the incentive. New Mexico’s incentives are the right mix of refundable tax credits balanced with requirements to hire our people, buy our goods and services, and provide training for our people breaking into the business. We have the respect of the industry for being steadfast, reliable and sustainable, and on more than one occasion have been told by studios execs that they expect New Mexico to be “the last man standing.” We agree. New Mexico is committed to this industry over the long haul, as opposed to other states that are acting out of desperation and will, at best, see a short-lived spike in their production activity.
It’s important to note that there are approximately 10,000 New Mexico jobs directly or indirectly related to the state’s film industry, with some 250 film-specific businesses and services. Since Gov. Bill Richardson took office and made the film industry a top priority, there have been 130 major film and television productions shot in New Mexico, with an estimated economic impact of approximately $3 billion.
I would recommend that “Hoots” do a little fact-checking next time before slamming an industry that is proving to be vital for the economy of New Mexico.