It should come as no surprise to anyone with eyeballs that New Mexico continues to be a favored destination for the Hollywood film industry. Television shows such as “Better Call Saul,” “The Brave,” “Godless” and “The Night Shift” are just some of the high-profile network fare currently being filmed in state. The Space Between Us, The Shot Caller, 12 Strong and Hostiles are among the New Mexico-lensed films released theatrically in the last 12 months. Last year Moviemaker magazine named Albuquerque the No. 8 best big city to live and work in as a filmmaker. There’s no question that the film industry has adopted us. But how to take full advantage of this relationship? That’s a question local writers, directors, actors, producers, camera operators, set decorators, electricians and others (including a handful of sympathetic politicians) have been grappling with for years.
New Mexico Film Week 2018—scheduled to take place in Santa Fe from Tuesday, Feb. 6 through Monday, Feb. 12—is a collaborative effort between the Santa Fe Film Office, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employee, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE, local 480) and a number of other organizations to bring government film offices, film festivals, film businesses and filmmakers together and market them to the film industry, both in and out of state. The local film industry has been hosting a Film and Media Day, organized around the State Legislature session, for years. But this year’s “Film Week” has exploded beyond the halls of the Roundhouse to become a Santa Fe-wide event aimed at highlighting all aspects of our state’s film and television industry.
Since this year’s plus-sized event was announced, the effort has been gathering steam. Local IATSE President Jon Hendry, the man responsible for training, employing and representing the hundreds of film technicians and craftspeople (from sound recordists to set builders) in our state, has been both gratified and surprised by the response. Speaking by phone from outside the State Legislature, where he’s already keeping an eye on several film-related bills, Hendry says “more and more people keep coming on board. We’re getting emails and text messages every day.” Among the new events crowding this year’s schedule are a film festival, a Hall of Fame banquet, a Locations Scouting Expo, a shootnm.org contest for proposed TV pilots, a weekend-long casting call and countless skills-based workshops.
The ultimate goal is to give our state a film destination event—what Hendry calls “the sweet spot between the Sundance Film Festival [in Park City, Utah] and South By Southwest [In Austin, Texas].” Those legendary event lure thousands of filmmakers and film business movers and shakers to their respective locations. Hendry and his partners in the industry want to do the same for New Mexico. “I can’t believe we haven’t done this before,” he marvels.
Among the recent additions folded into Film Week 2018 is the 5th annual N.M. Film Industry Tune-Up. A host of educational forums, panels, workshops, headshot clinics, film reel shoots, training certificates and networking events aimed at New Mexicans trying to break into the film biz will be provided free of charge, courtesy of various motion picture unions and guilds. Among the Tune-Up events happening Feb. 6 through 11 is an “Entertainment Law Panel” (Saturday, Feb. 10 at Hotel Santa Fe) in which Harris Tulchin, Esq. and Barbara Waxer will “explore some of the legal aspects of creating a film and will assist media makers with clearance questions, fair use, tips, tricks, trends and the hottest new cases affecting media makers.” All Film Industry Tune-Up events take place at the Center for Progress & Justice (1420 Cerillos Road). For a complete rundown of Tune-Up events, go to facebook.com/
The major addition to this year’s Film Week is the Santa Fe Film Festival, taking place Feb. 7 through 11 at the Center for Contemporary Arts (1050 Old Pecos Trail), the Screen at Santa Fe University of Arts and Design (1600 St. Michael’s Dr.) and the Jean Cocteau Cinema (418 Montezuma Ave.). It kicks off on Thursday at 3pm with a special N.M. Women in Film Program. Spread throughout the rest week are various classic films (The Milagro Beanfield War, Dr. Strangelove), documentaries (Sinatra in Palm Springs, Mata Hari: The Naked Spy) and features (Alaska is a Drag, Of the Menu). Woven among those four days’ worth of screenings are various classes, workshops, panel discussions and parties. Among the scheduled special guests are author Mike Nichols (The Milagro Beanfield War), actress/comedian Aisha Tyler (“Archer,” “The Talk”), actor John Savage (The Deer Hunter) and actress/director Melanie Mayron (“Thirtysomething”). For a complete list of films and events for the Santa Fe Film Festival, go to santafefilmfestival.com.
The newest and most exciting addition to Film Week is the New Mexico Film and TV Hall of Fame Banquet Gala. It takes place starting 7pm on Sunday, Feb. 11 at the Santa Fe Convention Center (201 W. Marcy Street). This star-studded event showcases the past and present of New Mexico film and TV history through awards, video clips and speeches. The very first inductees to the state’s Hall of Fame will be announced at this banquet. Among the inaugural honorees: Thomas Edison (who shot the very first film in New Mexico 120 years ago), New Mexico author and icon George R.R. Martin (who penned Game of Thrones and owns the Jean Cocteau Cinema) and author John Nichols’ The Milagro Beanfield War (celebrating its 30th anniversary as a film by Robert Redford). Tickets for this event include a three-course dinner with wine pairings and are on sale now for $150 each. For more info go to nmfilmhalloffame.org.
New Mexico Film Week culminates on Monday, Feb. 12 with N.M. Film and TV Day at the State Capitol building. That’s where our state lawmakers get their most direct exposure to the individuals employed in the film industry. This year, Hendry says the political goals are twofold. IATSE and other organizations are pushing for what Hendry categorizes as “a modest increase” in the state’s film rebate cap. Currently, the state offers a refundable tax credit (25 percent of all money spent in state by film productions and 30 percent of all money spent in state by TV productions). That rebate is the main reason most film and TV productions come to our state, but the money is capped off at $50 million per year. After that, no more rebates are handed out. An increase in the cap would lure more productions to the state, employing more New Mexicans and dumping more cash in our state’s coffers. Hendry and the organizers of Film Week are also backing a $10 million loan bill that would provide low interest loans to independent films. The loans would be up to $1 million each and could cover no less than 50 percent of a film’s budget, meaning the films could have a total budget of no more than $2 million. The hope is that this will spur a growth in locally produced, low-budget independent films. This could mean less reliance on big-budget Hollywood films and more jobs for local writers, directors, producers, actors and other “above the line” personnel. As proof of concept, Hendry cites a TV series based on the life of Sister Blandina, an Italian nun who cofounded schools and hospitals in the Wild West territory of New Mexico, circa 1850. The series, shot in New Mexico and employing “100 percent New Mexico crew,” was just picked up by The Catholic Channel. When it comes to the film and television industries, “the key to sustainability,” says Hendry, “depends on getting more New Mexico productions.” And Film Week may just be the key to fostering those homegrown, homemade productions.