When I moved to New Mexico to pursue film in 2007, they were calling it “Tamalewood.” The state had recently sweetened their incentives package; local colleges had developed a film program intended to populate IATSE with skilled workers. New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment” had gone Hollywood and I wanted to be part of that.
The reality of film in New Mexico was different than I expected. It’s a great place for film, but not exactly a back door to Hollywood. In my experience, the big movies are mostly crewed up before they come to New Mexico and they certainly do most of their primary casting out of LA. The real reasons New Mexico is a great place for indie film are the same reasons that draws Hollywood – it’s versatile, cheap and film friendly. For an independent filmmaker, that’s a magical trifecta.
Most people who haven’t been here have a pretty skewed idea of what New Mexico is like. I still have friends who believe I’ve moved to a desolate wasteland of cacti, tumbleweed and shanty towns where they film a lot of COPS.
New Mexico is beautiful. Yes, we have deserts—high ones and low ones. We have tumbleweed, cacti and the odd shanty town, but we also have ski resorts, pink mountains, fertile river valleys, cities, ancient pueblos, and pine forests that would fool you into thinking you’d somehow stumbled into Oregon. New Mexico has a lot of great locations, and many of them are free or pretty affordable for the indie filmmaker, and if you’re an indie filmmaker you know that a great location = production value! I don’t have to tell you what that’s worth.
I have family in LA so I have some concept of what it costs out there. You could slash that in half and have what it costs out here. When you’re making a movie on a tiny budget, it’s nice to be someplace that stretches your dollar. When we made our web series, Flock we made an entire season for what several people have told us they spent on a single episode. Granted, we called in a lot of favors and no one was getting paid, but I think making the show in New Mexico enabled us to make it on the budget that we did. New Mexico also offers a 25-30% film incentive, which basically means that whatever you spend making your project in New Mexico, you can get 25-30% of that back. That’s like adding 25% to your budget! As an independent, you’d have to be crazy not to consider what that could do for your project.
It’s film friendly.
People out here get excited about making movies. It’s not so “run-of-the-mill, business as usual” out here. I’m not saying you can get everything for free. Some people hear “movie” and see dollar signs, no matter what your budget is, but I have had experiences where our production has gotten a location or an amazing prop for pretty cheap or free just because the people who owned it wanted to experience being a part of making a movie. New Mexicans love filmmakers and New Mexicans love BEING filmmakers. We have a vibrant independent film community. Film festivals with panels, local films screening at local venues, regular meet-ups— if local networking and collaborating with other filmmakers is your thing, it’s easy to get plugged in to all that’s going on out here.
As a filmmaker, New Mexico has certainly enchanted me. If you’re working on your next project, consider it. Maybe it’ll enchant you too. 😉
– Cat Doughty