Netflix deal could boost all parts of New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — While Albuquerque has been named as Netflix’s newest production hub, those in the industry say the benefits are likely to reach all parts of New Mexico.

In fact, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported earlier this week that Netflix executives have already visited Santa Fe to scout for space for a project next year.

Eric Witt, who leads the Santa Fe Film Office, said he had two phone calls Monday from producers within an hour of Netflix announcing plans to purchase Albuquerque Studios and establish a production hub in the city.

“They’re all over it: ‘What’s available in Santa Fe? What’s available in Santa Fe?’ ” Witt said. “It’s great.”

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The venture is projected to deliver $1 billion in production spending in New Mexico over the next decade and thousands of jobs, officials said.

Members of the industry described it as a first step toward a booming new era for the state’s film and television business.

Netflix establishing a regular cycle of its episodic productions in Albuquerque could create a sort of chain reaction, others said, bringing job opportunities for crew workers statewide, which in turn increases the call for more new workers and the state’s capacity for more productions.

“Series keep people employed for a longer period of time,” said Anton Walpole, a Santa Fe filmmaker who served as unit production manager on western drama Godless. “The new model has taken a lot of the crew base and puts them in a very secure position.”

The venture also could mean more business at the Garson Studios on the city of Santa Fe’s midtown campus, studios in Las Cruces and Albuquerque — or studios yet to be built. Industry insiders have long said the state’s film epicenters could use more space.

But there are challenges embedded within the opportunity. State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, who is president of the nonprofit Film Las Cruces, said the need to reckon with the state’s so-called incentive cap — a $50 million annual maximum on the rebates the state can pay out to qualifying film producers — would now become a priority in the next legislative session.

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With Netflix pledging to spend $100 million a year in production, and the state paying back at least 25 percent of production expenditures through its rebate program, Netflix will gobble up roughly half the $50 million maximum each year.

“It’s a good problem to have because we’re getting more business, but . this puts the cap issue front and center for us,” Steinborn said. “It’s a good time to consider raising it.”

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com

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