NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Stranger Things, Breaking Bad, Army of the Dead . . . the list of films and T.V. shows shot in New Mexico goes on and on. State officials have touted the industry as a moneymaker and job supplier. So just how much does the industry bring to New Mexico?

As it turns out: billions. That’s according to the latest numbers from the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

Giving state legislators an update on the industry, New Mexico Film Office Deputy Director Carrie Wells recently presented a breakdown of the numbers. The fiscal year 2022 was a record-breaking year for the department. But Wells shows that over the last 20 years, more than $5 billion has been spent by production companies in New Mexico.

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Filmmaking has brought hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico in recent years. Data from NMEDD.

The number of productions has also increased. In the fiscal year 2019, there were 92 productions in the state. In the fiscal year 2022, there were 109 productions, Film Office data shows. But the increased spending in New Mexico isn’t just due to more productions. The Film Office says the average total budget for each production in New Mexico has grown as well.

In the fiscal year 2020, the average production budget was a little over $5.5 million. In the fiscal year 2022, that nearly tripled to more than $15 million, Film Office data shows.

Wells, from the Film Office, points out that there are several reasons why film productions have taken off in New Mexico. One of those is the tax credits the state offers production companies.

“Our film incentives [program] is one of the most competitive in the nation,” Wells told legislators during a committee meeting. “And our incentive is unique in the fact that it is based on the hiring of New Mexican residents and also utilizing New Mexico businesses. And that’s important because some other states don’t have that qualifying item.”

The Film Office offers production companies a tax credit between 25% and 35% of the amount they spend in New Mexico. The Film Office estimates that tens of millions of dollars in tax credits will be paid out this year. But Wells describes that as an investment.

“The New Mexico film credit is really incentivizing New Mexicans and New Mexican vendors. And I think that’s why it’s been so successful,” Wells says.

One credit that’s been particularly successful, according to Wells, is the credit for rural filming. It’s a 5% tax credit the state offers film productions that spend money outside Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties.

“So a huge highlight of FY [fiscal year] 22 is our record-breaking production spend in the rural zone,
Wells says. “It was $50 million in FY 22. And that is an approximate 7.5-fold increase from the spend from FY 21.”

So, the data shows that it’s not just urban areas like Albuquerque that are seeing benefits from the film industry. Even rural New Mexico is seeing an influx of business.

Of course, New Mexico has competition from other states. Nearby, Arizona and Oklahoma both represent growing markets for filmmaking. And both offer incentives as well.

“Arizona, that’s a problem. It’s right next to us,” Wells says. “We need to be strategic.”

It’s not clear exactly what could be done to secure New Mexico’s filmmaking reputation. But Wells says partnerships are a key part of the industry’s future.

“We really went out there and looked for partners. Our first one was and still is, Netflix,” Wells says. “The first deal that we did with them was for them to commit to a billion dollars spent. So that means a billion dollars, of money coming from outside of New Mexico, into New Mexico that wouldn’t be here. And then the second deal we did — the expansion — is adding that additional billion dollars, so they have committed to spending $2 billion in the state of New Mexico over the next 10 years.”