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Love That Movie or Show? It May Be Made in New Mexico

This state has taken a starring role in the film and television industry. But wait, there's more! Other industries are relocating to New Mexico as well.

By Bill Lewis on November 17, 2021

Creative Media Institute for Film and Digital Arts at New Mexico State University
Jeff Adkins

They may never appear on camera, but thousands of people have starring roles in the fast-growing film and television industry in New Mexico. This stellar growth is creating career opportunities far from the spotlights and attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investments.

“It’s not just the actors on camera and the directors. The film industry is open to everybody, and at higher than average wages,” says Milton Riess, co-department head of the film program at Santa Fe Community College. “They need caterers, set painters, drapers, groundskeepers. They need everybody to put out a film. The film industry needs accountants and welders and everybody in between.”

New Mexico has emerged as a major center of film and television production. Netflix established studio operations in Albuquerque in 2019 and now is investing $1 billion to make its ABQ Studios one of the largest high-tech and sustainable film production facilities in North America. NBCUniversal opened a state-of-the-art film and television studio in Albuquerque and expects to spend $500 million in the state over the next 10 years.

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Nathan Lambrecht

Creating New Jobs in New Mexico

The film and television industry in New Mexico now supports more than 9,000 jobs with an average wage of more than $55,000. Netflix’s most recent expansion at its Albuquerque studios is expected to create an estimated 1,000 production jobs in addition to the nearly 1,500 construction jobs required to complete the project.

The expansion will generate an estimated 10-year statewide economic impact of more than New Mexico takes a starring role in the film and television industry $4 billion. NBCUniversal set up shop in an 84,000-square-foot former warehouse, where it expects to create 330 jobs over the next 10 years, with an economic impact of more than $1.1 billion.

Investments Pouring into New Mexico

Since 2019, the state has attracted more than $2.2 billion in investment in sectors like advanced manufacturing, value-added agriculture, aerospace, emerging technologies, and the film and television industry.

Netflix and NBCUniversal join a who’s who of global companies with major operations in New Mexico. Virgin Galactic operates at Spaceport America, the first purpose-built commercial spaceport, and hopes to make space tourism an everyday occurrence.

Intel has announced plans to invest $3.5 billion in its New Mexico operations and hire more than 700 new workers to create a domestic hub for advanced semiconductor manufacturing at its fabrication facility in Sandoval County. Other household-name companies with major operations in New Mexico include Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon and Boeing.

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Reynolds Advanced Materials

Props to New Mexico!

As the film and television industry in New Mexico grows, it is generating jobs in other industries, including prop construction, set production and costume making.

Reynolds Advanced Materials, a supplier of products used to make props and sets with silicone, urethane rubber, epoxy materials and other products for sculpting, opened in Albuquerque after Netflix and NBCUniversal announced their expansion plans. The company has more than a dozen locations across the United States.

“From an overall film standpoint, I definitely believe Albuquerque is on the map and will just keep growing,” says Brandon Green, a spokesman for Reynolds Advanced Materials.

Pipeline for Talent

New Mexico is committed to providing one of the best business environments for the film and TV production industries. The state has 22 different film and media programs at universities and postsecondary educational institutions, providing a pipeline of new talent for the industry.

The University of New Mexico, for example, offers a degree program in film and digital arts. New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute prepares students to become digital storytellers using state-of-the-art technology. The state also provides important financial incentives. The Film and Media Tax Credit rebates up to 30% of eligible spending on film and digital media productions in the state.

The film and television industry has created new opportunities and is reshaping the economy. One northern New Mexico casino, for example, transformed itself into a sound studio, says Riess.

“It’s really a great place for the television and film industry,” he says of New Mexico. “I have students who start getting work before they graduate. Once you show you have that work ethic, you’ll have as much work as you want.”

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Nathan Lambrecht

Albuquerque Earns Top Ranking

MovieMaker magazine has named Albuquerque the No. 1 place to live and work as a filmmaker in its Big City category for three years in a row. New Mexico’s outstanding quality of life is a major attraction as well as its diverse community of talented individuals working in TV, movies and other creative endeavors.

Companies such as Meow Wolf, which creates immersive, multimedia experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms, are drawing creative talent to the state. Meow Wolf, an arts and entertainment company, was founded in 2008. It creates large-scale immersive art installations and produces arts and music festivals, music videos and streams entertainment.

Paws to Enjoy This Attraction!

Santa Fe is home to Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return. This 20,000-square-foot facility includes immersive art, a learning center and a concert venue. Meow Wolf describes the attraction as a mind-bending, explorable art experience for people of all ages. It features more than 70 rooms of art.

Another New Mexico company, Ideum, designs and manufactures multitouch tables and walls using cutting-edge sensing and projection technology. The company’s products create interactive, immersive experiences in public places, and its clients include the Smithsonian, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Coca-Cola, Boeing, Google and Starbucks.

Crafty Apes, a full-service special effects company, opened a 2,000-square-foot facility in Albuquerque. Keslow Camera, a camera rental business based in Los Angeles, now has an office in Albuquerque.

Production Resource Group opened a camera prep warehouse with nearly 6,000 square feet in Albuquerque where production companies can make use of visual effects technology.

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