New Mexico’s film, television, video game development industries benefit from the state’s highly skilled workforce.
With the announcement that streaming giant Netflix and NBCUniversal will open multimillion-dollar studios in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s film and television industry is stepping into the spotlight. In fact, MovieMaker recently named Albuquerque, for a second year in a row, the No. 1 Best Place to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2020 and ranked Santa Fe No. 3 on its Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in the Small Cities and Towns category. To meet the workforce needs of this growing industry, colleges and universities, such as the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, are ramping up programs to prepare students to fill highly skilled jobs.
The Creative Media Institute at New Mexico State University offers a bachelor’s degree in creative media, with an emphasis on either digital filmmaking or animation and visual effects.
“We teach a program that is grounded in storytelling,â€ says Amy Lanasa, head of the Creative Media Institute for Film and Digital Arts at New Mexico State. “Many students are technologically adept, so our job is to teach them how to use that technology to tell a story that only they can tell. We also built a curriculum around our classes collaborating and working together, so students have the opportunity to immerse in each aspect of the craft for an entire semester while working on as many as 15 short projects.”
As students progress and rotate through courses in our program, they build diverse and extensive portfolios of work, which prepares them for any aspect of the industry upon graduation.
“We also have been offering classes in feature filmmaking, so our students are prepared to enter the more intensive side of the professional world,â€ she says. “I would imagine that Netflix would never have made the move here if they hadn’t recognized that an available workforce exists, and that there are educational programs across the state actively training more available members for that workforce.”
In fact, both Netflix and NBCUniversal are contributing $55,000 a year over 10 years to enhance workforce training, says Bruce Krasnow, public information officer for the New Mexico Economic Development Department. Krasnow says companies like Netflix, which plans to invest more than $1 billion to acquire and develop ABQ Studios in Albuquerque into a production studio complex that will create more than 1,000 jobs, can take advantage of some 21 film and media programs across the state.
In addition to universities, there are also community colleges and two-year certificate programs as well as mentorship and training offered by the industry trade groups, Krasnow says.
The state’s pool of skilled workers and low-cost business climate have also attracted companies in the state’s burgeoning video game development industry. Founded by Jerry Prochazka and Lynn Stetson, Ganymede Games established its headquarters in Las Cruces in 2019. The company, launched by a team of video game industry veterans, expects to hire more than 50 additional employees within the next five years, including engineers, artists, writers, designers and other production staff.
“Our team is excited to have found such a business-friendly and welcoming community in New Mexico. Creating career opportunities for local developers, artists, writers and other creatives will infuse our team with smart and passionate local talent,â€ Prochazka says.
A highly skilled and available workforce is just one of many advantages New Mexico offers the film, television and gaming industries. New Mexico also offers the Film and Digital Media Refundable Tax Credit that rebates 25-30% of production costs, says Krasnow, noting that Ganymede Games selection of Las Cruces was aided by economic assistance from the state for building costs and job training.
In addition, accessibility to Los Angeles, which is a mere 90-minute flight from Albuquerque, nearly 300 days of sunshine a year and a diversity of landscapes can be counted among the state’s advantages.
“Our weather is pretty incredible, especially in the southern part of the state. There are a few exceptionally hot days in the summer, rarely any rain and sunshine the rest of the time, and the landscape is incredible. We have mountains and deserts and areas that look like Mars. It’s a fascinating-looking state,â€ Lanasa says.
Let It Rain
A $35 million mixed-use project is anchoring downtown Albuquerque’s innovation district and serving as a hub of collaboration.
A public-private partnership that includes the city of Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College, Bernalillo County and Nusenda Credit Union developed Lobo Rainforest, a six-story building in downtown Albuquerque that houses innovative companies and startups on the first loor. Floors two through six feature living spaces for 310 students.
Lobo Rainforest is designed to provide a work-live-play concept that encourages innovation, collaboration and economic development. Among Lobo Rainforest tenants are the Air Force Research Lab, General Atomics, Sandia National Laboratories and a Cecchi VentureLab business incubator.