New Mexico's economic incentives great for filmmakers

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It's not New Mexico's endless sunny days or breathtaking vistas that are luring filmmakers to the Southwest. They're after the financing.

"When you're creating a financial model for any entertainment program, the creative is the first element that has to be addressed and then it's a financial conversation really," says Kevin Beggs, president of TV programming and production at Lionsgate, which is shooting the TV series "Crash" for Starz in New Mexico.

Under New Mexico's popular 25% tax rebate on all direct production expenditures, the state has refunded just under $80 million through the program since 2003.

The rebate features no cap and no sunset clause, and productions are refunded based on the expenditure's full amount, not just the tax portion. "In most states, you have to spend a minimum. You make a really small movie -- we're here to support that," says New Mexico Film Office director Lisa Strout.

The state's Film Crew Advancement Program offers a 50% wage reimbursement for any resident hired in a key below-the-line crew position and given on-the-job training. Since 2003, New Mexico has expended $5.2 million for on-the-job training and crew advancement programs. Almost 750 individuals have benefited from the 70-plus productions that have participated. In addition, the state has also spent approximately $130,000 conducting pre-employment workshops.

"From their standpoint, it helps to continue to improve the crew base in New Mexico. And from our standpoint, it's somebody who's ready for that next step and you're able to get more bang for your buck for that particular crew position," says producer Glenn Williamson, whose comedy "Sunshine Cleaning," from Overture Films, was filmed in the state. He estimates that New Mexico's incentives helped save almost 20% of the film's original budget.

New Mexico's Film Investment Loan Program features a 0% loan for up to $15 million per project; in return, the state gets a share of the backend in lieu of interest. The state negotiates a backend participation position, averaging between 7% and 20%, based on the type of production and the calculated risk. The program has aided over 20 projects, loaning out more than $210 million.
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