Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NM in the News... Terminator

One of the cool business things about work with the film industry isn't necessarily that you can see Jennifer Lopez, Russell Crowe, Jake Gyllenhall or Christian Bale in our neighborhood -- it's that if you have those folks and productions like Indiana Jones, The Spirit, or Terminator Salvation in your neighborhood, people will write about that, and the trickle of coverage certainly helps with PR (especially when you have 4-5 movies contending for the Oscars). The people at Albuquerque Studios definitely seem to be getting it right...

From the Terminator Files...
The film is scheduled for a North American theatrical release May 22, 2009. Warner Bros. Pictures is handling all U.S. and Canadian distribution rights for the film, with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group (SPWAG) handling international distribution rights in all territories (excluding Korea and select Mideast territories). The Halcyon Company acquired all 'Terminator' franchise rights in May 2007.

'Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins' will be the first film in a new 'Terminator' trilogy and will mark the latest installment of the multi-billion dollar 'Terminator' franchise. Moritz Borman, Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek will produce. McG will direct the film from a script by John Brancato and Michael Ferris ('Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines'). Christian Bale will star as John Connor.

On 'Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins' coming to Albuquerque Studios, COO Nick Smerigan said, "When building this facility, this is exactly the type of project we envisioned having and we look forward to working with Derek and Victor of The Halcyon Company and McG and the entire cast and crew." Added Jeremy Hariton, the studios' Sr. VP, "Working with this group in bringing this project to Albuquerque has been a great pleasure. This is an exciting time for Albuquerque Studios. To have the opportunity to host a production, cast and crew of this magnitude does not come along often and it speaks to the quality of the studio and the great film incentive programs put in place by the state of New Mexico."
...
More at the Terminator Files

Thursday, April 24, 2008

NM in the News: Two Big NM Projects Move Forward

Two big projects moved forward this week as Sierra County passed the Spaceport Tax, encouraging that to move forward, while up in Santa Fe, the county was able to purchase land from the state to move forward with development of the Santa Fe Studios. More info below.

from the AP via MSNBC:
NM Spaceport Tax wins Key Vote

updated 9:46 p.m. MT, Tues., April. 22, 2008

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. - Sierra County voters have approved a tax aimed at financing New Mexico's $200 million spaceport, according to unofficial results.

The tax passed Tuesday by 980 votes among 3,112 cast, the Sierra County clerk's office said.

Spaceport director Steve Landeene called the win "huge" and thanked the county for embracing the tax that will add a 25-cent charge to a $100 purchase.


Santa Fe Studios hopes to build eco-friendly film facility on 65-acre property
State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons grinned widely Tuesday as he signed the documents that finalized Santa Fe County's purchase of 65 acres from the state.

County Commissioners Jack Sullivan, Virginia Vigil and Mike Anaya beamed as Sullivan presented Lyons with a $1.8 million check for the property south of Santa Fe on N.M. 14 they hope becomes a movie studio.

The tract was appraised at $2.3 million, but the county received $480,000 in credits for infrastructure it had already installed.

Lance Hool, president of a company called Santa Fe Studios, smiled too. "We're glad your office has decided to sell the land," Hool said. "This is great news for us and hopefully for the county as well."

Hool didn't have an official role at Tuesday's closing. But his company's recent proposal to buy the land and build a multimillion-dollar, environmentally friendly film production facility there was the star.

Lyon's said the proposed deal represented an "opening of the highway to bring a world-class studio to New Mexico" and would likely increase the value of adjacent state-owned land.

Santa Fe Studios has expressed interest in the property since 2002, when the county first began leasing it in hopes of creating a business park there. But, Hool said, they company was never able to strike a deal with the county because it didn't own the land.

Santa Fe Studios' latest proposal, which came earlier this month, includes:

  • Santa Fe Studios will pay the county $2.3 million in cash for the property and will build a $40 million film production facility there.
  • In return for the potential increase of tax revenues and jobs, the county would support the project by granting Santa Fe Studios certain financial incentives. These include forgoing property taxes on the land for about 20 years and approving an infrastructure financing plan to generate $3.6 million for road improvements and water rights.
The county already rolled out the red carpet for this type of development last summer by designating the 65-acre property as a Media District, where buildings up to 80-feet high will be allowed.

Vigil praised the project as an ideal merger of public and private interests. "I can't think of a better business for Santa Fe or the state," she said. "I think its impact is going to be phenomenal."

County commissioners will officially consider Hool's proposal next Tuesday. Working out the exact terms of the collaboration may require a few more meetings after that.

But if the rave reviews of officials and staff are an indicator, Hool's company will soon land the lead in the county's economic development plans.

Even Sullivan, the only commissioner who asked any pointed questions about the project to date, seemed Tuesday to be viewing it as a done deal. "I look forward to ironing out the details," Sullivan said. "I don't anticipate any impediments."

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or phaywood@sfnewmexican.com.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Will Eisner's The Spirit Campaign Begins

The Teaser Trailer's out...

And it looks a lot like the style of Sin City, which is pretty darn cool.

More at the site: http://www.mycityscreams.com

Sunday, April 13, 2008

NM In the News: Pangea Pictures

One of the more exciting groups with a presence in New Mexico that's a little less widely known is Pangea Pictures, which is also supporting local efforts such as the Governor's Cup Animation Challenge (among other things). I think we'll see some more coverage soon, but for now, here's some confirmation -- and a few more details about their operations...

From CNBC:
LOS ANGELES, Apr 02, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Pangea Pictures Corporation, a technology and film production company based in Los Angeles, and Direct Response Media, Inc. (Pink Sheets:DRMO), based in Hilton Head, SC, jointly announced today the status of a share-for-share exchange between the companies.

The transaction is expected to be completed by April 15, 2008. In conjunction with the transaction, Direct Response Media undertook a 1-for-3 reverse split which was effective in the marketplace on March 31, 2008. Direct Response will issue 28,236,387 shares of its common stock to acquire all of the shares of Pangea, a Delaware corporation that will remain a wholly owned subsidiary of Direct Response.

Pangea Pictures Corporation is an integrated film production and advanced Visual Effects technology company. In previous private transactions, Pangea acquired Big Red Pixel, Inc. and Amber Lantern Images. Big Red Pixel's credits include VFX producer and Supervisor work on: "Run," "Collateral," "Just Like Heaven" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Amber Lantern Images credits include VFX Supervisor, 2nd Unit Direction on: "The Pacific," "Die Hard with a Vengeance," "The Last Action Hero," "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "Star Trek." Additionally, Principals of Pangea have completed major visual effects projects for clients such as DreamWorks SKG, Fox, MGM, and Sony, among others.

Pangea, in conjunction with its finance partners, is in the process of funding, producing and servicing its own slate of VFX-heavy, family friendly, action-adventure films. Pangea currently has one film in pre-production and anticipates principal photography on the film to begin in the fall of 2008. In addition, Pangea has six other films in development.

As a result of a favorable tax rebate and incentive structure, Pangea intends to complete a major portion of all stages of production on film projects in the State of New Mexico. The Company has established offices and is in the process of building out a state-of-the-art visual effects facility in Albuquerque. The Company anticipates expanding the capabilities of this facility throughout 2008.

In addition to providing visual effects for its entire slate of films, Pangea, by leveraging the 25% State of New Mexico rebate program, intends to compete for large-scale contract service work with major studios and independent filmmakers.

...


Friday, April 11, 2008

Big News from Novint!

One of the biggest pieces of NM Media News this week was Novint's announcement that they'd landed a deal with EA (game industry titan Electronic Arts).

This is, um, huge, and a great example of the commitment, perseverance and passion it takes to take a start-up into the big time. Congrats to Tom and the team on their well-deserved success!

More at the Novint Falcon blog

In Gamasutra: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=18070

And here in arstechnica:

An expensive product in an unproven market

New peripherals always have an uphill battle in the market; those on both the PC and the gaming consoles that have managed to take off always have strong games attached. Dance mats are inseparable from Dance Dance Revolution, the guitars and drums for Rock Band had one of the most hyped rhythm games and a proven track record to bank on, while expensive flight sticks bring the promise of a more realistic experience with a variety of different flight simulations. So what do you do when your main product is a $190+ haptic device? The first step is getting people to try it, and the second step is making enough great games available for it to get people to bite. The best peripheral is worthless without a solid software library.

Novint was aware that this was the challenge with the Falcon; as we pointed out in our review of the product, the hardware and effects were amazing, but outside of one or two games, there just wasn't much worth your time to play on the hardware. We spoke to Tom Anderson, the CEO of Novint, and he was blunt about this issue. "When you look at reviews, and you guys did a really great, really fair [job], I thought it was [a] really well done review of the Falcon," Anderson told me. "We get that type of review a lot; we get a lot of really positive reviews, but towards the end of the review, typically it says 'But how is Novint going to do without game support?'"

He also points out that he reads the comments on various message boards, where consumers are interested in the product, but simply don't see the game support being worth the investment.

When you kill the whale, the fish look easy

The company's response? Sign up EA for Falcon support. Novint will soon be selling some of the EA's largest franchises through its online store, complete with the high-end haptics effects that Falcon integration brings. Games like Tiger Woods PGA Tour '08, Madden '08, NBA Live '08, Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, and Need For Street ProStreet will be coming to the NVeNT front end. This is a huge step up from the somewhat generic golf and racing games available for the hardware now, and it shows the caliber of support Falcon owners can expect in the future. So how does a small company like Novint convince one of the biggest publishers to give its PC peripheral so much support? The answer lies in an innovative business idea called 3D Touch Rights.
...

More at: An expensive product in an unproven market

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

NMWIF Recap; NM in the News


I always think it's important to be aware of the coverage New Mexico receives in the media decision makers and opinion leaders consume. And while it may not be obvious that the NM 'brand' should be part of our individual sales kits, it does seem important to the people we talk with. The idea that New Mexico is a hub for artistic work and technology innovation; that the people are friendly and the air is clean -- and that a lot of serious people are doing serious work here helps reinforce New Mexico's position as one of the better options to choose from (instead of, say, breaking exciting new ground in Connecticut).

Bonny Dore's talk at the most recent meeting of NM Women in Film really reinforced this notion for me. The fact that one of the first things she referred to was last Friday's article in the LA Times (New Mexico Works for its 'Tamalewood' Title), saying that producers were reading the story of hollywood production working nicely here was a sign that our campaign has been working.  

Bonny had many good tips for growing New Mexico's Women in Film Chapter, and the state in general, suggesting we had some solid strategic advantages with our state's production experience, trained crews, days of sunshine and friendly climate (as opposed to, say, Michigan), and our clean air and beautiful light (as opposed to, say, LA).  The incentives may have come up to.

It was a valuable experience -- and nice to tour Production Central as well.  Thanks to NM Women in Film for the event. 

Variety covered us nicely in a couple other articles this past week:
Generic Locales Important to Producers
from Variety:
In the business of marketing locations, what makes one spot like everywhere else can often be as important as what sets it apart.

"I've been asked 'Where's your generic cul-de-sac?' Where's your anywhere USA?' " says Lisa Strout, director of the New Mexico Film Commission.

"Film offices usually look for what's unique. What's the anchor that's going to draw production? But generic is important, too," Strout says, noting the state's location photo database now includes the commonplace.

"Can we do Bayou? No," Strout adds, "but we can all do generic."
...
Also in Variety:
US Lures Back Flyaway Productions
Like migratory birds, film production is kicking in the afterburners on its continuing return flight to the U.S., given loft by the cratering U.S. dollar and ever-more-competitive state incentive programs. "There's a tremendous amount of interest in North America because of the exchange rate," says Bill Lindstrom, CEO of the Assn. of Film Commissioners Intl., noting an American buck that was trading at 64¢ vs. the euro and $1.02 vs. the Canadian dollar as of April 1, both historical lows.

"The United States is the best value in the world for film production right now," says Lakeshore Entertainment prexy and co-chair Gary Lucchesi. The vet producer has made films in London, Eastern Europe and most recently New Zealand ("Underworld: Rise of the Lycans"), but Lakeshore's next two films are slated for Los Angeles -- "The Ugly Truth" (teaming Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl) and Jason Stratham starrer "Crank II: High Voltage."

Now old pros at the incentive game, hot spots like Louisiana and New Mexico are finding that their aggressive programs meld neatly with the meek greenback.

Since 2003, Louisiana has seen film spending in the form of wages, profits, sales taxes, etc., increase from $7.4 million in 2003 to nearly $342 million last year, according to the Producers Guild of America.

New Mexico -- which, along with Oklahoma was one of the first states to enact incentives back in 2002 -- has seen its film rev grow from $1.5 million in 2001 to an estimated $476 million in 2007, with such notable productions as "Transformers," "3:10 to Yuma," "In the Valley of Elah" and "No Country for Old Men" shooting in the state.
...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

NM in the News: LA Times coverage

Nothing really new, but I like it when LA reporters visit and say good things about us.

New Mexico Works for its 'Tamalewood' Title

from the LA Times

OHKAY OWINGEH, N.M. -- Aspiring screenwriters David and Kevin Linke don't have to go to Hollywood to try to break into the business. It came to them.

"Here, if you want to get on a movie set, you can," said David, 20, fresh off four days' work as an extra on "Love Ranch," with Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci.

The Los Alamos twins -- who have written 11 screenplays -- are working on every set that will have them. One of these days, they figure, a producer might just head home with one of their scripts tucked under his arm.

New Mexico, whose screen fortunes once rose and fell with the popularity of westerns, has become a film mecca.

"Tamalewood," it has been dubbed.

Over the last five years, 90 major feature film and TV projects have been made here.

Best-picture Oscar winner "No Country for Old Men" -- based on the novel by Santa Fe, N.M., resident Cormac McCarthy -- was shot almost entirely in New Mexico. Three other films made here -- "3:10 to Yuma," "In the Valley of Elah" and "Transformers" -- also nabbed Academy Award nominations.

"Now people know that you can make whatever kind of film you want here," said Eric Witt, Gov. Bill Richardson's film and entertainment advisor.

New Mexico has maneuvered itself from what the industry refers to as a "distant location" to a soup-to-nuts production center, says Lisa Strout, director of the state film office.

...

And if there's trouble brewing on the set or high-paid hands to be held, studio executives can arrive quickly. Los Angeles is a two-hour plane flight away.

The Linke brothers were part of a steady trickle of eager extras who showed up recently at an Indian casino north of Santa Fe to sign up for "The Year One," a Judd Apatow-produced comedy set in biblical times.

...

"The Year One" has been shot largely in Louisiana, but publicist Kym Langlie said New Mexico was chosen for some scenes because of its "unspoiled landscapes and vistas" that evoke ancient times. No pesky power lines, in other words.

Also currently in production is "Legion," a supernatural action-thriller starring Paul Bettany. And filming starts soon for the largest production to date: the latest installment of the "Terminator" film franchise, with Christian Bale. Production will be based at Albuquerque Studios.

Jon Hendry, business agent for Local 480 of the film technicians union, estimates that 2,800 New Mexicans are working at least some of the time in the industry, largely in technical positions.

"We're the only state . . . that has a really aggressive training program for their own people," Hendry said.


Incentives, landscapes and trained crew... we need to keep all those in mind.