Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NM Film Praised in Idaho

The story title seems a little ominous, but add Idaho to the list of other states using New Mexico's example to promote film industry growth in their own back yard.

New Mexico Film Industry Explodes

How the film industry fell for the Land of Enchantment

About 25 miles south of Santa Fe, residents of the dusty old mining town of Madrid (they say MAD-rid) woke up one day on the set of the Hollywood feature film Wild Hogs. John Travolta, William H. Macy, Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen, Ray Liotta, and the film’s crew became Madrid’s honorary, if temporary, citizens. If you added them all together—the well-heeled of Hollywood and the boot-heeled of the burgeoning artist enclave—the population swelled to more than 400, in an increasingly common scene in this southwestern state.

The film’s crew painted buildings, put in grass and white picket fences, and compensated just about any of the town’s 350 residents for the inconvenience and loss of business. Some Madrid residents also requested that their town’s name be used instead of the fictional one written into the script, and the director, Walt Becker, obliged. All in all, Madrid came out ahead.

“How many towns have $200 million worth of advertising spent on them?” says Honore Hackett. The Madrid resident and her husband own two Southwestern and American Indian jewelry stores in town. But they were more than smitten locals for Wild Hogs. They became vested partners, surrendering their empty lot so crews could build from the ground up Maggie’s Diner, the remote desert battleground where Woody (Travolta), Bobby (Lawrence), Doug (Allen), and Dudley (Macy), as middle-aged suburbanites turned “hardened” biker gang, defended their turf and Madrid against the Del Fuegos, a real bike gang led by Jack (Liotta).

Since Wild Hogs wrapped last year, the Hacketts have used Maggie’s Diner for storage, but the vestiges of Hollywood remain. Tourists have started streaming into town to take photos in front of the building. Director Adam Marcus is also in the area filming the Val Kilmer movie Conspiracy. And all this shooting centers on a single tiny town in New Mexico.

Meet the new face of Hollywood, what Hackett calls “Hollywood Southwest.” The state has stolen more than 80 feature films and television projects from mighty Tinseltown, adding more than $1.2 billion dollars over four years to the economy. That’s up from a meager $8 million just five years ago. The industry created 3,000 new in-state jobs. The crew base in the state shot up from 60 technicians in 2003 to more than 1,400 today. At the time of this article, there were about a half dozen feature films being shot in New Mexico and a couple had just wrapped. The alkali salt flats outside Lordsburg served as the setting for the nowhere-to-hide final confrontation between Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson in Seraphim Falls. The Gilman Tunnels, blasted through the Jemez Mountains in the 1920s for logging trains, “collapse” behind a fleeing Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in 3:10 to Yuma. The 1957 version of 3:10 was shot on the Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank and in Tucson, Arizona; it’s a one-movie indicator of Hollywood’s decline and New Mexico’s rise. And then to Galisteo—a small town in the cradle of the Cerillos Hills and the Jemez Mountains and Sangre de Cristo Mountains—where Gulf War veteran Kilmer looks for the marine who saved his life in Conspiracy. “As directors realize the diversity in New Mexico,” says Lisa Strout, director of the New Mexico Film Office, “they see it as a canvas to make their films come alive.”

Hollywood has always loved the beauty and culture of New Mexico in a nice-place-to-visit sort of way. Just a short flight from Los Angeles, actors like Kilmer, Julia Roberts, Gene Hackman, Jane Fonda, Alan Arkin, and Dennis Hopper have flocked to the state. Dozens more actors appreciate arts culture, the sabor of Spanish and American Indian cuisine, the warmth of the Southwestern sun, and the comforts of luxury spas in Santa Fe. “It is kind of an idyllic, quaint, and sophisticated place with great food and a big art community and spas and horseback riding,” says Strout. “This is the type of place that people fall in love with.”

But the latest Hollywood influx is not about pleasure. It’s about business. And much of it happened because of one man: Governor Bill Richardson.

Richardson came into office in 2003, telling New Mexicans that the state needed to attract new businesses and making the film industry a priority growth target for the state. Then he convinced the state government to roll out an incentive package for filmmakers. Today, as many as 32 states offer similar perks, but few are as established or as generous as New Mexico’s. They include a 50 percent reimbursement of wages for on-the-job training of state residents, a tax rebate of 25 percent on all direct costs and labor (or no sales tax on most production costs), and a film investment loan program that offers no-interest loans for up to $15 million...

More at: New Mexico Film Industry Explodes

Why Idaho? Here's the run-down on what they offer.

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