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As Millions of Cinema Dollars Flock to New Mexico, Lawmakers Question Film Tax Credit | Local News

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The film, television and media industries continue to inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the New Mexico economy, according to a new report commissioned by the state’s film office.

The company generated $ 854 million in direct spending in fiscal 2020 and 2021, according to the report, produced by UK-based consulting group Olsberg SPI and presented to members of the Legislative Income Stabilization Committee on Tuesday and tax revenue.

In return, the state granted approximately $ 160 million in tax credits during this period.

“There is a really big economic return on investment,” said Eleanor Jubb, consultant with Olsberg SPI, which focuses on the film and related media industries. “The reason it’s so high is the success of the New Mexico tax credit incentive. “

Among other benefits, filmmakers can take advantage of a 25% tax rebate on eligible expenses for projects shot in New Mexico. Television production companies that provide long-term series to the state can receive 30% discounts. Potential additional incentives for filming a film in rural areas can raise this discount figure up to 35 percent for some productions.

Not all lawmakers were impressed by the study.

Representative Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, said he would be more comfortable accepting these numbers if a large audit firm had conducted the study rather than a group that could potentially benefit the industry it to analyse.

“My fear here is… that we put the foxes in to count the chickens,” Scott said.

Some Democratic lawmakers more supportive of the cinema incentive program – which over the years has increased the number of film, television and media productions in the state – have further expressed some concerns about how the deal will work.

Representative Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said that “the numbers make less and less sense as we go along” in some cases. He said that even though he was a huge fan of the film industry, it’s probably fair to assume that the film business will go to the state with a better incentive offer.

“There are very real issues here that are worth discussing,” he said.

New Mexico Bureau of Film director Amber Dodson told Martinez and other lawmakers that film companies prefer stability, and New Mexico offers it in its base of film crews, its film studios. cinema and its financial offers. “New Mexico has other strengths that cannot be created elsewhere,” she said.

She and Leon Forde, general manager of Olsberg SPI, said New Mexico’s movie incentives are roughly in line with those offered by other states. In response to a question from Martinez asking if the state would maintain the line to its current incentives even if other states offer more, Dodson replied, “Yes.”

For years, the state has used financial data from film, television and media productions shot in New Mexico to compile an annual estimate of their spending to justify the production incentives offered by New Mexico to the industry. , which has come under intense scrutiny at the local and national levels. following a shoot on the set of the film Rust which left a director of photography dead and the director of the film injured.

The controversy surrounding Rust was not raised during the hearing. The case is still under investigation and has sparked a number of civil lawsuits in California.

The film bureau commissioned the Olsberg SPI study in May. It was not designed to examine the metrics of employment, although a member of the film’s bureau told lawmakers that about 8,000 New Mexicans are employed at the company over the course of a year. According to the study, analysts used registration forms, statistical data on films, claims for state tax refunds, data on tax credit disbursement and “consultations with the public. supported productions, legislators, suppliers and other stakeholders ”.

Former Governor Gary Johnson, then a Republican, is credited with signing the first tier of film production incentives in the 1990s. The incentives have been changed and expanded over the years and have led Netflix and NBC Universal to establish flagship production facilities in New Mexico. Netflix has pledged to spend $ 10 billion over the next 10 years, Dodson said, a sign that the state may become a hub for cinema.

Martinez said he liked the idea of ​​offering incentives to media groups that want to relocate to New Mexico, rather than companies that come and shoot a movie and then leave. He and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said they would like to see future incentive pitches aimed at supporting New Mexico-based talent and storytelling.

“Telling a story in New Mexico is key,” Maestas said.

In January, Filmmaker The magazine chose Albuquerque and Santa Fe among the best cities for film workers.