5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque is on fire—and not just because it’s one of the driest places in the country. This desert city is consistently landing some of the most exciting productions in the nation, taking a major leap up on our list this year.
2015 saw a huge influx in high-profile projects, from the ongoing production of AMC’s Better Call Saul, to the long-awaited reboot Independence Day: Resurgence, whose reported production budget of $200 million brought an influx of cash and months of production work to ABQ moviemakers. The city also saw the production of TV series The Night Shift and Graves, and features such as Comancheria (by Starred Up director David Mackenzie, starring Jeff Bridges), Stephen Gaghan’s Gold with Matthew McConaughey, and a slew of low-budget indies.
What’s drawing these projects to Albuquerque? Well, the state’s comprehensive film incentives, for one thing: a 25-30 percent refundable tax credit with no minimum spend, plus the forward-thinking Film Crew Advancement Program, which facilitates on-the-job training and reimburses productions for 50 percent of a local crew member’s labor if the production moves him or her up the ladder. Also, in an effort to integrate moviemaking with local day-to-day life, the city encourages productions to award a $100-per-day stipend to public programs in the neighborhoods most affected by film shoots. “We started this program in 2008,” says the city’s Film Liaison, Ann Lerner, “and to date the movie industry has raised $103,460 to help neighborhood groups.”
The Albuquerque culture is one that rallies around moviemakers, with at least 10 film festivals, two film schools, an award-winning film commission and indie cinemas to spare. Plus, the physical backdrop is a sunny chameleon that can stand in for myriad environments. Albuquerque’s surroundings doubled for Afghanistan in 2013’s Lone Survivor, and on the recent production of The Space Between Us, a Gary Oldman film about a boy raised on Mars, we’re guessing the rust-colored deserts surrounding Albuquerque stood in for the Red Planet. (The Space Between Us was also the first feature film to shoot at Spaceport America, the world’s first commercial spaceport, located in Southern New Mexico.)
All signs point to an Albuquerque that dominates the national moviemaking stage in the years to come.