4. Santa Fe, New Mexico
For a town with a population of just under 70,000, Santa Fe is outrageously busy when it comes to moviemaking. “A consistent average of 60 filming permits per year are executed within the city alone, which includes various travel and leisure programming, independents and student projects,” says Lisa Van Allen, Santa Fe’s film liaison. Sharing the same statewide incentives we mentioned for Albuquerque, and with about a dozen production facilities, equipment rental businesses and post-production houses in all, Santa Fe has attracted shows like WGN’s series Manhattan and Netflix’s Longmire, and features such as The Ridiculous 6, Tjardus Greidanus’s Hellbent, the Nikolaj Coster-Waldau-starring Shot Caller and The Magnificent Seven, which also shot in Louisiana.
With the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east, Spanish colonial architecture dating back centuries, and a local populace dense with artists and writers, Santa Fe is simply gorgeous, but moviemakers are not the only ones who have caught on. Tourism is a stronghold of the Santa Fe economy, and all those visitors come with a price tag to the housing market—the cost of living in Santa Fe is about 20 percent higher than it is in neighboring Albuquerque, only an hour’s drive to the south. Since many of the shoots that come through the Land of Enchantment wind up shooting in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, crew travels fluidly between the two cities, and may choose to live in one and work in the other.
For those looking for a small town that’s anything but sleepy, Santa Fe might be for you. This moviemaking community grows ever more active, with locals enjoying two strong film festivals of their own (the Santa Fe Film Festival and Santa Fe Independent Film Festival), two colleges offering degrees in film and four independent movie theaters, including the George R. R. Martin-owned Jean Cocteau Cinema.