Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker 2016: Top 10 Big Cities

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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.

Tequila sunrise: The first original feature from horror distributor Scream Factory, Fender Bender shot in Albuquerque late 2015. Photograph by Carl Lucas

Tequila sunrise: The first original feature from horror distributor Scream Factory, Fender Bender shot in Albuquerque late 2015. Photograph by Carl Lucas

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.

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8 Comments

  1. Chris

    January 21, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Man… Shreveport snubbed again. Louisiana snubbed again. Chicago? Really? Dallas? Hardly. I’d love to see some real love for one of the nation’s biggest states for production where resources, talent, and infrastructure flourish: Louisiana. All that without mentioning the huge indigenous filmmaker incentives from the state, the world’s largest cash prize short film contest. Hundreds of short films shot here a year from all over the country. Low cost of living, downtown currently being revitalized, home of louisiana’s #1 ranked beers, right at the intersection of I-20 (connecting Dallas and Atlanta) with I-49, which will eventually be a straight shot to New Orleans. Take a look. Shreveport deserves to be on this list more than about half the places.

  2. Tom Lenard

    January 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    I filmed this about 50 miles south of Albuquerque back in June of 1980. Crew based itself in Albuquerque. Hired a makeup person locally…His first name was Chip.. Casted Uncle Same in Georgia..rented film gear and Uncle Sam wardrobe in Atlanta and flew from there to Albuquerque. (Got caught in a major sand storm out in the desert..got no warning about such from NM Film Commission) Guess I was ahead of the curve eh…

    (Remember, at one time, it was truly thought that we were running out of oil..Oil Topping Point they called it)

    (Note: This was a reedit of the original film with a new temp track used to convey the public service message..project was not funded…Temp Track appplied was the incredible music of the incredible composer John Barry’s “Dances With Wolves” Wolf Theme..

    • Tom Lenard

      January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

      Done…..

      Meant to write “Uncle Sam”

  3. Michelle

    January 20, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Did Ant Man really employ that many “Georgians” or were many of them Californians who have moved here to work in the movies. I would be curious to know how many were actually Georgians.

    • Alice

      January 20, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Most of the crew was LA-based. And many also moved on to Captain America and likely to Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Ditto Furious 7, which spent $15 million just on hotels for the nonresident workers.

      On another note, X-Men Apocolypse filmed in Quebec, Canada…not Georgia. And Quantico only shot the pilot in Atlanta. The series moved to Montreal.

      • Rob

        January 21, 2016 at 7:39 am

        I don’t know where you’re getting your information from but it would be nice if you’d stop trying to sabotage our industry. As an atlanta local I can tell you that there are hundreds of locals working on these films and our union has grown by the hundreds each year that these films shoot here. Every single department has local workers in it, and we depend on these jobs to feed our families. Please stop the negative propaganda, it does nothing to help the locals that you pretend to care about.

        • Alice

          January 21, 2016 at 12:19 pm

          I am sorry if you think facts are sabotaging “your” industry. My facts about the Marvel films come from the set. The Furious 7 spending info comes from the MPAA in a press release.

          Sure, some projects have tons of locals. Some have almost 100% locals. And others have very few. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a fact.

      • Michelle

        January 21, 2016 at 8:57 am

        So that is just my point. I object to articles like this that make it look like the movie industry employed 3500 Georgia residents. I am not impressed that millions were spent on major hotel corporations. That does not put meals on Georgia resident’s tables or pay their bills. The industry needs to be employing residents. We have a lot of talented Georgia residents who belong to the local union who are being passed over for LA crews that the production brings in. They need to hire Georgian’s first then bring out of state workers in to cover the gap.

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