Entertainment Industry

Category: new mexico

'The Lone Ranger' rides again in New Mexico

Lone Ranger Depp

The masked vigilante is back in the saddle. After suspending production last summer over budgetary concerns, Walt Disney Studios started rolling the cameras on “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp, in New Mexico this week.

“They’re doing studio soundstage work through March and then location work around the state after that,” said New Mexico Film Office director Nick Maniatis.

The film will shoot in Albuquerque Studios, in the Rio Puerco Valley, and near Silver City while in New Mexico. Filming will also take place in Arizona, Utah and Colorado, according to a statement from Disney.

The revival of "The Lone Ranger" comes at a welcome time for New Mexico, which saw a sharp falloff in film activity last year when the future of its tax incentive program was thrown into question (the state kept its 25% film tax rebate, but imposed a funding cap on the program).  Sony Pictures Imageworks announced this week that it would close its visual effects unit in Albuquerque in part because of the decline in film production in the state.

A retelling of the popular 1950s television western series, "The Lone Ranger" stars Armie Hammer as the western hero and Depp as his Native American sidekick, Tonto. The movie is scheduled to be released in theaters on May 31, 2013.

Production was originally scheduled to start in October, but in August Disney shelved the film until producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski found a way to trim the budget to around $210 million from an estimated $250 million to $275 million.

Set construction near Silver City came to a stop and workers were laid off due to the halt. Crew members are now glad to be back at work, said Jon Hendry, business agent for Local 480 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents crew members in New Mexico.

“I estimate 350 to 400 [New Mexicans] are working on the film,” Hendry said. “We're happy they're hiring New Mexicans."

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Lone Ranger may get back in the saddle soon 

Disney shuts down production of 'Lone Ranger'

-- Dima Alzayat

Photo: John Hart played the Masked Man during part of "The Lone Ranger's" television run in the 1950s (Clayton Moore starred in most episodes) and Jay Silverheels played Tonto. Credit: Boyd Magers collection

Sony Pictures Imageworks to close New Mexico visual effects office

Green Lantern New Mexico

Sony Pictures Imageworks, one of Hollywood's leading visual effects companies, will close a satellite office in New Mexico this summer.

About 30 employees -- who worked on such big-budget films as "I Am Legend," "Green Lantern" and "Men in Black 3" -- were told this week that Sony would not renew the lease on its Albuquerque facility after it expires in July.

A spokesman for Sony Pictures Imageworks declined to elaborate on the reasons for the closure. The workers will be offered jobs at other Sony facilities, including those in Vancouver, Canada, and in Culver City, where the Sony Pictures Entertainment movie and television studio is based.

Sony opened the New Mexico effects office in 2007, moving more than 100 jobs from Culver City to a new studio in Albuquerque to take advantage of the state's generous film tax rebate, which at the time made New Mexico a major hub for production and arch rival to California.

But the facility suffered from a falloff in film activity in recent years, triggered in part by uncertainty over the future of New Mexico's film tax credit. Sony also had difficulty recruiting artists willing to move to Albuquerque, people familiar with the matter said. 

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New Mexico OKs $50-million cap on film rebates

New Mexico's film industry hopes to steal the show

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: A scene from the "Green Lantern," a Warner Bros. Pictures movie. Sony's visual effects facility in New Mexico worked on the film. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures 

 

On Location: New Santa Fe Studios beckons filmmakers


A longstanding artists community and celebrity vacation destination, Santa Fe has a new rising star -- one it hopes will help the state regain its footing as a leading production destination for filmmakers.

This week, Santa Fe Studios, a nearly $30-million production facility in the southeast part of the mountain town, will open for business. Built in line with the city’s traditional pueblo architectural style, the 65-acre studio includes two 19,275-square-foot soundstages with lush offices and dressing rooms, access to electric cars and ultra-high-speed broadband technology.

Financed partly by a $10-million economic development grant from the state, the facility will be New Mexico’s fifth studio and the second largest after Albuquerque Studios, which has eight soundstages and has been home to dozens of feature film and television productions including Marvel Studios’ “The Avengers” and four seasons of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.”

While the investment in a new studio less than 80 miles from the Albuquerque appears to be a gamble, its owners -- longtime producing and directing brothers Lance and Conrad Hool, along with Lance’s son Jason -- tout the smaller-city facility as the boutique alternative for filmmakers looking to shoot in the state.

“New Mexico now has a first-class studio,” said Lance Hool, producer of such movies as "Man on Fire" and "Flipper." "This will help stabilize the industry and with the backing of the administration will result in more activity."

One of the pioneers of state-implemented film incentives, New Mexico’s 25% tax rebate, combined with its proximity to Los Angeles, mild weather, experienced crew and aggressive state film office, proved to be a gold mine for the state, resulting in $275 million in annual direct film spending at its peak in fiscal year 2008. Films shot in New Mexico include “Transformers,” “Terminator Salvation” and, most recently, “The Last Stand” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

The future of the state’s film industry was thrown into question earlier this year when New Mexico became the latest of several states, including Michigan, to consider cutting its film subsidies. Gov. Susana Martinez had attempted to reduce rebates to 15% but lawmakers ultimately reached a compromise to keep the incentive but implemented a rolling annual cap of $50 million.

Although the cap is well below the tax credits approved in the last two years -- $65.9 million in 2010 and $76.4 million in 2009 -- New Mexico Film Office Director Nick Maniatis said the new limit should not hinder the state’s ability to attract future productions, as applications for qualifying projects filed after the limit was reached would fall into queue for payment the next year.

“We saw a fallback when the incentive was in question, but we’re hoping that by the spring we’ll be back to where we were,” Maniatis said.

The total value of approved tax credits has been on the decline for the last two years, with $54.6 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, compared with $65.9 million in the same period a year prior and $76.4 million in fiscal 2009, according to the New Mexico Film Office.

Despite this decline, Hool is confident about the future of the movie industry in the state after meeting with Martinez earlier this week. “She’s 100% behind the film business,” Hool said.

Hool says Santa Fe Studios has received substantial interest from filmmakers considering shooting at the new facility. “We have several features and television shows booked.”

Although Hool would not confirm which productions were heading toward the studio, he said Disney’s much-publicized “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp, was among the possibilities. Albuquerque Studios is expected to be the main base for "The Lone Ranger" but Santa Fe is negotiating to have some of the film shot at its new studio, said one person familiar with the matter. Production of "Lone Ranger" halted in August in a dispute over the film's budget, which is more than $200 million, but is scheduled to resume early next year.

Jon Hendry, business agent for Local 480 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents crew members in New Mexico, is optimistic about the state’s ability to bounce back from the uncertainty of the last few months and says Santa Fe Studios will play into that recovery.

“Albuquerque Studios was transformative for New Mexico,” Hendry said. “I have no reason to believe Santa Fe Studios won’t be able to accomplish the same thing."

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New Mexico kicks in $10 million for studio project

New Mexico's film industry hopes to steal the show

-- Dima Alzayat

Photo: Santa Fe Studios in Santa Fe, N.M. Credit: Santa Fe Studios

On Location: New Mexico Senate OKs $50-million cap on film rebate

Terminator 
New Mexico's film tax program, one of the most successful in the country, may not end up on the cutting-room floor after all.

The state's Senate voted Wednesday to approve a measure that would preserve the state's 25% film tax subsidy on qualified film and TV expenditures but cap the total amount of funds paid out annually at $50 million a year.

The bill marks a compromise and partial victory for film-industry advocates, who reacted angrily to a recent proposal by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to drastically scale back the rebate to 15% from 25%. Critics said that would devastate New Mexico's vibrant film industry, causing producers to take their business elsewhere.

Still, the measure would mark a reduction in the state's current program, which awards about $65 million a year but has no annual cap. The measure passed on a 30-10 vote and later this week will go back to the state House, which has already approved a $45-million cap. Martinez has said previously that she would veto any bill with a cap higher than $45 million.

New Mexico is the latest among several states, including Michigan, that have been weighing significant rollbacks in their film subsidies as they confront massive budget deficits and new governors who face pressure to slash spending.

With its 25% film tax credit and diverse locations, New Mexico has hosted such high-profile Hollywood productions as "Terminator Salvation" and recently secured Marvel Studios' "The Avengers," which is scheduled to begin filming next month in Albuquerque.

-- Richard Verrier 

Photo: Sam Worthington stars as Marcus Wright in Warner Bros. Pictures' action/sci-fi feature movie "Terminator Salvation," which was filmed in New Mexico. Credit: Warner Bros.

RELATED ON-LOCATION COVERAGE:

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New Mexico governor calls for big cut in film tax rebate program

New Mexico may be running away from runaway production.

One of California's biggest rivals for film production has proposed a heavy cut in its tax rebate program, which offers filmmakers a 25% rebate on their production costs.

New Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who has vowed to curtail government spending, on Monday called for reducing the credit to 15% under a plan to balance the state's budget.

The recommendation follows the recent resignation of former New Mexico Film Office Director Lisa Strout, who served under the administration of Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, and triggered alarm in New Mexico's production community.

Supporters said the cut would effectively take New Mexico out of the running for Hollywood productions because its credit would be lower than what most other states now offer.

"Any kind of reduction, and particularly a 40% reduction, says New Mexico is now closed for business,'' said Dana Arnold, partner for Albuquerque Studios, which is scheduled to host the Marvel Studios superhero movie "The Avengers" in April. "In these tough economic times, we need to do everything we can to foster job creation, and a reduction in the film incentive program is not the solution to continued job creation." 

New Mexico's move is just the latest sign of retrenchment of state film programs, which are drawing sharper scrutiny at a time when many states are facing fiscal crises and as new, more conservative-leaning administrations take steps to curb government spending.

Ohio Film Office Director Jeremy Henthorn was asked to resign last week as new Republican Gov. John Kasich took office. Iowa's new Gov. Terry Branstad plans to dismantle the state's incentives in the wake of a scandal there. And Nick Paleologos, head of the Massachusetts Film Office, resigned last month in a cost-cutting move.

-- Richard Verrier

Film commissioners in New Mexico and Ohio leave as new administrations take over

Film commissioners in New Mexico and Ohio have been forced to resign as power shifts across the country to new, more conservative-leaning administrations that may not be as friendly to subsidizing Hollywood productions.

New Mexico Film Office Director Lisa Strout, who was appointed to her job by Democratic Gov.  Bill Richardson, stepped down last week after seven years on the job. Susana Martinez, a Republican, was recently elected as the country's first female Latino governor. Lisa's Headshot Aug 07 MASTER

Strout presided over a period of rapid growth in New Mexico's film industry, during which it became a key rival to California, and was a well-known figure to many filmmakers in Hollywood. With its 25% film tax credit and diverse locations, New Mexico has hosted such movies as "Terminator Salvation" and recently secured Marvel Studios' "The Avengers," which begins filming in April in Albuquerque.

Strout could not be reached for comment. 

Ohio Film Office Director Jeremy Henthorn also was asked to resign  this week after just one year on the job. Ohio is only in the second year of its film program, which offers a modest amount in tax credits -- $20 million a year -- compared with what most other states offer.

Henthorn said he and his staff stepped down as newly elected Republican Gov. John Kasich took control of the government. Kasich defeated Ted Strickland, the Democratic incumbent, who was seeking a second term.

"I was notified on Monday,'' Henthorn said. "I was shocked. I was hoping to see my job through the first two years of the program."

Successors to Henthorn and Strout have not been named.

In most states, film commissioners are political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the governor, so it is not unusual for new people to be installed whenever there is a change in government.

"It's just politics,'' said Jeff Begun, a partner in the Incentives Office, a Los Angeles company that advises filmmakers on tax rebates and credits. "It's not a move against the film programs, as far as we can see."

Begun expects other resignations to follow, but not in California, where Film Commissioner Amy Lemisch served under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and, for now at least, is expected to remain in her job working for new boss Jerry Brown.

"Amy has done a good job; I don't think she is going to have a problem in her chair,'' Begun said. 

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Lisa Strout, former director of the New Mexico Film Office. Credit: New Mexico Film Office.

New Mexico's film business gets a lift from 'The Avengers'

Score one for New Mexico, California's arch-rival for film production.

In one of his last acts as New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson announced that the state's film industry he has long championed has landed its biggest catch: the superhero comic book movie "The Avengers."

"I'm announcing this as a Christmas present of sorts to the people of New Mexico,''  Richardson said in a statement. "This is a perfect example of the incredible job creation, economic impact and global visibility this industry has brought our state over the past eight years, and of the need to keep it moving forward."

Walt Disney co-owned Marvel Studios said it would begin shooting the movie, directed and written by Joss Whedon and featuring a raft of stars including Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson, in April at the Albuquerque Studios.  Part of the film also will be shot in New York and Michigan.

With an estimated budget exceeding $200 million, the film is the biggest film ever to shoot in New Mexico, which also has hosted such movies as "Terminator Salvation" and "In the Valley of Elah."

The project comes at a welcome time for New Mexico, which faces growing competition from more than 40 states that offer tax credits and rebates to filmmakers. New Mexico offers a 25% production rebate to filmmakers, which is stronger than California's film tax credit (which excludes moves costing more than $75 million), but is less generous than what some other states such as Michigan offer.

It's not clear whether Southern California, where Marvel shot the "Iron Man" movies, was considered for the film. But Marvel selected New Mexico for several reasons, including its film rebate, close proximity to Los Angeles, diverse landscape and the fact that the studio had a good experience filming another movie there, "Thor."

"We had a terrific experience shooting portions of "Thor" in the Land of Enchantment and we are looking forward to making New Mexico even more of a home on our next production,'' said Louis D'Esposito, co-president of Marvel Studios.

-- Richard Verrier

New Mexico's film business gets a lift from "The Avenger"

Score one for New Mexico, California's arch rival when it comes to filming.
In one of his final acts as New Mexico's Governor, Bill Richardson announced Wednesday that the film industry he has long championed has landed a big catch: the comic book superhero movie "The Avengers."

The Marvel Studios film, written and directed by Joss Whedon and featuring a raft of stars including Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Samuel Jackson, will film begin filming at Albuquerque Studios in New Mexico in April. Parts of the movie also will be shot in New York and Michigan.

With a budget exceeding $200 million, the film represents the biggest ever to film to be shot New Mexico, which has hosted such movies as "Terminator Salvation"  and "In the Valley of Elah."
"I'm announcing this as a Christmas present of sorts to the people of New Mexico,'' Richardson said in a statement. "This is a perfect example of the incredible job creation, economic impact and global visibility this industry has brought our state over the past eight years, and of the need to keep it moving forward."

The news comes at a welcome time for New Mexico, which bills itself as "Hollywood's Newest Home"
but has faced growing competition from some of the more than 40 states that offer tax incentives and rebates to filmmakers. New Mexico offers a 25% rebate on production costs. That's better than California's film tax credit program, which excludes movies with budgets of more than $75 million, but is well below what states such as Michigan offer.
It's not clear whether Walt Disney Co.-owned Marvel, which filmed its "Iron Man" movies locally and has been shooting "Captain America" in London, considered shooting in Southern California.
But Marvel favored New Mexico not only because of its rebate, but because of its diverse landscape, close proximity to L.A. and a good experience the studio had in the state during the of filming "Thor,"  people familiar with the matter said.
-Richard Verrier
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