What is film funding in New Mexico like?

UNM Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media program students film a project. Photo by Nick Nelson

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What is film funding in New Mexico like?

New Mexico is a new and bustling hub of filmmaking in the Southwest. As part of our Curious New Mexico Project, UNM journalism student Jeremy Zeilik looked into the state’s funding to uncover why filmmakers flock to the Land of Enchantment.

UNM Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media program students film a project. Photo by Nick Nelson
UNM Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media program students film a project.
Photo by Nick Nelson

By Jeremy Zeilik / NM News Port

New Mexico is home to a unique film incentive program that uses tax rebates to encourage film and television production to come to the state.

The production incentives are especially beneficial for television shows exceeding six episodes and low budget movies.

Current funding for production in New Mexico is based off of House Bill 379, which was passed in the 2013 legislative session. It was dubbed the “Breaking Bad” bill, after the popular television series.

How does it work?

Nick Maniatis, director of the New Mexico State Film Office, describes the bill as a way to reimburse some of the cost of film production while filming in the state.

“Per statute, if your audiovisual project is intended for commercial exploitation and exhibition, it is eligible to receive a refundable tax credit on direct and post production expenditures rendered in-state and subject to state taxation,” Maniatis said.

Under the bill, any production that occurs in New Mexico is subject to a 25 to 30 percent tax rebate. This means that if the cost of production is $1 million,  $250,000 to $300,000 would be paid to the production out of the state taxes.

However, there is a limit to the amount of money that is rebated every year by the state.

“New Mexico allows up to $50 million to be expended for each fiscal year. If the $50 million has been expended in a given year, your company will still receive the credit; however your first authorized claim will be paid at the beginning of the upcoming fiscal year,” Maniatis said.

The limit presented by the bill restricts the number of large budget movies coming to New Mexico because the budget of the film might run up against the rebate limit and leave the production without its payout for many years.

Smaller budgeted and indie films, however, can really benefit from the incentive.

Low budget love

One of the benefits of the film incentive is that there is no minimum budget that must be spent to qualify.

Peter Lisignoli, an independent film producer and professor stationed in New Mexico, has found state funding incredibly useful in indie movie production.

Lisignoli said that the most difficult part of film production is coming up with the finance to get it off the ground, but with the film bill it is easier to garner support.

“The best aspect of the bill is that there is no bottom to the amount of money that you can spend. Even if a filmmaker wants to spend as little as $10,000 they will get reimbursed from the state,” Lisignoli said.

Another aspect of the bill that greatly helps filmmakers is that postproduction is covered by the bill.

“Editing is one of the aspects of the filmmaking process that often gets overlooked, and the fact that the state recognizes postproduction really helps,”  Lisignoli said.

Film school fun

The “Breaking Bad” bill has also affected film studies in New Mexico universities and has helped provide students right out of college with opportunities that might not have been available in other places.

Adrienne Neef is currently attending the University of New Mexico and is enrolled in the school’s Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media program.

Neef is pursuing a career in animation and the prospect of easily funding a project right out of school is incredibly appealing.

“I like what the state does with film funding because they make it easier for me to make the product that I want to make,” Neef said.

Another benefit is that New Mexico has a low cost of living compared to other production hubs like New York and California.

“I would much rather be in a place where I could live comfortably on a lower budget than a place where I could barely scrape by year to year,” Neef said.[/text_output][share title=”Share this post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true”][/vc_column][/vc_row]