Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another Great Article About the New Mexico Film Industry in the New Mexico Business Weekly

Film tours next?

Film industry spawns more than movies made in NM

New Mexico Business Weekly - by Megan Kamerick NMBW Staff

When Marla Steinbrecker’s sister came to visit her in Albuquerque, she had one request.

“‘I want to see the building where Mary was kidnapped!’” Steinbrecker recalls her saying.

Mary was Mary Shannon, the character played by Mary McCormack in the show “In Plain Sight,” which is set in Albuquerque. Steinbrecker dutifully showed her sister the Atomic Cantina.

“‘This is so cool!’” Steinbrecker recalls her saying.

It’s just the kind of excitement tourism officials want to leverage from New Mexico’s booming film and TV industry, which has showcased many areas of the state.

Christian Bale and Peter Fonda led prisoner Russell Crow through the red sandstone rocks of Abiquiu in “3:10 to Yuma.” Josh Brolin dodged a psychopath with a bad hair cut around historic downtown Las Vegas in “No Country for Old Men.” John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and William H. Macy hung out in Madrid with their motorcycles in “Wild Hogs.”

“There is no better advertisement for the state than watching the beautiful scenery of New Mexico,” said Jennifer Hoffman, deputy secretary for the state Department of Tourism.

Hoffman joined the department earlier this year and is working on bringing tourism and film closer together. The department is currently conducting surveys at the state’s visitor centers to gauge people’s knowledge of New Mexico based on the movies they have seen.

Eventual plans would include kiosks in all the visitor centers, with streaming video from movies shot in New Mexico and an accompanying film map to help tourists find landmarks featured in films. Ideally, this will correspond with road signs marking certain sites, Hoffman said.

The State Film Office has a map it updates every few months that lists sites where films have been shot, but Hoffman envisions something that is more tourist-friendly.

Tourism is already a major force in the state as the largest private sector employer, with more than 80,000 employees. The film industry has risen quickly as a sector here, with direct spending of $751.7 million over the past six years. Some 115 films and television shows have been shot here since 2003.

In many states, the film office is housed within the tourism office or convention and visitors bureau, but in New Mexico, the film industry is under the umbrella of economic development. Gov. Bill Richardson, who has made building the film industry one of his policy priorities, called for connecting it more closely to tourism at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Roswell last April.

“We wanted the Tourism Department to take advantage of the inherent marketing that comes with New Mexico being on the screen,” said Eric Witt, deputy chief of staff for Richardson. “There are a lot of things we want to do to maximize the cross-promotional opportunities we have.”

Cities such as Philadelphia and Los Angeles have tours around films shot in those locations, Witt said. And countries such as New Zealand have embraced the strategy.

New Zealand saw a huge boost in tourism as a result of the “Lord of the Rings” films. The country’s national tourism agency now touts many tours of specific locations that doubled for Middle Earth such as the Wellington and Wairapra regions that became the Shire, Helms Deep and Lothlorien. And Australia’s national tourism board has launched a $26 million international advertising campaign based on the new Baz Luhrmann film “Australia,” a sweeping epic that highlights that country’s spectacular wilderness areas.

The New Mexico Tourism Department has begun focusing more on show business with its entry into the Tournament of Roses Parade. The float will feature Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. And New Mexico Magazine, which is published by the Tourism Department, based its entire November issue around “Tamalewood,” the nickname for New Mexico’s film industry.

“I didn’t have a lot to do with that, but it’s great,” Hoffman said.

mkamerick@bizjournals.com | (505) 348-8323