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Lights, Camera, Local Economy!
Scene opens. Mid-November. A movie crew is set up on Rabbit Road; catering trucks, tents, generators are all lined up. The cast is dancing from foot to foot to keep warm. The crew is busy answering radio calls. A cell phone rings.
Man’s Voice: Was that Richard Gere directing traffic through our railroad crossing?
Man’s Voice: How much did they pay us?
Me: About $14,000 dollars.
Man’s Voice: Carry on.
This was the conversation I had on a frigid November morning in 2005 when, as the Marketing and PR Director for the Santa Fe Southern Railway, I worked with “The Flock,” a Richard Gere murder mystery filming on location on the rails, in the depot and at Rabbit Road Crossing. It was former president of the Railroad, Bob Sarr, calling to ask me why he was waved through his own crossing by Richard Gere. (Mr. Gere was an excellent traffic director, I might add, keeping it flowing without missing a beat.)
Between 2005 and 2007, Santa Fe Southern Railway worked with a half dozen films and commercials, and became known for being one of the most user-friendly trains to work with on films. And in those days, reports Carol Raymond, President and GM of the SFSR, they made nearly $200,000. “That was not small money for a business of our size. It made a big difference for us.” When the production manager needed to purchase railroad uniforms and costumes, for the most authentic look I sent them to the same stores where our own crew shops.
Today, local businesses are seeing great returns by investing their time and resources to connect with the film industry in New Mexico. We’re already seeing the economic impact of tourists who want to come to NM to visit the towns and parks where Oscar-winning movies have been filmed. “Crazy Heart” was like a 90 minute commercial for Santa Fe,” says Jon Hendry, business manger of IATSE Local 480, the film crew union that employs thousands of New Mexicans. Connecting more local businesses and learning how the industry can work for them and their bottom lines will have big impact on our local economy.
Let’s set up another scene: Movie company arrives in Santa Fe. Sets up a building with production offices with a hundred employees. They have a budget of nearly $5 million for lumber supplies alone. They need to build fast. They need a lumberyard that can accommodate them, possibly in the middle of the night. They don’t want to truck wood from Hollywood. They are a green production, meaning they will source as locally as possible, green their locations using biofuel generators and recycle everything they can. The local production team has lived here for over 10 years and knows exactly who can help.
What corporation can set up an office and spend millions of dollars in mere months? The economic impacts of the film industry cannot be ignored. And local businesses shouldn’t be ignored by the industry. They also have the most to learn and gain from the industry. Noah Bradley, Film Construction Coordinator, says, “Santa Fe vendors have the most to learn when it comes to doing business with films. My vendors in Albuquerque run circles around vendors in Santa Fe. Everything from slow turnaround time to a lack of inventory to high mark-ups are problems, and a lack of flexibility is of paramount concern. We do, however, have a few select businesses here in town that do a very good job. Film and TV have money to spend, and I would love to see it get spent as locally as possible.”
Santa Fe Alliance Launches City Funded Local Business to Film Project
In response to the growing need and desire of the film industry to purchase locally, and to help area businesses understand the ins and outs of the industry, the Santa Fe Alliance has received a $15,000 contract from the city of Santa Fe Economic Development Department to develop and implement a Business to Film Program. The program will provide a series of workshops to train local businesses to network with the film industry in NM, and link homegrown independent films to local businesses. This is a significant opportunity for our business community.
The workshops will focus on a wide spectrum of business sectors such as construction, plant nurseries, landscapers, hair and make-up professionals, caterers, hardware and building supplies, clothing and costumes, and many professional services.
The growing, vibrant NM film industry spends millions of dollars in local communities. Many film companies purchase from large corporate chain stores or bring supplies from out of state, but production companies have expressed a desire to work more closely with local businesses and commit to buying local. However, they are often not able to easily identify a business that can serve their unique needs, or the business does not have the capacity to serve them. Training and connecting local businesses to the film industry will help those businesses expand and keep more money circulating in the state’s economy. Dollars can multiply in the local tax base up to four times, providing greater community wealth and increased gross receipts tax.
The Santa Fe Alliance, a membership organization of nearly 500 locally owned businesses and nonprofits, is creating the program in partnership with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE Local 480), the Regional Development Corporation’s Rural Energy Development Initiative (RDC REDI), and the Santa Fe County Economic Development Department. A committee of film industry professionals and local businesses who successfully work with the film industry has been constituted, comprised of Noah Bradley (Film Construction Coordinator), David Breecker (Santa Fe Innovation Park), Jon Hendry (IATSE Local 480), Holly Roach (Green Production Resource), Claudio Ruben (One Spirit Films), Sam Sunshine Levy (Rio Grande Insurance), Lisa Van Allen (city of Santa Fe Film Liaison), Alton Walpole (Producer), and Eric Witt (NM Motion Pictures Association).
The Business to Film Program will formally launch at the March 27th Santa Fe Green Drinks event at the La Fonda Hotel. This film industry-focused Green Drinks and will feature guest speaker Holly Roach of Green Production Resource, who will talk about green filmmaking. For more information, visit www.santafealliance.com.
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