It is a mystery to me how a New Mexico state legislator sleeps at night. That is not a reference to guilty consciences over lobbyist favors — although certainly there may be some of that — but rather the sheer weight of seemingly impossible decisions.
Should we continue investing millions in the Spaceport near T or C? Should taxpayers in Alamogordo who may never even see the Rail Runner have to subsidize that high speed train rumbling between Belen and Santa Fe? Should the Mutant Cannibal Grasshopper be crowned the Official New Mexico Horribly Repugnant Pest?
Tough questions all, but the biggie facing our state is this: must we continue subsidizing the film industry? Here’s how it works. If a film producer goes out and buys $10,000 worth of lumber to build a set, the state will write him a check for 25 per cent, or $2,500. Under a proposed revamp by Gov. Susana Martinez, the refund would drop to 15 per cent, or $1,500.
Gov. Susana bristled when the state paid a film production company $25,000 to fly Richard Gere to New Mexico on a chartered jet, a $100,000 flight. (Where was he flying from, one marvels?) That actually happened, causing the average New Mexico taxpayer to wonder…ummm, how about Southwest? Actually, the legal loophole allowing that $25,000 payment has been closed.
Still, there is debate on whether these big money rebates are a good deal for New Mexico. Conflicting studies abound. One getting considerable attention was completed in Massachusetts, whose film rebate is identical to ours. That study showed the taxpayer got back 69 cents for every tax dollar it spent. Math has never been my forte, but that would not appear to be smart business. You look at our schools gone begging and wonder if the film guy shouldn’t buy his own lumber.
One reason many would root for the filmmakers hanging out in New Mexico is that it is a sexier business than, say, chile harvesting. Now, wait, no offense to our good friends in Hatch. Chances are, though, you won’t see the Chile Festival Queen onstage at the Academy Awards as you did the young songwriter who grew up at the Halfway Bar between Hobbs and Carlsbad.
Hanging on to its sweet deal may be a difficult task for the film industry that is no doubt circling the Roundhouse corridors in search of support. May I suggest you are auditioning the wrong players? Concentrate instead on gaining favor with those who mold public opinion.
Were the directors to feature certain editors in their films, newspapers might be more likely to look favorably on lights, camera, action. We might suggest these:
• Clara Garcia, Valencia County News-Bulletin. Think Jay Lo roles.
• Or David Stevens, Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune. Mean guy, John Wayne in a nasty mood, pilgrim.
• The editor of the Mountain View Telegraph makes the cut on name alone. Check the marquee. Rory McClannahan. Does it get any better? Plus, Rory actually had a Screen Actors Guild card 20 years ago.
This is not to say Clara, David or Rory can be bought. They are news folks with impeccable journalistic ethics. It is just that when we see our colleagues in New Mexico-made movies, newspapers might get feeling warm and fuzzy about incentives. Just a thought.
The editor-movie star combo is not without precedent. Google the 1969 counterculture classic Easy Rider and you will see the part of sheriff was played by our good friend and New Mexico Press Hall of Famer, the late Keith Green. Keith got to hang out with Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and all those guys
I never admitted my envy to Keith. Truth is, I would sell out for a part in a movie. Make no mistake about it, unlike Clara, David and Rory, I can be bought. And we’re not talking big bucks.
Have a nice day.