May 18th, 2010
09:58 AM ET

Dear Mr. President #484 "Lights, cameras...cowboys!"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/18/art.film.crew.jpg caption="This week, I am in New Mexico for the next installment of our Building Up America series. What I've learned is that this state is absolutely cleaning up in the film business, and I mean in a big way."]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: I don’t really know if the President is much of a movie fan, but if he saw what the movie business is doing here in the Land of Enchantment he might be. Here’s my latest dispatch from the wilds of New Mexico in my daily letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

You should totally have been with me today!  I had so much fun running all over the countryside of New Mexico, chasing down interviews, being pushed around by the wind, and quite possibly getting serious sunburn. Ha! Just kidding, but if you could get your airport security folks to lighten up a little on making me throw out my big tube of sunscreen every time I take off, perhaps I would not have to chase a new one down every time I land.

Enough on all that. I want to tell you how New Mexico is absolutely cleaning up in the film business, and I mean in a big way. Seven years ago the state launched an aggressive effort to lure more filmmakers out from California. I know, I know…lots of states at one time or another have said “Hey kids, let’s put on a show!” and have given the Tinseltown gang a call; offering fruit baskets, or free lawn mowing, or something like that to win a little of the Hollywood trade. And usually it either doesn’t work, or works a little, or works for a while, but that’s about it.

Not these New Mexico folks. They told the movie mob that they’d give them a 25 percent rebate on every dollar they spent hiring local workers, buying local products, and using local services. They offered help finding locations and free use of many state lands and sites. The state further said it would pay half the salary of workers being given on the job training for big league film work.

There’s more to the equation, but let me jump to the result: More movies and TV shows are now being shot here than you can imagine. More than 40 last year alone! The state estimates that 10,000 jobs have been created both directly and indirectly by the booming film trade. And 300-million dollars a year is being pumped into the state’s economy by the movie and TV makers.

Is all that enough to offset all the economic problems folks in New Mexico are facing now? Of course not, but it’s certainly helping. And imagine, in film terms, what might develop later!  Ha!

The trip is going very well, as you can tell, and I’ll try to get a postcard your way. The only disappointment so far is that we’ve been working so hard I have yet to visit any of my favorite restaurants or even try out a new one. Calamity! Oh well, perhaps we’ll get that fixed tomorrow in Santa Fe.

Until then, call if you wish. Although I must warn that I’m having some issues with my new touch phone not much liking my touch. I wonder if I have offended it. Will keep you updated.



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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Robert Stroney

    I think the film industry in New Mexico is a very good thing. I think Youngstown, Ohio should be another place of consideration. There is a lot of history in Ohio; from Ohio and we have a lot of fine tradesmen in need of permanent positions. Thank you.

    May 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  2. TeeheeInk

    Very much appreciate your mention of the NM film industry .and the Building Up American video highlighting NM's stellar film crews. They deserve the recognition working outside in our harsh winters and dry dusty summers. any way the video will be posted?
    Sorry our weather is so overcast and windy today but hope you will be able to get out and enjoy the downtown Plaza, Railyard and Guadalupe business districts and visit our small-shop, local entrepreneurs. True examples of surviving in a small, culture-based tourism town in building up America. Thank you for coming and hope you venture on north to Taos.
    (Remember to wash down your green chili dishes and margarita's with lots of water at this high desert altitude, want ya'll to enjoy your visit without any high altitude headaches!)

    May 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  3. Casey Moore

    Tom, saw part of your report this morning. I really can't believe someone who once worked in New Orleans would fail to mention how well New Orleans and Louisiana have also done with film and tv production. Louisiana right now has four non-reality TV series (Treme, Imagination Movers, Memphis Beat, and The Gates) filming in the state. We currently are hosting the Green Lantern film (budget rumored to be about $150 million) and later this year will have Peter Berg's Battleship filming here (another film with a rumored budget of $150 million and with GL the 2nd movie we have landed/taken from Australia).

    Louisiana is just as successful as New Mexico with our film incentives and production slate. We have a huge local crew base, and plenty of vendors have set up offices in the state bringing in even more jobs and revenue.

    There are also very viable film productions going on in Michigan (contrary to what one of the American Morning anchors said, they are doing well), Georgia, Florida, and elsewhere (Pennsylvania has quite a few productions going on there – just look at a Production Weekly sometime).

    May 18, 2010 at 10:39 am |