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New Mexico’s film program has brought the state Hollywood glitter—but not much local gold.  

June 10, 2009, 12:00 am

“The message” may as well be this: New Mexicans are good enough to make movies—to hold microphones and plug in wires and design special effects—but not to produce and profit from them.

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Local producer Karen Koch has criticized the state’s loan criteria.

Santa Fe producer Karen Koch sought but did not receive state financing for Luminaria's first project, Living and Breathing, starring Angelica Huston and Tom Wilkinson, in October of 2006. [[Ed. note: This story originally and incorrectly stated Koch had sought funding for Luminaria's most recent film, Spoken Word. That film was developed independently.]

“As a local, I think I was as good a risk as anyone,” Koch says. She had previously produced films with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Johnny Depp and Jim Jarmusch.

Dekom, who receives “thousands” of film loan proposals (but doesn’t read the scripts), has heard it all.

“Everybody in New Mexico believes the marketplace is slanted against them, as opposed to realizing it affects somebody born in Beverly Hills just the same as it affects somebody born in Farmington,” he says.

If that message doesn’t demand a sock in the mouth, it does raise questions about what the film program is trying to accomplish. The program offers loans, tax incentives and rebates—most importantly, a state subsidy for crew members’ wages.

Is New Mexico supposed to remain a cheap labor colony for Hollywood? Or to nurture its own production talent?

Better a labor colony than a ghost town, some argue.

“There’s no point in spending 60 percent of our budget on education if our best-educated people are leaving to California because there’s no jobs here. Where are those jobs going to be, if not in the film business? We’re not going to get the next Toyota plant,” Hendry says. “As a state, what are we supposed to do? Sit around and throw up our hands and teach everybody to make pots?”

But until New Mexico starts producing more, uh, producers, taxpayers are in effect padding bank accounts in Los Angeles and New York.

“The fact that there’s a lot of stardust flung around New Mexico now is great. But that stardust is not going to settle into a foundation. It can just go away,” Santa Fe producer Luca Ceccarelli says.

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