Ann Lerner – Director of the Albuquerque Film Office

By: Shaine Freeman

ann lerner
Photo: Ann Lerner

Albuquerque has become a hotbed for film and television, with many Hollywood production companies taking advantage of the tax incentives the state of New Mexico has to offer filmmakers. Here, Ann Lerner, the Director of the Albuquerque Film Office talks to us about the benefits of filming in her city market.

Can you please tell us where you’re from and how you got involved with the film industry?
My name is Ann Lerner, and I moved to New Mexico (NM) 33 years ago from Kansas. I attended Kansas University and received a Masters in behaviorally disturbed so that qualifies me to work with both film crews and city hall. [laughs] I got into the Film/TV industry by producing TV commercial spots for 20 years. When New Mexico’s tax incentives program was enacted, the mayor of Albuquerque asked me if I’d run the city’s film office and I said, “Sure!”

As the Director of the Albuquerque Film Office, what do you do?
I have a very busy and fun job. I read scripts and then work to convince film companies to shoot in Albuquerque. I get to take film/TV producers and directors around the city and show them various location possibilities for their projects. It’s the best job in city hall.

In 2002, New Mexico became one of the first two states to enact a tax credit for film companies. What are some of the key points of New Mexico’s tax credit?
The state of New Mexico offers a 25% tax rebate to production companies on all goods and services that pay New Mexico taxes. Production companies have found that it’s easy to do business with the state of New Mexico, and that’s a major reason why they keep coming back. Because Albuquerque is the largest metropolitan area in the state, we benefit tremendously by getting a lot of the film projects that come to NM. The Santa Fe-Albuquerque corridor is where majority of NM’s filming takes place.

What’s the most common misconception you feel people may have about shooting in the city of Albuquerque?
I don’t know if it’s a misconception as much as it is no conception. Most people can’t even spell Albuquerque, and the only reason they know how to say it is because of Bugs Bunny. [laughs] People typically think that it’s this desert city that’s always very hot in the summer. But what they don’t realize is that we’re a high desert, so the temperatures are not always that hot. We have a mild climate, with four seasons.

I’m not sure if many people know this but, Sony Pictures Imageworks has a branch in downtown Albuquerque, and they’re just finishing up Green Lantern. Sony Imageworks felt that we had a lot to offer so they set up one of the only two branches they have outside of LA; the other is in Vancouver.

Anyone who has never been to Albuquerque should go to YouTube and look up “Albuquerque: The Unknown”. It’s a very cool video where two of the artists at Sony Imageworks interviewed different people who moved here and now don’t want to leave.

Besides the tax incentives you offer, what other great things does Albuquerque offer that make it the best place for filmmakers to shoot their projects?
Besides the 25% rebate, Albuquerque has a very film friendly environment. We have 310 days of sunshine and a mild climate. We do have winter here, but it’s always sunny. In addition we are close proximity to Los Angeles, so a flight from here to LA only takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We also have a plethora of location looks, including Victorian homes, small town neighborhood looks, and the skyscrapers in downtown Albuquerque offer the “big city” look. Not everything here is adobe or desert looking, although I can double for Santa-Fe as well. For example, in the movie BEERFEST, we doubled for Munich, Germany. In WILD HOGS we doubled for Cincinnati, Ohio. So we can double for just about any location. Two hit TV show BREAKING BAD and IN PLAIN SIGHT shoot here as well.

Also, because we have been offering film incentives since 2002, we have well trained and qualified crew in Albuquerque. We have this great crew training program which was recognized by another major entertainment publication who said that outside of LA and New York, New Mexico has the largest number of qualified crew. We also have the infrastructure. Albuquerque Studios has the largest studios in North America. Marvel’s GROUP HUG is filming here. We also have I-25 Studios which is a converted 500,000 SQFT warehouse that is now a huge sound studios facility.

For indie filmmakers with low-budget to no budget film projects, we have an amazing independent networking club here called IndieQ, which meets once a month. One month we get together and network and the next month we gather at Albuquerque’s historic Kimo Theatre and show these filmmakers’ work. We attract so many talented people here in Albuquerque. Also, the founder of the 48 Hour Film Festival lives here. So we have a whole lot to offer. My advice to filmmakers is to come on over and visit for a few days, you’ll love us.

What area of the film/TV industry in Albuquerque would you like to see the most improvement in?
I would like to see more post-production companies here, because most projects are still being put into
post (production) in LA after they shoot here. Also, I’d like to see continued support of the indie filmmakers.