How one New Mexico-based show ‘broke’ economic ground
Almost a decade ago, a New Mexico-based chemistry teacher with terminal lung cancer devised malicious plans to secure the future well-being of his family by producing mass quantities of meth.
Of course, this was all fiction.
He mastered great feats—failed many in the process—and made an audience question their loyalty to his character. But ultimately, he secured a place in our New Mexico hearts.
The impact of the story, however, reached far beyond the barriers of our hearts and television sets. In fact, this story literally paved way for a new, growing economy in ways we New Mexicans never could have imagined.
It ‘broke’ ground, to say the least.
Breaking Bad was claimed as one of the most critically-acclaimed television series of all time, with the Guinness Book of World Records naming it THE most acclaimed. In its pre-production phase, the show’s executives were urged by SONY Pictures to shoot in New Mexico instead of California because of the state’s tax incentive for filmmakers. The incentive allows filmmakers and TV series to earn a 20-30 percent credit for filming in New Mexico—making the state a popular destination for shooting locations.
Ultimately, the show agreed and the series’ narrative was altered to reflect a New Mexico ambiance. With the rise and success of the story and its characters, Breaking Bad put New Mexico on the map.
This paved way for thousands of jobs in and around the film industry, increased incentives and subsidies for businesses, and solidified the city as a location for future films and television shows.
And in 2013, a proposed ‘Breaking Bad’ bill was sent to New Mexico governor Suzanna Martinez increasing the tax credit from 25 percent to 30 percent. Breaking Bad ran for five seasons, premiering in 2008 and ending in 2013. New Mexico’s 2010 fiscal year saw over $200 million spent directly on filming, which created 184,120 additional work days with a financial impact of $612 million, according to the New Mexico Film Office.
In March of 2013, governor Martinez vetoed that bill reasoning that lawmakers failed to include the subsidies into a larger tax package, which excluded reforms for public schools and businesses— increasing incentives for Hollywood only.
Of course, local film companies were disgruntled due in part to the fact that film production was an important contributor to the economy.
But ultimately, in April of 2013, the ‘Breaking Bad’ bill was signed into law increasing the state’s rebate for television series to 30 percent of a producer’s total qualified spending. In addition, feature films became eligible for a 30 percent rebate on resident labor if using a qualified production facility and also received a 25 percent rebate for additional expenses.
And what’s more, RJ Mitte (Walter White Jr.) is coming back to New Mexico.
He will serve as a special guest at 2018’s Las Cruces International Film Festival and will be inducted into this year’s New Mexico Film and Television Hall of Fame. Catch him, as well as the show’s directors, writers, and producers from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 10 at the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces.