The Motion Picture Association of America regularly reports on the millions of dollars pumped into the New Mexico economy thanks to its robust film industry. Beyond cast and crew pay, the hospitality and tourism sectors see a direct infusion of industry money throughout the year. Local artists, support services and specialists are often tapped to meet very specific needs for productions filming around the state. Textile artist Wynema Chavez and Santa Fe actor Daniel Williams are just two of hundreds of locals who’ve found their niche in movies, television series and new media productions that set up shop or are created right here in New Mexico.
Chavez, who is from Santo Domingo (Kewa) Pueblo, got her start as a costume and wardrobe department staple when word of mouth about her talents as textile designer reached a movie set in need of someone capable of dyeing and distressing fabrics and objects. She was brought in to work on that production, and has worked in the local film industry full-time since 2010. Her credits include Wild Hogs, Terminator: Salvation, The Book of Eli, Breaking Bad, The Lone Ranger, Longmire, and many more. “The industry has done some amazing things for me personally and professionally,” she says. “Whenever a film from NM is released, it creates a sense of pride for the people who worked on it, our families, friends and the state in general. There are so many aspects to film and it touches so many lives. I enjoy when films partner with our communities. They show future generations they can work in our industry too.”
After 20 plus years as a classroom teacher, actor Daniel Williams says, “I chose to step away from the increasing administrative pressure on teachers to focus on testing and administrative agendas to embrace my own dreams of acting and, hopefully, a more prosperous lifestyle for my family.” Now, just three years into working in the film industry, by utilizing his past experiences as an EMT, retired military serviceman and teacher, Daniel is in high demand for his wide range of character portrayals in front of the camera. In addition to his work in over 70 student films, feature films and indie productions, his teaching career lives on behind the scenes as a set teacher. Daniel goes on to say, “I love the film industry and the very tangible hope that it offers to New Mexicans and their families.”
Productions big and small are consistently booking area studios and filming locations, with summer being a particularly busy season for state’s film business. The sound stages at Santa Fe Studios, Garson Studios at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and Bonanza Creek Ranch are churning out movies and series. Both Albuquerque Studios and I-25 Studios in Albuquerque are booked with multiple crews, filming shows for NBC, the El Rey Network, the CW and AMC. Santa Fe Studios is home to a new western mini-series entitled Godless for Netflix, produced by acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, while season five of the network’s hit series Longmire wraps up its season in the area. Both cities and other areas around the state are also playing host to the third installment of the Wolverine movie franchise, starring Hugh Jackman.