New Mexico film locations are often kept as close-guarded secrets by production companies. Actors and crew members have to sign non-disclosure agreements promising not to reveal the exact location where a movie or TV show is being filmed. Journalists are asked not to share photos or locations to the public, and the city’s film location data portal only lists some older, non-residential sites where filming permits were approved.
One of the reasons for keeping locations secret is to prevent fans from visiting the homes of private property owners where films have been shot. In 2015 Fran Padilla, owner of Walter White’s house in “Breaking Bad,” complained that fans were throwing pizzas on his roof to re-enact a scene from the popular TV series filmed in Albuquerque.
“We’ve had pizzas on our roof. We’ve had pizzas on our driveway; pizzas until we’re sick of looking at pizzas,” Padilla is quoted as saying by NPR. “We have people that want to come by and re-create the pizza scene.”
It’s not just residential properties production companies are worried about. Fans who show up during filming can disrupt and delay production. Those in the industry call them bogeys, stemming from the term used to call out unidentified aircraft, as these unidentified people will try and get into scenes and even harass actors and crew members.
But, as “Breaking Bad” tours and “Stranger Things” skate nights have proven, making film locations known to the public can be good for business. On Sept. 30, Netflix launched the website Netflix in Your Neighborhood: New Mexico, which showcases popular film locations in New Mexico as a way to highlight its films and to boost tourism in the state.
“New Mexico provides an iconic backdrop for our films and series that are watched by our hundreds of millions of members around the world,” said Nick Maniatis, director of studio and production affairs at Netflix. “We know that falling in love with a show can also mean falling in love with a place, so we built this website to make it easier for our fans to find and visit the beautiful New Mexico locations we use every day.”
The website, NetflixNM.com, provides maps and filming locations of the Netflix productions “Stranger Things 4,” “End of the Road,” “The Harder They Fall,” “Army of the Dead” and “Daybreak”.
In “Stranger Things 4” Episode 2, local La Cueva High School actor Alex Wagenman can be seen bullying the character known as Eleven at “Rink-O-Mania,” the popular Roller King skating rink near Juan Tabo and Interstate 40, now commonly called Skate-O-Mania. During a recent visit to the skating rink, napkins were displayed on tables advertising the Netflix website asking visitors if they wanted to sit in the same booth that Eleven sat at during filming.
Roller King also hosted a Stranger Things-themed skate night on Sept. 30, an obvious boon for the business. A description of the location on the NetflixNM.com website reads, “Albuquerque’s Skate-O-Mania sparkles as the 80’s style neon lights and arcade games shine bright while Will, Mike, and Eleven power through a tense night. Angela and her Lenora High clique bully Eleven for the last time here at Skate-O-Mania.”
Boosting tourism, making money for New Mexicans
According to a Sept. 30 New Mexico Film Office press release, the website underscores Netflix’s commitment to the state. “From 2019-2021, Netflix spent more than $250 million on local production expenditures in New Mexico and the company is committed to an additional $1 billion in production spending over the next decade. More than 5,000 cast and crew jobs have been created for New Mexico residents during this time.”
On the home page of the Netflix in Your Neighborhood site, it says, “Globally, those that watch local content on Netflix are 2.4x more likely to say it’s their #1 travel destination.” The site says that people who watch content on Netflix become more interested in local landmarks, filming location history, food and drink and its people. “With 200M+ members from 190+ countries, Netflix is uniquely positioned to offer members high levels of exposure to diverse, local content.”
In 2018, Netflix purchased Albuquerque Studios and in 2020 began expanding the studios with expansion expected to be complete by 2024. It’s not just Netflix that’s raking in the cash, though. Money spent on film and TV productions benefits New Mexicans through taxes, jobs and direct spending at local businesses.
According to New Mexico Film Office statistics, in fiscal year 2022, $855.4 million of direct spending from the industry went into the state’s economy and 109 film and TV projects were produced in New Mexico. “Film production supports hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs across the state,” NMFO’s website says. “With more than $5.75 billion in production spend in New Mexico, it’s one of the state’s fastest-growing industries.”
Current and past productions
A handful of movies and TV shows were or are being filmed in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, including “The Cleaning Lady,” a Fox production where the setting is in Las Vegas, Nevada, but actual film locations include an alleyway near Wyoming and Menaul and a familiar office building off Jefferson.
Nickelodeon’s animated series “Loud House,” ABC’s “Big Sky,” and the Apple TV series “Echo 3” all have scenes filmed in and around the Northeast Heights as well. Outside of Albuquerque, CW’s hit series “Walker: Independence” is being filmed in Santa Fe and the filming of “Squealer” and “Bad Hombres” in Las Cruces was announced earlier this year.
Other productions filmed in New Mexico include “Sirocco,” “Easy-Bake Battle,” “The Locksmith,” “Rude Girl,” “Outlaw Land,” “Rust,” “Saving Faith,” “Maggie Moore(s),” “Bullsh*t… The Game Show” and many, many more.
To see a list of other films produced in New Mexico, visit nmfilm.com/news/in-production-now.