ALBUQUERQUE – When the last “Breaking Bad” episode aired almost two years ago, New Mexico officials feared film and television production might end in the state after the series brought welcome attention and tourism to Albuquerque.
But production in the state is showing no signs of slowing and may be expanding, according to industry leaders.
“Better Call Saul,” a “Breaking Bad” prequel on cable channel AMC, just wrapped up filming of its first season and has drawn strong reviews.
The series follows a struggling criminal lawyer, played by Bob Odenkirk, as he defends drug lords, petty criminals and people who claim they were injured in traffic accidents.
NBC is filming its second season of “The Night Shift” in Albuquerque after it surprised critics with high ratings among younger viewers last summer.
The drama follows the red-eye medical crew of a San Antonio emergency room and stars a diverse cast that includes Freddy Rodriguez and Dublin-born Eoin Macken.
A new Adam Sandler western production is set to begin, and the state film office is expected to announce a major movie production.
Albuquerque Studios chief operating officer Wayne Rauschenberger said New Mexico’s reputation as an attractive site for filming and its tax breaks keep productions coming.
“As soon as ‘Breaking Bad’ ended the phone started ringing,” Rauschenberger said. “Productions know we have local crews and the infrastructure so it’s relatively easy to get projects going.”
Legislation known as the “Breaking Bad” bill passed by state lawmakers in 2013 increased rebates for television shows from 25 percent to 30 percent, Rauschenberger said.
It provides tax refunds based on certain film and TV production expenses, with a total cap on payouts of $50 million a year to the industry.
A recent study shows film production spending created nearly 15,900 full-time jobs and generated about $104 million in taxes from mid-2009 through early 2014.
However, Rauschenberger said the $50 million annual cap on payouts might not be enough in the future.
“It might need to be increased (by) $10 million in 2016 and another $10 million the next year,” he said.
Gabe Sachs, an executive producer for “The Night Shift,” said he appreciates the quality of life the actors experience while in New Mexico. He said actors enjoy relative anonymity around the state and don’t have to worry about the headaches that come with paparazzi.
“That’s a big part of it,” Sachs said. “The cast doesn’t have to deal with distractions, and they can enjoy themselves while they are here.”
Macken, who plays Dr. TC Callahan on “The Night Shift,” said he jogs in the morning near the Sandia Mountains and no one bothers him.
“I love the sunsets here and how I can just walk around,” Macken said. “And if anyone recognizes me, it’s always great. It doesn’t bother me.”
Brandan Fehr, who plays Drew on the same show, said he moved his family to Albuquerque during film.
“I wanted them to get the whole experience,” Fehr said “We can look back years from now and say we lived in New Mexico.”