NMFO's Dodgy Data

Fabulism, not facts, on film and television production

The Land of Enchantment’s “journalists” fail, in all sorts of ways, to hold government accountable to the people who pay its bills. But no dereliction is worse than the embrace of Hollywood hype.

When the New Mexico Film Office (NMFO) recently boasted that in the 2021 fiscal year, “direct spend by film and television productions” hit “$623 million … breaking all previous records for the state,” the stenography was severe. Santa Fe’s daily hyperventilated that there was “no business like show business — even during a pandemic.” KRQE swooned that even The Rona couldn’t “put a damper on the success of New Mexico’s film industry.” And KOB gushed that “most New Mexicans probably know someone who works in the industry.”

Seldom a discouraging word? Never is more like it. Despite ample research documenting the failure of entertainment-production subsidization, one searches in vain for a single member of the Land of Enchantment’s media who is willing to question the NMFO’s relentless propaganda.

An enterprising reporter, for example, would ask the office how “all previous records” were been broken at a time when New Mexico was suffering under one of the worst lockdown architectures in the nation. The governor’s fear porn and policy blunders prompted many studios to bail — some temporarily, some for good. NBCUniversal nixed its “limited series project” about Evel Knievel. Big Sky “shifted production from New Mexico and Nevada to Vancouver.” And shooting for Better Call Saul’s final season was delayed until March of this year.

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Our dogged reporter would press further, asking if the NMFO has finally stopped using the honor system for Hollywood’s reporting of its expenses and hiring. More than two years ago, Michelle Lujan Grisham’s top economic-development bureaucrat admitted that there was no “process to verify data given by production.” Does such a process exist today? The Rock of Talk asked the New Mexico Economic Development Department’s public information officer Bruce Krasnow — disappointingly, a former editor at the Santa Fe New Mexican — but received no answer.

Employment would be another avenue for inquiry. The office claims that an “estimated 9,000 New Mexicans work in the industry.” That’s news to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Its Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages counts “employment and wages reported by employers covering more than 95 percent of U.S. jobs.” Annual figures are released as well, and as the chart below indicates, the BLS has never found more than 2,389 New Mexicans working in motion picture and video production — and that peak was achieved in 2008. Krasnow told the Rock of Talk that he was “asking our economist to get me more information” about the discrepancy and would get back to us “as soon as I can.”

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

New Mexico’s governor believes that the film and television industry was “a star … during the pandemic.” But press releases are not reality. Subsiding Hollywood has been a loser since the days that Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson opened the spigots of taxpayer cash. Did the policy suddenly start to make sense during COVID-19 hysteria?

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