PHOENIX — It’s a mystery what direction the new feature film “Arizona” will go in, though what filmgoers can count on is that it wasn’t actually filmed in the state but nearly 350 miles away in New Mexico.
The New Mexico Film Office announced the movie produced by Rough House Pictures and Imperative Entertainment was filmed in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. The movie stars Danny McBride, Rosemarie DeWitt and Luke Wilson.
Producers of the film are not yet releasing its plotline, genre or reason behind shooting the movie in New Mexico, said Alyssa McGovern, a spokeswoman for Imperative Entertainment.
“Obviously as the state film commissioner I hate it when a movie that’s an Arizona story ... whatever it is if it bears the title of our state, I would obviously love to see that shot here in Arizona,” Arizona Office of Film and Digital Media Director Matthew Jones said. “So I get no pleasure out of hearing that it’s going to New Mexico.”
But Jones said the state has seen an uptick in drawing film production companies to Arizona since it revamped the film office in 2016. The reopening has once again given Arizona a platform to market itself and interested movie companies a place to call, he said. Jones said he knows of at least 13 film projects currently underway in Arizona.
Arizona has long competed with New Mexico and other states in the West that offer tax incentive programs to entice filmmakers to shoot within their bounds.
New Mexico offers a 25 to 30 percent refundable tax credit on all direct production expenditures, and according to its film office it has so far had 40 projects budgeted over $1 million during the 2017 fiscal year.
The state has garnered several film projects set in Arizona, including “3:10 to Yuma,” ‘’Sicario,” “Spare Parts,” and ‘’Granite Mountain,” which is about Prescott’s 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.
Though Arizona had its own tax incentive from 2006 to 2010, Susan Marie, a senior vice president at the Arizona Commerce Authority, said the state has no intention to pursue it again and does not feel it helped create a lot of jobs.
Former lawmaker Al Melvin said his push to resurrect the tax incentive in 2013 came with the hope of creating more jobs. “A considerable amount of moviemaking business would move from Hollywood here if we had just some semblance of leveling the playing field,” Melvin said.
In 2016, 37 state and Puerto Rico offered film incentive programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It notes several states are tightening the requirements for qualifying expenses and scaling back on per-project and annual program caps.
The New Mexico Film Office said the upcoming film employed 115 crew members, 12 principal actors and about 50 people for background talent from New Mexico.
Arizona is working on a solution to demonstrate its being cost effective for production companies without offering them tax incentives, Jones said.