By MIKE COOK
Las Cruces Bulletin
Drew Mayer-Oakes is the new Film Las Cruces liaison, and Las Cruces native Jon Foley is the deputy.
Mayer-Oakes began work Feb. 6, succeeding Scott Murray. Foley became the first-ever FLC deputy liaison on Feb. 1.
“We’re thrilled to continue building our team at Film Las Cruces by bringing on Drew Mayer-Oakes as the new film liaison and Jon Foley as the deputy liaison,” said FLC President Jeff Steinborn. “Drew has extensive experience working as a film liaison for several film offices and Jon is a talented multi-media developer who graduated both the NMSU and DACC film programs. Together they will give Las Cruces a more robust presence in the New Mexico film community and help us grow our local film industry,” said Steinborn.
Mayer-Oakes does have ties to New Mexico, where his family had a summer home in Taos for many years. He comes to Las Cruces from San Antonio, Texas, where he headed that city’s film commission.
He was a freelance film producer and editor in Austin, Dallas and Houston and has worked on small, independent films and television productions, but also on large film projects such as “Leap of Faith” and “Flesh and Bone.” Mayer-Oakes became a member of the Texas Film Commission in 1991 and is also a member of the International Association of Film Commissioners.
His experience in Texas, Mayer-Oakes said, was “a wonderful time to learn about how to structure a film office.”
Foley, a native of Las Cruces, is a graduate of both the Doña Ana Community College Creative Media Technology program and the New Mexico State University Creative Media Institute for Film and Digital Arts (CMI). Foley has experience in “short-form content,” he said, including TV commercials, music videos and short films.
Foley said he first got interested in film and TV production when he was a student in the media magnet program at Sierra Middle School. Sierra students visited the CMI program at NMSU and were mentored by CMI students. The middle schoolers produced short films the following summer, and that “sparked my interest,” Foley said. He is a graduate of Las Cruces High School.
Foley said many of the students with whom he graduated from CMI are now working in film production in Albuquerque. His goal with FLC, he said, is to “get my friends back here.”
Mayer-Oakes was interviewed for the liaison position after it was created last year when FLC signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with the City of Las Cruces to bring film and television production to Las Cruces. FLC opened an office in the WIA building at 340 N. Reymond St. in the downtown area, across from Pioneer Park.
FLC President Jeff Steinborn, a Doña Ana County state senator, and other members of the county legislative coalition, have contributed nearly $1 million in capital outlay funds to help pay for a soundstage in Las Cruces. The city also has set aside several million dollars in hold-harmless gross receipts tax funds earmarked for economic development for the project.
In December, the Las Cruces City Council adopted a resolution authorizing city staff to “negotiate a property acquisition agreement” for a film and media soundstage in Las Cruces.
Foley said the city is doing “due diligence” on a possible soundstage location in Las Cruces, including conducting an environmental analysis, to determine if it is the appropriate site for a soundstage.
The goal with the property that is ultimately selected is to create a “reasonable, cost-effective facility” that could be used as a “cover set” for a film or television series, and for larger productions needing multiple sets, Mayer-Oakes said. It also would provide space for set construction, along with offices, an art department and secure parking.
Having the soundstage is essential to bringing TV and movie production to Las Cruces, Mayer-Oakes said. State tax incentives have attracted film and TV producers to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and they want to expand production into southern New Mexico.
And, because the state has those incentives in place, it has allowed FLC to focus on promoting other local benefits to film and TV producers, Mayer-Oakes said, including “a huge amount of support from the community,” good weather year-round, unique locations and a major airport (El Paso) less than an hour away.
The economic impact of film and TV production on a community “is substantial,” he said. The state uses a multiplier of three, according to Mayer-Oakes, meaning that a film or TV project that is produced in Las Cruces at a cost of $50,000 would likely generate about $150,000 for the local economy.
“The numbers can really be astonishing,” he said.
Television production in particular is “going to be an important push for us,” Mayer-Oakes said. The industry is “just exploding,” he said, and a smaller market like Las Cruces could be of particular appeal to Amazon, NETFLICKS, HBO and other networks.
Television series produced by broadcast networks often cost $2 to $4 million per episode, Mayer-Oakes said, and about half that amount usually stays in the community where the series is shot.
Mayer-Oakes said next month’s Las Cruces International Film Festival (LCIFF) will be a great opportunity to showcase Las Cruces to filmmakers.
LCIFF Executive Director (and FLC vice president) Ross Marks said the festival will screen 24 feature films, 18 documentaries, 40 to 50 narrative shorts and 30 to 40 student films and will likely attract about 60 professional filmmakers.
For more information, visit www.filmlascruces.com and www.lciffest.com and find them both on Facebook.
Mike Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.