Meet the Renegade Positioning the Southwest as a Magnet for Filmmakers

Roughly three years ago, in a post looking at George R. R. Martin's donation to start a screenwriting award at the New Mexico Film Foundation, I referenced a 2011 New Yorker article describing how his fans send him scathing letters for taking too long to publish Game of Thrones sequels.

And so while news earlier this spring that Martin will open a nonprofit movie production studio in Santa Fe is certainly a good thing for filmmakers, Game of Thrones fanatics will likely feel despondent. Martin may have even less free time on his hands.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the 30,000-square-foot Stagecoach Foundation project will be accessible both to up-and-coming filmmakers and established Hollywood film projects. Here's Martin, on his blog:

Stagecoach will be a nonprofit foundation. Our dream is to bring more jobs to the people of Santa Fe, and to help train the young people of the city for careers in the entertainment industry, through internships, mentoring and education.

Once upon a time, before airplanes, before railroads, it was the stagecoach that brought people to Santa Fe. Our hope is that Stagecoach will do the same.

There are two dynamics at play, here. First is the foundation's goal of bringing to film jobs to New Mexico. According to the 2016 New Mexico Film Production Tax Incentive Study, film tourism brought in an average of $539.2 million in visitor spending and an average total labor income of $206.6 million. New Mexico also had $387 million in direct spending in fiscal year 2016.

While it's common for politicians to make their states more attractive to filmmakers through tax incentives and other goodies, we rarely see an industry insider (or outsider?) like Martin make a similar effort. 

The second dynamic is Martin's ability to bridge pugnacious cinematic upstarts and the gilded entertainment world gentry. He is a bit of a renegade himself. He famously quit Hollywood in 1994 and has been bucking conventional wisdom ever since.

At the same time, Game of Thrones has shattered global viewership records and has received 38 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series in 2015 and 2016, more than any other primetime scripted television series. 

The first project expected to use the Stagecoach Foundation space is by Joel and Ethan Coen, who made the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men in New Mexico.