What do Johnny Depp, Eva Longoria, Mark Wahlberg and Bryan Cranston have in common? They’ve all spent time filming in Albuquerque over the past year. In fact, this Southwestern city has played host to numerous A-listers and filmcrews of late, many times under the radar. Albuquerque Studios – the largest production facility in the country – played the part of New York City in Marvel’s The Avengers in 2011.
There are many factors that draw filmmakers to Albuquerque, perhaps none more prominent than the city’s spectacular climate. Located in the high desert, Albuquerque enjoys over 310 days of annual sunshine keeping film crews on schedule with limited weather-induced delays. Its unique landscape and four distinctly mild seasons allow for it to play the part of nearly any city or location (including Mars). But sometimes it’s content to play itself.
Such is the case for AMC’s critically-acclaimed series, Breaking Bad, where Albuquerque is almost an additional character in the show. Recent film projects including the AMC series have elevated the city’s visability as a film destination and prompted an interest in travel to our modest, Southwestern city.
“New Mexico is a fantastic state to shoot in,” says Craig Butler, who made the micro-budgeted The Righteous and the Wicked in New Mexico. “It has great incentives and numerous production resources, such as a prop/costume warehouse filled with things left behind by past productions, and entire Old West towns that have been preserved as film locations. The Albuquerque Film Office is amazing and local businesses are film-friendly. The independent filmmaker couldn’t ask for a better place to work.” (MovieMaker 2012)
Butler isn’t alone in this sentiment. Albuquerque has been listed on MovieMaker Magazine’s annual list of Top 10 Cities to be a Movie Maker for the last seven years and its tax incentives continue to intice filmmakers to the area. Some have even liked the city so much they have established residences here. It’s Hollywood without the frill, and film crews seem to like it that way.
It’s not uncommon to find actors and crew working in Albuquerque integrate themselves into the city. Being away from the Hollywood hoopla allows crews to live a “normal,” balanced life. Actors speak about their favorite local restaurants, attractions and day-to-day experiences in Albuquerque as opposed to how wonderful the take-out was in other destinations.
“I was born and raised in LA, and I lived in New York for five years,” said Bryan Cranston, star of Breaking Bad, in a recent Albuquerque Journal interview. “It’s really hard to get away in those cities, but when I come to Albuquerque, it’s a slower pace, which I like by and large […] There’s urban life, and there’s rural life. You don’t have to travel very far to see both. From the Sandias glowing at sunset to heading out to To’hajiilee, there’s pure magic that the city lends to the show.”
Pure magic is what filmcrews discover when they select Albuquerque. New Mexico is filled with highly motivated crew members from the ground up. Training programs at local universities and trade schools have helped fast track prepration for crew members, many of which are able to sustain a livelihood in the business working solely in New Mexico.
This support has enabled television show production to take place in Albuquerque. Ongoing TV film projects that are set and filmed in Albuquerque, such as AMC’s Breaking Bad and USA’s In Plain Sight have consistently employed Albuquerque residents for five seasons. Weekly shows like these have also raised the visibility of the destination – in comes film tourism. People are seeing spectacular images of Central New Mexico during the shows and their perceptions of Albuquerque are changing. TV buffs are traveling to Albuquerque to see the spectacular vistas, the Sandia Mountains, the sprawling landscape and to get a peak at locations featured in Breaking Bad and other film productions.
As result of so much interest in film tourism in Albuquerque, the ABQ Trolley Co. has incorporated film locations into their daily city tours and their "BaD" tour of Breaking Bad TV show filming locations continues to sell out each week. Tour participants also witness filming taking place on a regular basis during the tours. Additional Breaking Bad location tours are available via bike and limo as well.
“The film industry in Albuquerque has had a major impact on our company. Often one of the first things tour participants often ask is "are we going to see any Breaking Bad locations?" We have had riders from around the world come to Albuquerque for this tour and to see where the show is filmed. The "BaD" tour, ABQ Trolley Co. and ultimately Albuquerque have been featured in publications from the UK, New Zealand, Germany and all over the U.S. Film tourism in Albuquerque is booming and we're happy to be a big part of it,” said Michael Silva, co-owner of ABQ Trolley Co.
View ABQ Film Locations in a larger map
Learn more about Breaking Bad being filmed in Albuquerque.
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"Vince Gilligan Talks Albuquerque at Direct2Series Location Panel" on Variety.com, November 2013
"'Breaking Bad' may be over, but Albuquerque businesses hope their high lasts" on MSN.com, October 2013
"The Breaking Bad tours driving a tourist boom in Albuquerque" on TheGuardian.com (UK), August 2013
"Albuquerque is Hollywood in the High Desert" in the Los Angeles Times, July 2013