What do Johnny Depp, Tina Fey, Chris Hemsworth and Bryan Cranston have in common? They’ve all spent time filming in Albuquerque. In fact, this Southwestern city has played host to numerous A-listers and film crews, often under the radar.
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 more than 310 days of annual sunshine, keeping film crews on schedule with limited weather-induced delays. Its unique landscape and four mild seasons allow Albuquerque 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” and “Better Call Saul,” in which Albuquerque is almost an additional character. Recent film projects have also elevated the city’s visibility as a filming destination and prompted an interest in travel to our modest Southwestern city.
“New Mexico is a fantastic state to shoot in,” said Craig Butler, who made “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 Magazine, 2012).
Butler isn’t alone in this sentiment. Albuquerque is consistently included in MovieMaker Magazine’s annual list of the “Top 10 Cities to Be a Movie Maker.” Its tax incentives entice filmmakers to the area. Some have even liked the city so much that they have established residences here. It’s Hollywood without the frills – and film crews seem to like it that way.
It’s not uncommon to find actors and crews making the most of their time in the city. Being away from the Hollywood hoopla allows crews to live “normal,” balanced lives. 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 an 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 film crews 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 preparation for crew members, many of whom 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 projects that are set and filmed in Albuquerque, such as AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” have consistently employed Albuquerque residents. Weekly shows like these have also raised the visibility of the destination – in comes TV and 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 its magnificent vistas, the Sandia Mountains and the sprawling landscape – and to get a peek at locations featured in “Breaking Bad” and other productions.
As a result of so much interest in film tourism in Albuquerque, local businesses now offer “Breaking Bad” location tours by trolley, bike and limo, as well as on a replica of the famous “Breaking Bad” RV.
“The film industry in Albuquerque has had a major impact on our company,” said Michael Silva, co-owner of ABQ Trolley Co. “Often one of the first things tour participants 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.”
View ABQ Film Locations in a map
“'Hollywood Reporter' Names NM Among Top Filming Locations,” Santa Fe New Mexican
“ABQ Film Biz Keeps Rolling,” Albuquerque Journal
“NM Studios Packed to the Brim,” Albuquerque Journal
“Albuquerque Is Hollywood in the High Desert,” Los Angeles Times
“I'll definitely look for movies to be part of if they are in New Mexico. I’m constantly recommending the state to lots of my family and friends.”
-Arnold Schwarzenegger after filming “The Last Stand”
Learn more about "Breaking Bad" and Albuquerque.
Get Shorty (TV)