How cool was it to see Mark Wahlberg give Arizona a shout out on social media after wrapping a week-long shoot on a section of the Loop 303 in the Valley?
"Transformers" is a major Hollywood blockbuster franchise and the fact that Arizona snagged a big-time movie production should be a feather in the cap of our state’s vibrant movie-making industry. But it’s not.
In order to transform our state back into the film-friendly powerhouse of yesteryear, we’ve got to be a lot more competitive than we are today. I rant about this topic a lot because I love movies, and I love Arizona, and I just think the two belong together!
Consider the history of our majestic state with Hollywood heavy-hitters like John Wayne and John Ford. From “Stagecoach” to “The Searchers”, the Western was born in our state, but now New Mexico seems to have cornered the market -- not just on cowboys and ranchers, but every other story genre on the silver screen.
The one that hits way too close to home, though, is “Granite Mountain.” The film that will take on the tough topic of the heroic hot shots who died battling the Yarnell Hill fire three years ago just started shooting, not in Prescott, Phoenix, Tucson or anywhere in Arizona. Santa Fe, New Mexico will pose as the Grand Canyon State for production of the film. I spoke with Brendan McDonough, the sole survivor of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots and he told me he’s excited about the film, as he should be. We’re all anxious to see these brave men portrayed on the big screen. We just wish the actors and filmmakers could do it in the heroes’ home state.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico’s film industry generated $1.5 billion in total economic output from 2010 – 2014. With more than a dozen films and television shows filming at any given time, they’ve got to be bringing in more today.
Now, it cost the state upwards of $200 million to incentivize the studios, but the return on investment seems substantial. Compare that with Arizona. We have a patchwork of film offices but no film commission for the state. At best, we’ve seen north of $100 million economic output when we had our own incentives in place, but our neighbors to the east bank on four or five times that amount year after year.
There is always risk involved when trying to predict a return on investment, but I think the film/television/streaming industry has changed so much in the last few years.
There’s a lot of money being spent, and Arizona could benefit by reaching into our past to tap entertainment dollars in the future.