Tax board hears report on film efforts


August 14, 2019

The executive director of the regional chamber of commerce on Wednesday told the Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Advisory Board about her forming a new organization to draw film and television productions to Tucumcari and the area.

Carmen Runyan of the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce explained her role at Film Tucumcari as a liaison for the New Mexico Film Office, and she attended the New Mexico Film Conference in Albuquerque over the weekend.

Runyan said she would take a tri-fold brochure of potential Tucumcari and Quay County filming locations to the conference.

She said Tucumcari’s efforts to draw film companies had lain dormant for several years, and she decided to revive that after learning of production of an independent film, “Wander,” in Carrizozo. The movie stars Heather Graham and Aaron Eckhart; it was scheduled to film in Carrizozo from July to mid-August.

The Legislature also recently revised the Film Production Tax Credit law that provides an extra 5% rebate for productions outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Runyan added a Film Tucumcari page on the chamber’s website that lists filming locations and resources. A Film Tucumcari page on Facebook contains photos of many potential shooting locales, with more coming as Runyan gets the time to shoot and upload images.

Tucumcari city manager Britt Lusk told the board he would try to “streamline” the issuance of filming permits for such productions. He said the city needs to be “more aggressive” in courting film and television companies.

Tucumcari last was used for a major film shoot with 2016’s “Hell or High Water,” which starred Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The movie also was filmed in Clovis, Portales, Estancia and southern Quay County along the caprock.

In other business by the board:

• Runyan said the chamber office likely would get a new LED-powered sign for about $15,000, including installation. The chamber’s current outdoors sign contains simple movable letters.

Audience member Lila Doughty, general manager of the Palomino Motel, said the motel’s maintenance man, Ernie Jimenez, recently replaced its sign’s neon tubing with LED for less than $1,000, and it already has drawn curious onlookers from U.S. 54.

Noting the difficulty in having sign companies come to Tucumcari to repair neon, board chairman Larry Smith said he likely would replace his Motel Safari neon with LED, as well.

• Mesalands Community College President John Groesbeck explained his proposed Mesalands Housing Alliance, where motels along Route 66 would be partially used for student housing.

Groesbeck said the college is pushing for more programs that would require students to live in Tucumcari full-time. The college’s current off-campus housing complex, Stampede Village, filled almost the minute it opened.

He said he’s talked to the owners of two motels about the program, and more are likely because it would offer more income during the tourism off-season.

Groesbeck said the Mesalands Housing Alliance aims to offer safe housing in dorm-like situation with enforced rules, including no alcohol, a traveling resident adviser and keeping all the students in one wing of the motel.

“We don’t want to intrude on property rights,” Groesbeck said, referring to the owners, “but we have a need for parents to feel good about where their child is.”

Lusk and Doughty assured Groesbeck such student housing wouldn’t be subject to lodger’s taxes because it is long-term housing.

• Groesbeck also told the board about Mesalands’ plans to begin a student-run media company that could prove beneficial to tourism efforts. He said the college has secured two online domains and plans to use social media, YouTube and an AM radio frequency to tout the region.

• TJ Riddle, one of the organizers for Tucumcari Rawhide Days, gave a mandated report about the event in May.

She estimated attendees used about 200 motel rooms in Tucumcari, although she said she didn’t receive as detailed of a breakdown as she would have liked.

Attendance was about 3,000, and event income was $6,155. She said the festival didn’t use $581.93 of the $12,000 in support from the Lodgers Tax Advisory Board. She noted an uptick of foreign visitors — many of them traveling Route 66 — and that the gunfighters’ performance during the annual parade was well received.

Riddle said attendance was hampered by conflicting events in Clayton, Roy, Springer and Dalhart, Texas. She said she also was considering a reduced schedule Friday for the 2020 festival because of slow business that day by food vendors.

• Lusk defended the city spending $1,500 to provide security for the inaugural Rockin’ Route 66 festival in June. Lusk said he had no plans to ask organizer Brian Whitcomb to reimburse the city.

“We made him jump through hoops he wasn’t expecting,” Lusk said. “Without (security), it would have crashed. I chose to do what we had to do to make it happen. I don’t want this event to go away.”


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