FARMINGTON – Some San Juan County employees have been given additional responsibilities, including the county’s spokesman, Devin Neeley, who will serve as film manager.
“The expansion of the film industry is a priority to San Juan County and it is important to have a staff member dedicated to facilitating film projects in the area,” said County Manager Mike Stark, in an email to The Durango Herald. “This is an important step toward diversifying our economy.”
Neeley said Monday he will market the area to production companies and coordinate with those interested in working in the area and who want to use county facilities like the Totah Theater.
“The County Commission has already shown a commitment to economic diversification to include the film industry with the investment into the Totah Theater, as has the city of Farmington,” Neeley said Monday. “We anticipate additional work in that realm, and hope that I’ll be staying busy.”
Productions in San Juan County are eligible for an additional 5% “Out of Zone” tax credit, on top of New Mexico’s already competitive incentives, Neeley said. New Mexico offers up to a 35% tax credit.
“Since the State of New Mexico is incentivizing productions, and San Juan County has already seen moderate film activity, the addition of Totah Studios and backlot to the area will only serve to increase activity in this economic sector,” Stark said in his email.
Farmington has seen increased involvement in the film industry over the last several years, which has included grants and money awarded to the county.
The county was able to secure a grant in 2019 and in 2020 totaling $1.5 million to be used to “plan, design, construct, acquire, equip, expand and improve film studio facilities in San Juan County.” That money is dedicated to Totah Theater renovations and to create a backlot for film production.
Farmington has already been host to several movies, such as “Transformers” (2007), “The Lone Ranger” (2012), “A Million Ways to Die in the West” (2013) and “Jumanji: The Next Level” (2019).
At a county meeting, Stark joked, “If you hear us refer to Devin as ‘Hollywood’ it’s not a jab, it’s actually part of his new duties.”
Another staff change involved Lisa Gomez, who will become the new community health and services director at the Mental Health Resource Center where she will provide different resources for that position.
“We thought it was the right time to not only do that, but to provide some supervisorial and manager oversight of the Behavioral Health Services program,” Stark said. “And that assistance is much welcomed.”
Stark added that the change will allow the county to follow through with health initiatives with San Juan Regional Medical Center, Presbyterian Medical Services and others.
“We’re in the mode of operation where we’re trying to do more with less, or in some cases, do more with the same,” Stark said.