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County spokesman Devin Neeley takes on additional duties as film manager

County manager says PIO's experience, resume make him good fit for job

Mike Easterling   | Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — San Juan County spokesman Devin Neeley has had his job description expanded, taking on the title of film manager in addition to his duties as the county's public information officer.

Neeley said his new responsibilities include interfacing with anyone interested in using county facilities or property to produce a film or TV project. He also will be responsible for overseeing efforts to market the county, its facilities and its amenities.

He said he also will be working with film and TV producers who are interested in taking advantage of the state's tax incentives that are available for some projects. In certain cases, for projects that are produced outside the Albuquerque-Santa Fe corridor, those tax breaks can reach 35%, he noted.

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The move was announced by County Manager Mike Stark during the San Juan County Commission meeting on Feb. 2.

"We've seen an expanded involvement and presence as it relates to the film industry (in recent years)," Stark said during the announcement, noting that San Juan County locations have served as backdrops in such films as "Jumanji: The Next Level" and "Beyond the Reach" in recent years.

Stark pointed to the county's purchase and ongoing renovation of the Totah Theater, as well as its involvement in the construction of a film backlot northwest of Farmington, as proof of its commitment to maximizing the economic development potential of the industry.

"Those are laying the groundwork for productions to come here," he said.

Neeley — whose background is in broadcasting, and who serves as chairman of Film Four Corners, a Farmington-based organization designed to help film and TV producers shoot projects in the region — said he has faith that San Juan County can capture more of the projects that have come to New Mexico in recent years.

"We've absolutely seen that the investments by Netflix and NBCUniversal in the Rio Grande corridor and in New Mexico in general has shone a bright light on New Mexico," he said. "It's time for San Juan County and the Four Corners to be in on that, as well."

He said the opening of the backlot and the renovated Totah Theater in the future, and the use of those facilities by producers is the element that will unlock access to the final 5% of state tax credits.

"Our goal is to get to that point," he said.

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Stark said he was involved in two meetings last week with film producers who were interested in bringing projects to San Juan County. But he added that the other demands of his job made it clear to him the county needed someone capable of devoting more time to the film industry.

"It's not something I can continue to do on a full-time basis," he said. " … I had to find somebody who could manage the many facets of this new economic development opportunity."

Stark hopes having Neeley serving in the capacity of film manager will better position the county to take advantage of the opportunities that exist.

"We're happy to have him serving in that role and really focus on this piece because we probably haven't been giving it its due attention the last few months," he said.

Neeley said he was excited about taking on the new challenge, but he acknowledged he has a lot to learn about the film business.

"I think a lot of this is going to be on-the-job training," he said.

Stark said he believes Neeley is well suited to take on the job, and he concluded his announcement by bestowing a new nickname on the film manager.

"If you hear us referring to Devin as 'Hollywood,' it's not a jab, it's actually part of his new duties," Stark said, drawing a round of laughs from the commissioners.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.