Film commissioners in New Mexico and Ohio leave as new administrations take over

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Film commissioners in New Mexico and Ohio have been forced to resign as power shifts across the country to new, more conservative-leaning administrations that may not be as friendly to subsidizing Hollywood productions.

New Mexico Film Office Director Lisa Strout, who was appointed to her job by Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, stepped down last week after seven years on the job. Susana Martinez, a Republican, was recently elected as the country’s first female Latino governor.

Strout presided over a period of rapid growth in New Mexico’s film industry, during which it became a key rival to California, and was a well-known figure to many filmmakers in Hollywood. With its 25% film tax credit and diverse locations, New Mexico has hosted such movies as ‘Terminator Salvation’ and recently secured Marvel Studios’ ‘The Avengers,’ which begins filming in April in Albuquerque.

Strout could not be reached for comment.

Ohio Film Office Director Jeremy Henthorn also was asked to resign this week after just one year on the job. Ohio is only in the second year of its film program, which offers a modest amount in tax credits -- $20 million a year -- compared with what most other states offer.


Henthorn said he and his staff stepped down as newly elected Republican Gov. John Kasich took control of the government. Kasich defeated Ted Strickland, the Democratic incumbent, who was seeking a second term.

‘I was notified on Monday,’' Henthorn said. ‘I was shocked. I was hoping to see my job through the first two years of the program.’

Successors to Henthorn and Strout have not been named.

In most states, film commissioners are political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the governor, so it is not unusual for new people to be installed whenever there is a change in government.

‘It’s just politics,’' said Jeff Begun, a partner in the Incentives Office, a Los Angeles company that advises filmmakers on tax rebates and credits. ‘It’s not a move against the film programs, as far as we can see.’

Begun expects other resignations to follow, but not in California, where Film Commissioner Amy Lemisch served under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and, for now at least, is expected to remain in her job working for new boss Jerry Brown.

‘Amy has done a good job; I don’t think she is going to have a problem in her chair,’' Begun said.

-- Richard Verrier