Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cargo urges Martinez to visit Hollywood

As lawmakers prepare to consider what do to with the state’s film incentives, the man who started the first governor's film commission in the world, former Gov. David Cargo, is weighing in on the debate.

He’s urging Gov. Susana Martinez to be more empathic toward the state’s film industry.

Cargo suggests her decision to lower incentives from 25 percent to 15 percent is an “attack” on the industry, and he suggested the new governor plan a trip to Hollywood.

“She needs to go out there and talk to the people in the industry and reassure them that they can film in New Mexico and make a profit,” said Cargo.

He said Hollywood executives want assurances the state is open for business and not political attacks on their industry.

“She ought to be talking about the advantages that the motion picture industry brings to New Mexico, how affirmative it is, how much we gain out of it, all of the wonderful things they’ve really done it. It’s a way of assuring them," said Cargo.

He recommends Martinez learn how to approach movie and television producers.

“She’s explaining this in a campaign mode," said Cargo. "You’re not running against the motion picture companies. You’re running a state, and you’ve got to be involved, not in politics, but in government,” said Cargo.

He disagrees with those making the argument that producers will take their business to states that offer the highest incentives.

“They go were they can film and do it most effectively and they’ve got the most cooperation and they’re welcomed. You see it’s the welcome mat that brings them in," said Cargo. "You bring in more people by empathizing with them and understanding what their problems are and working with them.”

During a news conference a day before Martinez' State of the State address Martinez outlined her legislative priorities and told reporters she plans on sticking with her budget plan which includes the incentive reduction.

She contends the incentive amount needs to be reduced to help balance the budget deficit. Martinez has said her priority is to make sure money is not taken away families and children in the state.

Meanwhile, Cargo gave former Gov. Bill Richardson a B grade for his work luring films to New Mexico, but criticized that administrations heavy reliance on subsidies.

Cargo, who never asked then California Gov. Ronald Reagan to send films to New Mexico, believes Martinez will be more successful going straight to the heart of the industry in Los Angeles.

That’s where Cargo spent his time. In fact, in 1971 he made a cameo appearance in Bunny O'Hare, which starred Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine, as well as parts in 11 other films.

A dedicated promoter of the New Mexico film industry, Cargo, a Republican, was beloved by liberal Democrats in Hollywood, actually becoming personal friends with those behind the camera as well as the stars facing it.

“I had a vision for what we were going to do in filmed entertainment,” said Cargo. “I had a plan. I had a way of working it out. And it worked out rather well -- extraordinarily well.”

Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish had high praise for Cargo's vision for the film industry.

"Dave Cargo was a visionary governor," said Denish. "He was one of the first New Mexico governors to see the value of the film and television industry to our state's economy."

After his term as governor Cargo shared that vision with his successor Gov. Bruce King. Later he took King, and First Lady Alice King, to visit with some of the producers and studio executives he had already established relationship with in Southern California.

During the trip, they visited Lawrence Welk’s studio During taping of a show, King danced with Albuquerque native Cissy King, while Mr. Welk danced with Alice.

Time to govern

Cargo, who was only 37 when he was elected governor in 1967, also told us he was disappointed in Martinez’ first State of the State speech, calling it "too political."

“She’s got to make the transition from being in campaign mode to being governor. She had a lot of things that were good. But, she’s talking about things that are exciting partisan feelings and that’s not going to get her through the legislature,” said Cargo. “She’s got to get after things that she can agree with them on. She’s got to work with them. She can’t antagonize them.”

Cargo, who celebrated his 82nd birthday last week, wrote an autobiography titled Lonesome Dave several years ago.

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