EXCLUSIVE: Following three seasons shot exclusively in Atlanta, Netflix’s Stranger Things is on the move. A significant portion of the fourth installment of the streamer’s acclaimed ’80s sci-fi drama series will be shot in New Mexico, Deadline learned Monday.
Sitting down for a fireside chat as part of Deadline’s Hot Spots: New Mexico conference, Netflix VPs Physical Production Patty Whitcher and Momita SenGupta explained the reasons behind the move. “Season 4 is bigger, bolder and more intricate than ever,” SenGupta teased in the conversation moderated by Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “So this is the first time the show will be traveling beyond Atlanta.”
Given the business developments of the past couple of years, this decision isn’t entirely unexpected. In 2018, Netflix purchased Albuquerque Studios, laying down roots with their first U.S. production hub. Committing to spend more than $1 billion on local production over the next decade, Netflix has thus far spent over $150 million, employing 2,000 vendors along with 1,600 full-time cast and crew members.
During the panel, Whitcher and SenGupta were asked about what’s to come in Stranger Things 4, and what specifically will be shot in New Mexico. At the end of Season 3, Sheriff Jim Hopper (two-time Emmy nominee David Harbour) was left stranded in a Russian prison cell following a catastrophic incident at the Harcourt Mall. So, can we expect Russia-set scenes to be shot in the Land of Enchantment?
“If I told you that, I would be disappearing into the Witness Protection Program,” SenGupta joked, dodging all possible spoilers.
Per SenGupta, who serves as VP Production for Netflix’s Original Series, the streamer’s new state-of-the-art facilities in New Mexico “lent themselves to the story” being told in Season 4. As for what exactly the exec means by that, we’ll just have to wait for the series’ return.
What SenGupta and Whitcher were keen to discuss today was the Jay-Z-produced Western The Harder They Fall, which will commence shooting in Santa Fe, NM next week. Starring Idris Elba, Jeymes Samuels’ film centers on a man who looks to exact revenge after his parents are murdered. “I just sent the director an email and said, ‘I feel like we’re making the Hamilton of Westerns.’ It’s going to be really cool, and it’s not going to be like any Western you’ve ever seen,” Whitcher shared. “What they’ve done to the Tom Ford Ranch is just not what you will expect, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the dailies on this project.”
“When I was up in Santa Fe, they were just having the time of their life. The movie has taken over the Garson campus up in Santa Fe,” added Whitcher, who serves as Netflix’s VP Physical Production, Original Film. Noting that Samuels is also a renowed singer-songwriter (and brother to Grammy winner Seal), Whitcher teased he turned one building on the Garson campus into a recording studio, inviting unnamed stars to lay down tracks for the film.
While Netflix’s commitment to Albuquerque officially extends into the next decade, Whitcher and SenGupta indicated the streamer is in the city for the long haul. From SenGupta’s perspective, one of the major challenges of the next five years will be building up an already-stellar crew base —one that can contend with the enormous volume of content the streamer creates within any given year. “What’s nice about New Mexico is that we can fly crew in from Los Angeles,” SenGupta said, “but the ideal is always local.”
Like Netflix, NBCUniversal has been making waves recently, as a production partner in New Mexico. Committing to a $500 million production spend in the state over the next decade, the conglomerate will cut a ribbon in front of its new Albuquerque studio this Thursday, and at the same time announce the title of the first ABQ series heading into production.
Representing NBCUniversal at Hot Spots today was SVP Tax Counsel Brian O’Leary, who discussed the company’s reasons for laying down roots in Albuquerque. The answer, first and foremost, was New Mexico’s competitive two-track production incentive program—a program that has been consistently supported by politicians from both sides of the aisle, in the transition between one administration and the next. “Why we have the confidence to make these investments is that each governor has placed their stamp on this program, but it has remained a stable program [over time],” O’Leary said. “What has happened here, other places in the world are taking notice and saying, ‘How do we do that?’ It’s hard to replicate, but it’s paid off exponentially so far.”
Deadline’s newest conference event, Hot Spots was conceived as a means to spotlight film and television production happening outside Hollywood, shedding light on the talent, unique locations and resources of up-and-coming production hubs.
Appearing in New Mexico for the inaugural Hot Spots event were a number of actors who have shot there including Patrick Fabian and Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), Jeanine Mason and Nathan Parsons (Roswell, New Mexico), RJ Mitte (Breaking Bad) and Calum Worthy (The Act).
Over the course of more than a dozen panels, attendees also heard from a number of the state’s film commissioners and financial experts, the heads of local production facilities, and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.