There has been a lot of talk over the past year or so about building a viable film industry in southern New Mexico. Groups such as the Regional Film Development Advisory Committee, and to a lesser extent Film Las Cruces, have made their thoughts known about how they believe this construction should present itself.
So, how does one go about building a film industry? That appears to be the biggest debate. What is the first step? Is it a backlot? A sound stage? A production complex? Nobody’s really sure.
About the only thing everybody can agree on is that some sort of infrastructure is necessary. What, exactly, that should consist of is where the conversation really begins.
Maybe the issue has become far more complicated than it needs to be. For one thing, the rhetoric being presented to the community would have them believe that there isn’t yet a film industry in Las Cruces, or southern New Mexico, for that matter. Instead, all that can be found here is a couple of highly-regarded film schools and a smattering of out-of-work film professionals, withering on the vine because of a lack of work.
When seen in this regard, it makes the efforts of the RFDAC, who once again are lobbying heavily in Santa Fe for leverage money, appear to be saviors of a languishing concept. I take exception to that viewpoint.
As one of the founding members of the RFDAC, I applaud their efforts to ‘make something happen,’ but I’ve begun to wonder if maybe they haven’t lost sight of the original goal: to educate the city and raise the profile of filmmaking in southern New Mexico. These days, their intent appears more to be finding a way to funnel state money down to the area with which to lure large-scale film productions.
The question being asked more and more among local filmmakers has become, yeah, but what about us? In many ways, it has begun to feel like this advocacy group – consisting of state, county and city policy makers, alongside a few well-intentioned film folk – have become proponents of the Walmart way of thinking, rather than helping local interests to thrive.
The one thing we cannot lose sight of is that the RFDAC was not formed to create a film industry. In many ways, that industry already exists. It does so through the continuing efforts of community members who have dedicated time, effort and funding to raise the profile of filmmaking in southern New Mexico.
It does so through local production companies like PRC Productions, Camera Hogs and Gryphon’s Egg Productions, which continue to provide work and income for local filmmakers, actors and businesses. It does so through the efforts of grass roots organizations such as Mimbres Film, which strives to introduce thousands of pristine New Mexico acreage to filmmakers looking for unique locations to create their cinematic works.
Right now, as I type this, somewhere in the area, there are films in pre-production, there are shoots taking place, there is editing being done and there are finished products being readied for premiere screenings, film festival entries and limited distribution. I’ve given several examples in past columns, but even more can be found simply by checking in on the Film Las Cruces Facebook page.
Here’s some of what you’ll find there: Rod McCall’s “Jim” recently received a very warm reception in its Santa Fe premiere. Mark Medoff’s “The Heart Outright” is in post-production. Documentarian Phil Lewis has released “Retablo: Painting My Miracle” and “Women Are The Change” and is already hard at work on his next project. Rick Shaibani and Phillip David Collins just held auditions for their next projects, “Incomparable” and “Knock ‘Em Dead.” Jazmin Harvey is in the middle of her Kickstarter campaign to raise money for her student film, “Overland.” And these are just a few of the many announcements being made every week.
Does this sound like an industry in need of creation? I think it’s very important we don’t lose sight of the fact that, even without that all-important infrastructure we’ve been hearing so much about, we already have a thriving film community. Finding ways to help them improve working situations, raise funding for their projects and securing distribution is, in many ways, far more important than building a sound stage.
Even better, my own efforts on behalf of PRC Productions latest entry, “Truth,” have borne unexpected fruit. When approached to provide a venue for the premiere on February 27th, the Doña Ana Arts Council welcomed the opportunity with open arms, while the advocacy arts group ArtForms enthusiastically added the premiere to its For the Love of Art Month calendar. Marketing assistance from both organizations has proved invaluable and helped make my job that much easier.
Continuing in that vein, not long after the premiere of “Truth” had been announced, Project Mainstreet came on board with an offer to create a festive environment for the event, by closing Main Street in front of the theater, inviting food trucks to set up tables and chairs for an informal reception and plans to “light up the night” with projections and entertainment.
This is exactly the red carpet treatment our local filmmakers deserve and, I believe, speaks volumes about how the community truly feels about this rising industry. By showing support for the work that has already been done, and acknowledging the work that is currently underway, each and every one of us has the power to help create the type of film industry we want to see in southern New Mexico.
The backlot may some day be built, a sound stage may one day be financed and an infrastructure may soon be in place, but we would all do well to remember that these are simply elements to help augment and bolster an already thriving industry. They are not the beginning, they are simply part of the evolution.
The true rallying cry we should all be taking up isn’t “create a viable film industry,” it’s “support local film.” It all comes down to a matter of perspective.
This article originally ran in the February 6, 2015 issue of the Las Cruces Bulletin. All rights reserved.