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Rising to the challenge

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In early December, Riley Del Rey brought together a group of her Central New Mexico Community College peers to produce the pilot episode of the series “Thought I Lost You.”

On the day of the shoot, the entire cast and crew had 12 hours to get it completed.

“It was a challenge,” says Del Rey. “We’ve been planning for this for so long. I’ve had this idea in my head, and it’s finally coming to fruition.”

“Thought I Lost You” came out of an idea for a series called “Sagittarius.” It follows Pearl, played by Del Rey, who is a bounty hunter chasing a fugitive through time travel.

“The reason she’s hot on him is that she has a score to settle because he killed her Sagittarius sister,” Del Rey says. “I wanted this role to be a challenge for me. I wanted to not only write a strong-willed female character, I wanted Pearl to be powerful with physical strength.”

Del Rey also wanted to be in control of which characters she plays, which is why she envisioned Pearl.

“As an actress, I’ve been getting roles of the girlfriend or wife,” she says. “It’s been challenging for me, because I am transgender. It’s caused me to be seen for only certain roles. This series is also a chance to give some LGBT visibility as well.”

The other main character in the series is Legend, played by Clint Obenchain.

“Legend goes through different eras to kill people who pose potential catastrophic pain to the human race,” Del Rey says.

Del Rey and Obenchain met through another project, and the pair wanted to work together. Del Rey knew he was fit for the role.

“Playing an outlaw is in my wheelhouse,” Obenchain says coyly. “He’s mysterious and violent, but he has a conscience. There’s more to him than what it seems.”

Obenchain was intrigued by the emotional content in the role.

“I need scenes with a scene partner who have highly emotional drama,” he says. “I don’t get time to do too much nonverbal stuff. With this role, I’m able to do both and show more of what I can do.”

Del Rey also wanted to keep the production as close to 100% New Mexico cast and crew as possible.

The majority of the crew were her peers at CNM, who are going through the various film programs there.

“In this program (at CNM), they teach you a lot of crew-based work,” she says. “I was given the opportunity to be able to write and create challenges for the students. With this one, since we are time traveling, set crew had to create spaces that were in different eras. This shoot isn’t like a lot of other CNM shoots. We had a producer and I was maintaining my vision to bring this idea to life.”

Obenchain moved to New Mexico to be part of the state’s film community. When he’s not on set, he’s a stay-at-home dad with two children. His schedule is flexible enough for his film roles.

“It fluctuates,” he says of the number of projects. “I was on set every month since summer this year. I’ll have almost nine projects out in 2020.”

Del Rey wants to help break open the door for local filmmakers to get above the line jobs – which is writing, producing and directing.

“Bringing ideas to life is amazing to see,” she says. “We have such good teams and people that live and work in New Mexico. This series, hopefully, will create more exposure for the talent that we do have here. We have the work in the state and now we just need to make some of those jobs above the line.”

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