‘Commercial’ success: CNM ad keeps production local, highlights the tale of a New Mexico family - Albuquerque Journal

‘Commercial’ success: CNM ad keeps production local, highlights the tale of a New Mexico family

Mikalah Gordon in a scene from “A Hero’s Journey.” (Courtesy of CNM)

On any given day, film crews of all sizes can be seen around the state as productions big and small call New Mexico home.

In July, a small crew from Central New Mexico Community College spent four days filming a commercial called “A Hero’s Journey.”

Pre-production took months to find the perfect locations.

On one day of filming, the crew spent more than half a day at the Rio Grande Heritage Farm at the Albuquerque BioPark Botanic Garden, which would fill in for a handful of scenes in the commercial.

“A Hero’s Journey” was written by Marya Errin Jones and tells the story of Cherie Montoya’s family. Montoya is owner of Farm & Table in the North Valley.

Her great-grandmother went from caretaker to landowner with hard work, buying seven acres of land and building a life for her family.

Pat Vasquez-Cunningham, second from left, works with camera operator Tommy Gallegos, far left, while filming a scene in the CNM commercial “A Hero’s Journey” at the Rio Grande Heritage Farm in Albuquerque. At right is CNM student actor and nursing student Mikalah Gordon. (Courtesy of CNM)

Montoya appears in the commercial and is also a CNM graduate.

Because the story was local, the crew at CNM wanted to keep all of the production local, as well.

According to Pat Vasquez-Cunningham, director of photography, the goal was to keep the budget as low as possible and the project was completed for less than $5,000.

“We want to be as responsible with taxpayer funds as possible,” Vasquez-Cunningham said. “If we had used an outside production company to create the commercial, it would have been quite a bit more expensive.”

The other goal was to use as many CNM resources as possible in the production team.

Jones wrote the script from Montoya’s story and Mikalah Gordon was cast as the main character.

“She was a nursing student and doing work study for the marketing department,” he said. “She agreed to help us out with the project.”

Farm & Table restaurant owner Cherie Montoya, center, is filmed for the CNM commercial “A Hero’s Journey.” At left is camera operator Tommy Gallegos and, at right, boom mic operator CNM student Cameron Crawford. (Courtesy of CNM)

Vasquez-Cunningham also reached out to Off Broadway in Nob Hill for costumes.

The Prop House donated the use of props for the commercial.

Albuquerque-based musician Travis Hill, a former CNM student, lent his music to the project.

“He wanted to pay it forward and didn’t charge for it,” Vasquez-Cunningham said.

The goal for the commercial was to show the true story of Montoya’s family.

“The struggles and perseverance,” he said. “I wanted to be true to the family and respect their history. When the family saw it during a special viewing, it brought tears of joy.”

The first draft of the script was done in May and it called for it to be near the river.

“I spent a lot of time going up and down the river looking for possible spots,” he explained. “I went from Belen all the way up to Rio Rancho. For the farm scenes, we looked at other locations in the South Valley.”

It was the Rio Grande Heritage Farm that had everything Vasquez-Cunningham needed.

“It had the underdeveloped pasture where we decided to do a low-angle camera,” he said.

To stay true to the story, filming also took place at Casa San Ysidro in Corrales.

“It was important to create the look and feel of the late 1800s,” he said. “It had all the elements of New Mexico.”

Other locations include Farm & Table and CNM.

Vasquez-Cunningham said because we live in New Mexico, we get into our routines and forget what a beautiful place it is.

“The goal was to inspire people in our community about the power of knowledge and education,” he said. “Having a vision or dreams for what’s in the future and pursuing those dreams is incredibly valuable. I believe education and hard work are the key to a better future for everyone.”

Director of Photography Pat Vasquez-Cunningham is captured on set with a rigged-out RED Epic-W cinema camera during a pause in filming of the CNM Commercial “A Hero’s Journey” at the Rio Grande Heritage Farm at the ABQ BioPark. (Courtesy of CNM)

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