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Council on Film and Media Industries is getting a restart

Garrett Kemble, NBCUniversal Vice President of Development, shares a laugh with Mayor Tim Keller, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, during a press conference on June 14, 2019, to announce the opening of the NBC Universal Studios near Downtown Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Governor’s Council on Film and Media Industries is getting a restart.

Though it was established in 2003, the council remained dormant for close to a decade.

That’s about to change with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointing new members to the council.

“The growth of New Mexico’s film industry has been one of the success stories in our attempt to bring clean new industries with good-paying jobs to the state,” Lujan Grisham said. “I welcome the help of these professionals to guide our continued development of this industry. I know their expertise will be invaluable.”

Though the film industry shut down during the pandemic, there have been talks of how to open safely.

New Mexico has been a hot spot for film for the last decade, and most recently Albuquerque hosted Deadline’s “Hotspots” that brought industry insiders to the Land of Enchantment for the conference in early March.

In the last two fiscal years, the direct spend in the state backs up the praise.

According to the New Mexico State Film Office, during fiscal year 2019 – which ran from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019 – the direct spend into the New Mexico economy was $525.5 million.

This is up from $234 million in FY18 and $505.9 million in FY17, which had been the record high.

The fiscal year for 2020 ended on June 30.

James D. Gollin will serve as film council chair.

Others named to the council include Talia Kosh, associate attorney at Bennett Law Group; Luke Renner, professor of Digital Media Arts & Design at San Juan College; Ramona D. Emerson, filmmaker and co-owner of Reel Indian Pictures; award-winning casting director Jo Edna Boldin; writer/editor Rajeev Nirmalakhandan; Lance D. Maurer, chief executive officer at Cinnafilm Inc.; location manager Sam D. Tischler; IATSE 480 President Elizabeth C. Pecos; and award-winning sound editor Ken Fischer.

Emerson served on the council when it first began and is excited about being named to it again.

“I really want to see more local representation and local investments as far as independent filmmakers,” Emerson said. “I know that NBCUniversal started a shadowing program for directors. I hope that Netflix would follow suit for the minority communities.”

Emerson is an indigenous filmmaker who has been in the industry for 30 years.

She notes that Netflix started a program to help indigenous filmmakers in Canada.

“Hopefully, they’ll extend it to the filmmakers in New Mexico,” she said. “This is one of the most heavily Native populations.”

Emerson also hopes that the council will tackle the need for above-the-line jobs for New Mexicans.

These positions include but are not limited to screenwriters, producers, directors and actors.

“I think if the film industry is going to move in, they have to give these above-the-line opportunities to filmmakers,” Emerson said. “In New Mexico, local filmmakers have very little chance of working on their own ideas.”

Gollin said the film and digital media industry is poised to recover rapidly from the COVID shutdown, acting as a short-term spark plug for the rest of New Mexico’s economy.

“If we can avoid the obvious roadblocks and bottlenecks, the industry can rapidly double in size and then more slowly double again, supporting ancillary industries, and helping lead the way towards a more sustainable and diversified economy that will benefit all New Mexicans,” Gollin said.

Amber Dodson, New Mexico Film Office director, said having industry experts who believe in the long-term success of the New Mexico film economy is a benefit to New Mexicans.

“Our film industry is on a high-growth trajectory and the new council will ensure that New Mexico will continue to be ahead of the curve, deft, strategic, and even more prosperous,” Dodson said.

Emerson wants to make sure the council takes a chance on local filmmakers.

“It’s a very hopeful movement,” Emerson said. “It’s a lot more proactive and it’s a different council with a different mind set than the one in the past. We’re really going to move forward and bring opportunities to New Mexicans.”

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