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Keeping dreams alive: Filmmaker offers online, in-person classes through his Albuquerque Actors Gym

Albuquerque-based filmmaker Eric. T. Esparza. (Courtesy of Eric T. Esparza)

Eric T. Esparza knows how to execute a plan.

He has to do that daily for both of his careers.

As a teacher and as a filmmaker, he meets a new challenge every day – and Esparza develops a plan.

Esparza owns The Albuquerque Actors Gym – or TAAG.

The organization opened in September, and in March, just before the pandemic hit New Mexico, it moved from its old space into the Keshet Dance and Center for the Arts.

That hasn’t kept the Gallup native down.

“It’s been pretty disheartening,” he says of his business being affected. “Because Keshet has remained closed, I have still been doing classes through Zoom. I’ve held classes in the public park next to the Public Academy for Performing Arts. The classes are with existing TAAG members.”

Of course, during these sessions, everyone is seated 6 feet apart and wears a mask.

Esparza is doing project-based learning, and the students are learning different techniques in developing characters in short films.

“We record everything so that we can learn,” he says. “The students can also use it for their demo reel.”

Esparza teaches acting as a way of giving back.

He’s made his living by acting and wants to bring all of his experience to those just beginning.

Keeping his classes through TAAG running was important.

“It’s been a strong pivot, because a lot of folks get into acting because it’s a social component,” he says. “At TAAG, we’ve focused on community and building rapport and establishing friendships. There’s a big difference learning on a computer versus learning in person.”

Eric T. Esparza, left, films students during recent classes at The Albuquerque Actors Gym. (Courtesy of Eric T. Esparza)

Esparza says one of the silver linings from the pandemic is that it’s allowed people the time to reflect on their intentions on pursuing film as a career or hobby.

“The folks that really want to pursue it, they love being on set,” he says. “Those are the folks that continue to participate the most. It shows their true passion.”

During the past five months, Esparza has also seen a resurgence of the TV show “Living With Latinos.”

Esparza and crew recorded over 300 episodes of the sketch comedy show with a Latinx perspective.

The show is available on YouTube and on Facebook, where it has 12 million followers.

“There were some folks on the series that had zero acting experience,” Esparza says. “I was able to work with them as a director on the show as well. Because we did it consistently, each cast member grew significantly over time.”

Esparza says TAAG was born from that experience and a desire to keep New Mexicans at the forefront of the film industry.

“I wanted to have people come and share ideas,” he says. “We want to compete with LA actors, and we want New Mexicans to have a shot. We won’t get that shot unless LA knows who we are. That means that actors need to get training.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email film@ABQjournal.com. Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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