Central New Mexico Community College Offers Film Program
Provide financial incentives, and they will come. It’s a plan that has worked to grow New Mexico’s film industry, but all those movies need trained crew members.
Education and union officials have teamed up to put a broad range of training programs into place so that state residents are ready to snap up film-production jobs when they become available.
The best example is the Film Technicians’ Training Program, an effort by the New Mexico Film Office in collaboration with the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 480.
The program is offered at state colleges throughout New Mexico, and takes students through an introduction to the film industry all the way to specific craft areas, then puts them to work on movies under the guidance of qualified professionals.
“We’re getting people ready for working in the movies,” says Jim “Grubb” Graebner, a film instructor at Central New Mexico Community College. “The certification program gets people ready and available for the union.”
Over the course of two semesters, students obtain a broad education in the movie business, and then focus on a particular area of expertise. With more than 50 different jobs on a set, there’s plenty to choose from, Graebner says. And over the past few years, interest has mushroomed, resulting in a much larger employee base for the burgeoning industry.
“In 2002, the union had about 380 members, and now it’s up to around 1,200 people,” Graebner says. “We’ve been training people like wild.”
That’s good news for Albuquerque Studios, which has invested more than $70 million in several sound stages and other production facilities.
“The film is only as good as the people who work on it and the crews that provide the production,” says Nick Smerigan, chief operating officer. “There’s not a lot of people that understand film and can do the job, so it’s important that we build the base of talent. The only way to get that is someone going to college, and also getting the practical experience.”