New Mexico’s new film training academy finds a home

Mar 29, 2023, 5:58 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s special academy for training workers in the film and television industry is a step closer to fruition, with top state officials announcing Wednesday that it will be headquartered in Albuquerque.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and others gathered at the Albuquerque Rail Yards to announce that the location will serve as the primary hub for the New Mexico Media Academy. There also will be a satellite campus in Las Cruces to serve the southern part of the state.

Lawmakers in 2022 approved $40 million for the effort, and numerous post-secondary institutions that offer film and media programs have agreed on the core curriculum for students.

State officials said the goal is to meet the increasing need for trained professionals for an industry that generated $1.5 billion in direct film production spending over the past two fiscal years. They say the industry supports an estimated 8,000 jobs statewide and that a record 109 productions were filmed in New Mexico last year.

Those productions included AMC’s “Better Call Saul” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

Filmmaker Chad Burris has been named as the academy’s executive director. An attorney and member of the Chickasaw Nation, Burris’ production credits include “Four Sheets to the Wind” by Sterlin Harjo, Michael Winterbottom’s “Killer Inside Me,” and most recently Billy Luther’s feature “Frybread Face and Me,” which premiered at South by Southwest.

Burris said in a statement that the academy represents an opportunity for New Mexico to produce talent and content “on a scale never imagined.”

“I look forward making this a hub for all local talent and a launch pad for new ideas,” he said.

Once completed, the academy will offer hands-on and craft-specific training. Virtual and extended reality production will be among the focuses.

Central New Mexico Community College will co-locate at the Rail Yards with the academy. Local voters approved $7 million for the college to expand its film training program, and funding will go toward designing and constructing the program at the Rail Yards.

New Mexico State University and Doña Ana Community College are partners in the southern New Mexico campus.

The goal is to admit 1,000 students annually, with Netflix, NBCUniversal and 828 Productions working with the academy and offering paid apprenticeships to students.

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New Mexico’s new film training academy finds a home