The University of New Mexico-Taos is well on its way to creating a new generation of media makers right here in Taos.
Toward that end, the school is hosting the first Taos Film Day Saturday (April 28) at Bataan Hall, 115 Civic Plaza Drive. This free event runs from 2-7:30 p.m., and everyone is invited. The UNM-Taos Digital Media Arts Program created a meaty schedule of events in collaboration with the New Mexico Film Foundation and New Mexico Women in Film. Here is a breakdown of events:
Taos Filmmakers Forum, 2-3:30 p.m.
Peter Walker is the department chair of digital media arts at UNM-Taos. Born in Taos, Walker said he recalled as a youth filming time lapses of clouds. He is passionate about educating the next generation of filmmakers in the completely remodeled digital media arts studio in downtown Taos.
"We are super excited to be offering this incredible two-year digital media associate's degree program. It is the 'cohort' team model, which means a team of students enter our program together. They can be any age, straight out of high school or older folks. This is an incredible program for students who want to stay in Taos, jump right into filmmaking, and in two years, have (their) degree," Walker said.
Dirk Norris is the executive director of New Mexico Film Foundation. It's important to have a skilled workforce in digital media arts, he said. "When Hollywood comes to shoot, there are certain restrictions on how far crews can travel, the number of overnights, etc. If there are trained crews in the places they want to shoot, they hire there. If they hire in Taos, Taos wins. Having a digital media arts program positions Taos to being receptive to the film industry."
Norris plans on discussing the job opportunities in the film industry locally as well as the benefits of connecting with other film members in the community to create independent films, which ultimately benefits the whole community.
Film Panel, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
This panel features award-winning indigenous women filmmakers Ramona Emerson ("Mayors of Shiprock"), Razelle Benally ("Raven"), and Shaandiin Tome ("Mud"). El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa donated lodging for the filmmakers to come to Taos. The discussion is anticipated to be lively and is sponsored by New Mexico Women in Film.
Their films will be screened at 6 p.m. See below.
"Each film in this line-up was chosen because each has a unique voice that is changing the landscape of film, their communities and beyond," said co-organizer Jody McNicholas, a Taos documentary filmmaker and member of New Mexico Women in Film.
Lisanne Cole used to live in Taos and is on the board of directors for New Mexico Women in Film. "We have members around the state but are looking forward to reaching out to women filmmakers who may not be members and offer up assistance. Last year New Mexico Women in Film produced a public service announcement -- a 'PSA' -- on Tewa Women United, which was made by Leslie Feming-Mitchell. She will be on the panel discussion and will screen the PSA," said Cole.
Mixer-refreshments - Canon Award Ceremony 4:30-6 p.m.
As part of Taos Film Day, digital media arts students were encouraged to apply for an award sponsored by Canon, the camera manufacturer. Students had to submit photos and a video on a specific theme.
Canon representatives will present each award winner with a Canon Video Creator's Kit, which includes a camera, lens, and microphone. The relationship between Canon and the students will be able to attend more advanced workshops and involvement.
"This is filmmaker gear in a box. You can basically take it out of the box and make a short, independent movie," Walker said.
This is not the first time Walker has brought Canon to Taos. In recent months, they have collaborated on public workshops together. But how was Walker able to connect with a Japanese multinational corporation on behalf of Taos and UNM-Taos students?
In 2017, Walker gathered four of his dual-credit high school students and participated in the Canon filmmaker challenge at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. They competed against 10 media teams from across the state.
"They gave each team the same gear and our challenge was to create a one-minute promotion of the balloon fiesta. On the way to Albuquerque I told them: 'Everybody's going to shoot beautiful images. If we're going to win, we need to have a story.' We did a live action animation. And we won," Walker said.
You can view the winning promotional film on YouTube. It's about a teen who dreams of flying his own balloon.
"We got on Canon's radar, and they put me in touch with the PR/social media executive in New York," Walker said.
Walker talked about Skyping with the executive and his overall personal involvement on working to foster the college-to-company relationship. UNM-Taos is one of only three programs that Canon works with.
"This is my vision. I'm the chair of the department. What I care about is collaboration and bringing together organizations that want the same thing: celebrate and encourage storytelling, help each other and do it together," Walker said.
During the ceremony, refreshments will be provided by Farmhouse Café. Michael's Kitchen is also a major supporter.
Film screenings 6-7:30 p.m.
The films in this evening segment contain mature content and are not recommended for children.
Ramona Emerson ("Mayors of Shiprock") said in a prepared statement: "After meeting Graham Beyale and eventually all of the young people who make up the Northern Diné Youth Committee, we knew we had to make this film. I am committed to making films that question the way people perceive us as Diné, especially as we thrive and exist in the contemporary world. The work that these young people were doing was doing just that--not only cinematically--but within their own community. That is what is so exciting about this young generation of Navajo people and their willingness to make a change and to question the bureaucracy of government and the status quo. What I hope the film does, is to make us all question our role in creating change in our own communities and challenges us to take the initiative to begin that change in ourselves.
"I am deeply committed to the idea that Native filmmakers need to tell the stories of Native people and in my case, that refers to my community of the Navajo Nation. Being a documentary filmmaker is definitely not a hugely financially stable career to get into, especially when you're making films about the contemporary Native community in an industry that continues to prefer to see us as relics, alcoholics and romanticized Indian braves. As an indigenous woman in this industry, you are called upon to work twice as hard to get your stories out into the world. But we do it. We do it because we love it -- even when we hate it -- we love it. It's a commitment that goes so far beyond making a movie. It's about representing the image of your people, and they're counting on you to do it right and to tell the truth".
In addition to "Mayors of Shiprock," Razelle Benally will screen "Raven", and Shaandiin Tome will show "Mud."
To that end, Walker encourages community members and visitors to stop by this event, listen to the panels, see the films and learn more about the digital media arts program.
"We're always happy to give people a tour, show them around. People say: 'I'm looking for help to do a video or make a website.' We try to connect our students with real-life experiences. Our core mission is to graduate students. That's the media workforce of the future," Walker said.
UNM-Taos Fall 2018 registration is happening right now. Call (575) 737-6215 or visit taos.unm.edu/home/dma.