Monday, January 19, 2009

Highlighting the Creative Media Institute at NMSU

One of the highlight areas of our recent NM Media Industries Summit and Conference was the successful working relationship between educational institutions and business in the Las Cruces area. I expect there will be some argument from others about a few items here, but the CMI program at NMSU really is quite impressive, and worth learning more about.

From the Albuquerque Journal:

NMSU Leads Way in Filmmaking
Written by Dan Mayfield
Sunday, 18 January 2009 08:02
LAS CRUCES - Since the state's film industry has taken off, the rallying cry has been for more infrastructure and crew. Infrastructure and crew. Infrastructure and crew.

Of course you need places to make films and people to do the grunt work. But we've been slow to develop people who can direct, write and produce big-budget films. Until now.

The Creative Media Institute for Film and Digital Arts at New Mexico State University is the only state university film school that specializes in turning out students who can make films.

NMSU is teaching 200 students how to write, shoot, edit, sound mix and develop films that are as good as anything at the nation's top schools and studios.

Though the program is just three years old, it's already become one of the most popular majors at State.

"We could offer 10 screen writing courses and they would all fill up," said Jonathan Benson, the program's director and co-founder. "I could offer 10 cinematography classes and they would all fill up. "Nobody likes Business of Filmmaking, but it's full, too," he said. "We've grown faster than we wanted to. There's all this pent-up demand."

No doubt. As the state's incentives have brought in filmmakers, filmmaking has suddenly seemed like a viable career for many high school students.

Creative Media Institute classes have waiting lists and Benson is looking at making entrance requirements more strict.

Though the Film Technology Training Programs at Central New Mexico Community College and other colleges in the state are cranking out belowthe-line crew - gaffers, production assistants and makeup artists - NMSU's program is the only one at a state school to focus on the higher-end skills necessary to make a film.

"We want to bring the copyrights here," Benson said. "We want to make people who are creative generators."

The program is broken into two halves, an animation and computer graphics side and a film directing side. And local film professionals can't wait for the first crop of students to graduate this spring.

"When you go to a film set and you see 100 people standing around, that's 100 classes you need to take," said Rick Clemente, owner of Production Central ABQ, a post-production studio in Albuquerque. "State's school is the only one teaching all of that."

Clemente and Nick Smerigan of Albuquerque Studios say the school's graduates will be integral parts of their business very soon.

Several years ago, Benson said, the state offered several million dollars for schools to create a department dedicated to film studies - not just film appreciation, but production.

Benson jumped at it.

"Nobody else wanted the film school component," he said.

Maybe they knew better, he said. Choosing courses, finding qualified faculty, equipping labs and setting up schedules was a lot more work than anybody expected.

"I thought we'd drink a lot of coffee and talk a lot," said Mark Medoff, a screenwriting professor at NMSU who's famous for writing the film

"Children of a Lesser God."

"We had nobody telling us what to do. We had a hell of a time."

But, Medoff said that, as the program has developed, he's seen student commitment and talent increase 10 fold.

One glance at the animated cartoons that student Thomas DesJardins has made and you can see it, too. His cartoons, of singing fish or jogging women, look as good as anything you'd see on Nickelodeon.

"I'm so happy to come to school here," DesJardins said. "I tried everything. I tried engineering, music, studio art and finally I settled on this. I know I can do this if I wanted to professionally."

The school's equipment is state-of-the art, from its impressive THX-certified theater, to its fully stocked editing room with high-speed connections, to the equipment shop with 10 digital film cameras.

Of course, there are other great film programs in the state, like the College of Santa Fe's film school, and the University of New Mexico offers several classes. The Film Tech Training Programs at CNM and NMSU are also helpful in developing a crew base.

"I just want to shoot, edit, light and make films," said David Barela, a student in Benson's advanced documentary class. "I want the A-to-Z of making movies."

And, he said, he's learning.

"We're trying to develop film renaissance people," Benson said.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments: