New Mexico Media Academy Aims to Create ‘Next Generation of Filmmakers’

Besides incentives and locations, people make up a crucial component of New Mexico’s production ambitions. The New Mexico Media Academy (NMMA) is getting ready to supply skilled crew for the increasing number of jobs provided by the film and television industry.

Headquartered in the Downtown Albuquerque Rail Yards, the NMMA is a collaborative initiative between industry partners, multiple educational institutions and the state to equip New Mexico residents with the education and skills necessary to work in production.

“Our students will be trained by the best in the industry on state-of-the-art technology to further cultivate the modern film and digital media workforce we are building,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement announcing the academy’s Albuquerque location.

New Mexico hosted more than 100 productions in 2022, including AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and Peacock’s “Poker Face,” and the increased demand for crew fuels NMMA’s goal to admit 1,000 students annually.

Netflix, NBCUniversal, 828 Prods. and IATSE Local 480 are partners providing training and curriculum expertise and apprenticeships, while hours toward union membership will be available for students who complete apprenticeships.

“We’re developing and training the next generation of filmmakers in New Mexico,” says Chad Burris, the inaugural executive director of the NMMA. “That’s going to benefit not only the state, the participants of the academy, but also any industry partners that currently exist and that might be looking to come to New Mexico.”

Burris, an experienced filmmaker, producer, attorney and public policy advocate, adds that while the existing crew base in the state is strong, he anticipates needing more talent at all levels.

“We hope to make New Mexico even more of a production hub for both the large industry partners that we currently have and love (and welcome more to come), but also smaller, more independent productions that might be looking at where they can make the best film possible for the resources that they have available,” he says.

The NMMA will have multiple campuses across the state. The first satellite campus will be co-located with Doña Ana Community College and New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, the state’s second-largest city.

Along with traditional soundstages at both campuses, there will be classrooms, offices, labs, post-production and flex spaces, all featuring industry-standard equipment and technology. There will also be volumetric stages to capture performances from all angles, which will also serve the digital and gaming industries along with film and television.

The Las Cruces NMMA campus will also offer a bilingual curriculum to help create a crew base for Spanish-language productions, another growing market. A unique “Teach the Teachers” program is in the works to train high school and college instructors about the industry, all to help New Mexico’s students find paths into the showbiz workforce. “There was an immediate and early interest in trying to focus on that down in the Las Cruces facility,” says Burris. “We’re trying to make sure that we’re serving all of the possible partners in New Mexico.”

Back in Albuquerque at the Rail Yards, Central New Mexico Community College will co-locate with the NMMA there to share resources. Revitalizing the site, one of Albuquerque’s original engines of growth in the late 1800s, is bringing the city and state full circle.

“We’ve always had a vision that the Rail Yards would be the active heart of Albuquerque once again, and now that vision is becoming a reality,” says Albuquerque mayor Tim Keller. “We look forward to having the New Mexico Media Academy an active part of our community as coming generations of film professionals get trained right here at home for local careers.”

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