Northern New Mexico College received $20,000 out of an $80,000 grant to New Mexico Colleges from the production of the hit series “Better Call Saul.”
Jenifer Esquivel, a spokesperson from the New Mexico Film Office, said the funds were directed by the Film Office’s Give Back Program. The Program requires productions that hire crew from outside of the state to give back 2.5 percent of the total expenditures. Participation in the Give Back Program is one the conditions for the 20 to 35 percent tax rebate that film producers can claim in New Mexico.
“They have several options, they can choose from,” Esquivel said. “Now because of COVID that seems to be most popular because that’s what can be done now. Over time many different productions have done this same program, this specific $80,000 came from Better Call Saul.”
The money is meant to promote film programs throughout the state Dave Lindblom, assistant professor of film and digital media arts at Northern said.
“We got some money from the state,” Lindblom said. “They generate that money because they are a film destination. The state gives them a break in exchange for that they are supposed to contribute money to the colleges.”
On top of the direct contributions to colleges, Lindblom said the film industry is a net gain for New Mexico’s economy, being better for the environment then other industries.
“Sony spends a dollar (with) a New Mexican in the film business and that dollar circulates and circulates and gets taxed, it’s great for the state,” Lindblom said.
The money isn’t allocated to any specific projects yet Lindblom said.
“I’m gonna wait and see once we get back together,” Lindblom said. “There’s always something new and important, equipment, tools. Until we get back together there’s no point in getting something. Once we do, I’ll probably rely on the students for what would excite them the most.”
The goal of the program is to teach film in a hands-on way Lindblom said.
“We get a lot of students who were ‘too interesting’ to do super great in high school,” Lindblom said. “So these students that didn’t fit in, a lot of them take a good look at the film program because it’s artistic and hands on and we take good care of those students that wouldn’t be in college if it weren’t for the film program.”
He said the projects students take part in are ones that would exist outside of the College and have taken on projects making videos for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Española Humane Society and video components for off Broadway plays.
However during the COVID-19 pandemic teaching film has become more of a challenge, he said.
“I shifted more to theoretical things,” Lindblom said. “Watch this and write stuff or watch this and talk about it”
Aaron Lopez, one of the film department students who has a degree in film from Northern and is graduating this year with a second degree in Anthropology focused in film said he had talked with Lindblom about how best the department could spend the money.
“I kinda expressed my ideas that we should get more equipment such as small tricasters and wireless HDMI cables as well as an area where we can build our own sets,” Lopez said. “Previously we had gotten money from the Breaking Bad Movie and utilized that to buy new cameras and new computers. The New Mexico film incentive really has helped Northern’s film department grow by getting new equipment.”
During the pandemic Lopez said he had been mixing film with community activism.
“There’s been several community efforts to give back such as the Secret Santa Initiative, senior care boxes, children’s care boxes throughout the pandemic,” Lopez said. “I filmed all these events and our whole way of thinking about it is by others seeing these films they would have the initiative to make a difference also.”
Classes have also become more expensive, Lopez said. Rather than watching films as a group at Northern’s theater they’re needing to purchase films to watch at home.
“We try to do as best as possible,” Lopez said. “I do make films not only with my cameras as well as my iPhone. That was taught to me by Apple prepandemic. Apple had me as part of this initiative to make an indigenous film with only an iPhone. That taught me for what’s going on now. So I’ve been able to utilize anything to make a film.”