The Downtown Albuquerque Railyards will serve as the headquarters for the New Mexico Media Academy, a collaborative workforce development program equipping NM residents with the skills they need to build successful film and TV careers, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Wednesday.
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The training hub formerly known as the Next Generation Media Academy will be constructed in the Boiler Room location of the Railyards which have long been a production hotspot, featuring onscreen in projects ranging from Breaking Bad to The Avengers. A companion campus, serving Southern New Mexico, will be built in Las Cruces. Both locations will offer industry-standard, hands-on, and craft-specific workforce training and job competencies for the film, television and digital media industry, with a spotlight on such emerging focus areas as virtual and extended reality and volumetric production. And facilities will therefore feature not only classrooms, offices, lab, post-production and flex spaces, as well as other necessary equipment and technology, but traditional soundstage and volumetric stages, as well.
The inception of the New Mexico Media Academy reflects a commitment on the part of Grisham and the legislature to increase opportunities for workforce training and on-the-job internships, in a state where the business of film and TV is booming and there’s more need for industry professionals than ever. Film production has brought $1.5B to the NM economy in the past two years, with most of that coming from outside of the state. And last year saw a record 109 productions filming in New Mexico, including such notable TV projects as AMC’s Better Call Saul, Netflix’s Stranger Things, Fox’s The Cleaning Lady, Peacock’s Poker Face and Amazon’s Outer Range.
“State and City partnerships like these are how we create transformative change for New Mexicans,” Grisham said in a statement to Deadline. “Our students will be trained by the best-in-the-industry and on state-of-the-art technology to further cultivate the film and digital media workforce and holistic ecosystem we are building in New Mexico.”
Remarked ABQ Mayor Tim Keller, “The Rail Yards is an anchor for the surrounding community and Downtown. This is the culmination of years of intentional re-investment. We look forward to having the New Mexico Media Academy be an active part of our community as coming generations of film professionals get trained right here at home for local careers.”
The New Mexico Media Academy will look to admit 1,000 students annually, partnering with the likes of Netflix, NBCUniversal and 828 Productions to provide paid apprenticeships for students. Also getting involved is IATSE Local 480, which will offer hours toward membership for students who complete apprenticeships, providing a faster start to their careers.
The Academy will welcome students from fifteen post-secondary film and media institutions across New Mexico, which have already agreed on a core curriculum. Central New Mexico Community College will share resources and co-locate with the NMMA at the Railyards, benefitting from $7M set aside for improvement to its film program by local voters, with the creative campus in Las Cruces to partner with New Mexico State University and Doña Ana Community College.
“For more than 20 years, CNM has been supporting the growing workforce needs of the film industry in New Mexico. We’re honored to join the State of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque in this groundbreaking partnership to increase New Mexicans’ access to high-quality training that leads to great jobs and economic growth for the film and digital media industry,” remarked CNM President Tracy Hartzler. “By co-locating CNM’s film and digital media programs with the New Mexico Media Academy at the Rail Yards, we’ll build state-of-the-art training and production facilities to maximize the public’s investment in growing the film industry and revitalizing Albuquerque’s downtown communities.”
Also announced today by New Mexico’s Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes is the appointment of filmmaker, producer, lawyer, and public policy advocate Chad Burris (Chickasaw) as the New Mexico Media Academy’s inaugural Executive Director.
As founder of Indion Group of Entertainment Companies, Burris developed the country’s first private film incentive for the state of Oklahoma. In addition to film, he has worked with various industries from construction, healthcare and technology, to structure and close over $100 million of credit equity transactions that have contributed significantly to the overall growth and vitality of rural economic development across the country.
Burris has produced award-winning films including Four Sheets to the Wind and Barking Water by Sterlin Harjo, the Spirit Award-nominated Mosquita y Mari from writer-director Aurora Guerrero, and the New Mexico productions of Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me, Natalia Leite’s Bare, the award-winning holiday film Santa Fake, Sydney Freeland’s Sundance award-winner Drunktown’s Finest and most recently Billy Luther’s feature debut Frybread Face and Me, which premiered at SXSW 2023.
Formerly, Burris was Counsel at the law firm of Doerner, Saunders, Daniel and Anderson in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he practiced Corporate Transactional, Entertainment and Indian law. He prior to that served as Associate Counsel for an all-Native law practice representing tribes and their members in state, federal and tribal courts. The University of Tulsa Law School grad is a member of the Oklahoma Bar and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science and has also been recognized in the past with the Sundance Institute’s Mark Silverman Award for New Producers, along with two Spirit Award noms.
“I am honored to be chosen to lead the New Media Academy for New Mexico,” said Burris. “This new endeavor presents a fantastic opportunity for New Mexico and the Entertainment Industry. With the support of the state and assistance from the many great film programs comprising the Consortium, this New Media Academy will be a leader in producing New Mexico talent, and content on a scale never imagined. I look forward to making this a hub for all local talent and a launch pad for new ideas.”
Remarked Cabinet Secretary Keyes: “This is a game-changing day for New Mexico’s film industry. There is not a more inspirational filmmaker, leader, and visionary than Chad Burris. With Chad at the helm of the New Mexico Film Academy, we have a proven professional who will position our state as a premier training hub for a new generation of media professionals, so they can work in this exciting industry and build a career right here at home.”
“With an iconic location and a Native award-winning filmmaker at the helm, we are confident the New Mexico Media Academy is poised to prepare students for the next generation of jobs and opportunities in our surging film, television, and digital media industry,” said New Mexico Film Office Director Amber Dodson in closing.
New Mexico’s film industry currently supports some 8,000 jobs, with the film worker’s median wage coming in at around $32 an hour.
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