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“Better Call Saul” Contributes to Media Education

September 21, 2019 12:06 pm/Published by Jonathan Dooley


SANTA FE, N.M. – More than $600,000 has so far been paid to film and media education programs around New Mexico from production companies who do business in the state under a unique Give Back Program to boost workforce training, the New Mexico Film Office announced Tuesday.

The latest contribution came in the amount of $68,000 from the “Better Call Saul” Season 4 production. The contributions were paid to the following programs:

  • New Mexico State University – Grants, Creative Media Technology, $11,000
  • New Mexico State University Foundation, Carlsbad, Creative Media Carlsbad, $23,000
  • Northern New Mexico College, Española, Film and Digital Media Arts, $11,000
  • San Juan College, Farmington, Digital Media Arts and Design Program, $23,000

“This is such a smart program because the industry is helping train its own future employees,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “We’ve got New Mexico colleges and universities using film and media industry dollars to beef up training programs all over the state, and students across New Mexico are able to learn the skills they need to launch a fulfilling and exciting career right here.”

“This is an important part of our film incentives law,” said Alicia J. Keyes. “The industry is investing in workforce development and programs, which will lead to better careers for our students and more jobs in New Mexico.”

The Give Back Program is a result of the Film Production Tax Credit Non-Resident Crew provision, which allows a credit for below-the-line crew wages in exchange for a contribution to an educational program equal to 2.5 percent of the non-resident wages.

Karen Henry, head of the Creative Media Program at NMSU in Grants, said the money has “truly transformed” the experience for her students by opening up more opportunities. The Give Back funds have been used to purchase cameras and accessories, 3D printer supplies, paper, ink, and game consoles for students to test their video game designs.

“As a small rural community college, we lack the funds to keep our program current with the industry and be able to provide the supplies needed for relevant hands-on experiences,” she said. “These funds allow the Creative Media Program to continue to expand current course offerings and develop into new areas, like virtual and augmented reality, to expose students to the latest exciting creative developments.”

She added that contributions from the Give Back Program have also provided several scholarships and work-study positions to talented Creative Media students, allowing them to continue their pursuit of a Creative Media Degree. 

Luke R. Renner, Director of Film and Digital Media Arts program at San Juan College, said the film industry donation allowed the program to purchase new equipment and expand technical training. They were also able to purchase dolly track, grip equipment, and lighting, and upgrade cameras in the program to meet the needs of 4k production.

Renner said that some of the money is being used to help with travel costs for students to attend the New Mexico Film Foundation’s statewide Student Filmmakers Showcase in Albuquerque on Sept. 21. They would also like to give students more on-hands training opportunities.

A part of the funds will be used to bring in outside industry professionals to conduct on- campus workshops for both San Juan College students and local high school students from the film and digital media programs. 

“The biggest challenge for students in this rural part of the state is the costs associated with internships in metropolitan areas. These funds provide the students career development opportunities,” said Renner.

At Northern New Mexico College, the Give Back money was used to purchase equipment for broadcast and live video feeds. “The program is growing and we couldn’t have done that without this support,” said David Lindblom, Assistant Professor, Film & Digital Media Arts at the Española campus. ”It has created excitement in our students.”

The latest disbursements bring the 2019 fiscal year payments to more than $200,000 with a total of $640,000 paid to programs over the past three years.

“The Give Back Program allows our students to be on the cutting edge of technology for their college and career goals,” said Jonathan Dooley, Principal at Media Arts Collaborative Charter School, the only high school on the list. As a result of the program, MACCS has been able to upgrade its television production studio, specifically with a new state-of-the-art Tri-Caster.

Dooley added that MACCS middle & high school students and teachers utilize media arts to enhance its core curriculum. For graduation, students complete Career Pathways and Internships with media industry partners such as REELZ, Albuquerque Film & Music Experience, Meow Wolf, Popejoy, Albuquerque Little Theatre and the Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill.

The non-resident crew giveback requirement is just one of the initiatives of the Economic Development Department that is helping to sustain a long-term industry cluster in New Mexico. As part of another recent agreement, NBCUniversal is required to provide funding for workforce development as well as aspiring director internships.

Other programs that received contributions from film and television productions in New Mexico since 2017 include:

  • New Mexico State University Graphic Design and Multimedia, Alamogordo
  • Central New Mexico Community College, Film Technicians, Albuquerque
  • University of New Mexico Cinematic Arts Department, Albuquerque
  • University of New Mexico Digital Media Arts, Taos
  • Doña Ana Community College, Las Cruces
  • New Mexico Highlands University Media Arts Fund, Las Vegas
  • University of New Mexico Digital Media Arts, Valencia 
  • Institute of American Indian Arts Film Program, Santa Fe
  • Media Arts Collaborative Charter School, Albuquerque
  • Eastern New Mexico University Film Technicians program, Roswell
  • Eastern New Mexico University Foundation Department of Theater and Digital Filmmaking, Portales
  • Southwest University of Visual Arts, Albuquerque
  • Navajo Tech University Department of New Media Programs, Crownpoint
  • Luna Community College Media Arts and Film Tech, Las Vegas
  • New Mexico State University Creative Media Institute, Las Cruces

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