From the Office of the Governor:
ALBUQUERQUE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday that the downtown Albuquerque Rail Yards will be the new headquarters for the New Mexico Media Academy, a collaborative workforce development initiative that will equip New Mexico residents with the advanced skills they need to work in the film and television industry.
With a focus on the burgeoning digital media ecosystem in the state, the historic downtown Albuquerque Rail Yards will be the instructional headquarters for the media academy. A satellite campus will be located in Las Cruces to serve southern New Mexico. Gov. Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature have committed capital and operating funds to further workforce training and on-the-job internships in the state’s thriving film and television industry.
“State and city partnerships like these are how we create transformative change for New Mexicans,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “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 in New Mexico.”
The academy aims to meet the increasing need for professionals in the media industry in New Mexico. Film production spending generated $1.5 billion in direct spend into the state economy in the past two fiscal years with most of that coming from outside the state. A record 109 productions (55 film and 54 television) were filmed across the state last year, including AMC’s Better Call Saul, Netflix’s Stranger Things, FOX’s The Cleaning Lady, Peacock’s Poker Face, and Amazon’s Outer Range.
The New Mexico Media Academy will be constructed in the Boiler Room location of the Rail Yards. Once completed, the facility will offer industry-standard, hands-on, and craft-specific workforce training and job competencies for the film, television, and digital media industry, including emerging focus areas such as virtual and extended reality and volumetric production.
“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,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “This is the result 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.”
Gov. Lujan Grisham proposed the creation of a state media academy in 2022 in order to better serve New Mexico students in the transition from education to employment in the state’s thriving film and media industry. The governor secured $40 million in the 2022 legislative session for the establishment of the NMMA and its first satellite campus in Las Cruces.
Fifteen New Mexico post-secondary film and media institutions across the state have already agreed upon the core curriculum for students. Central New Mexico Community College will co-locate at the Rail Yards with the NMMA and share resources. Local voters approved $7 million for the college to improve and expand its film training program, and funding will go toward designing and constructing the program at the Albuquerque Rail Yards. This includes the NMMA creative campus in Las Cruces, which the governor broke ground on yesterday and which will be co-located 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,” CNM President Tracy Hartzler said. “We’re honored to be joining 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. 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 that will maximize the public’s investment in growing the film industry and revitalizing Albuquerque’s downtown communities.”
The academy is centered on collaborative partnerships with the ultimate goal of admitting 1,000 students annually. New Mexico Film Partners, including Netflix, NBCUniversal, and 828 Productions, will collaborate with the NMMA and offer paid apprenticeships to students. IATSE Local 480 will offer hours toward membership for students who complete the apprenticeship, providing a faster start to their careers.
Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes also announced the inaugural Executive Director of the NMMA, Chad Burris (Chickasaw), an experienced filmmaker, producer, attorney, and public policy advocate.
As founder of Indion Group of entertainment and finance 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, closing over $100 million of credit equity transactions that have contributed significantly to the overall growth and vitality of rural economic development across the country. He also founded Site Solar, a company that manufactures mobile solar generators to displace diesel for mobile power and lights.
Burris’ influence in the film industry is attributed to his work producing award-winning films including Four Sheets to the Wind and Barking Water by Sterlin Harjo, the Spirit Award-nominated Mosquita y Mari by first time writer/director Aurora Guerrero, the New Mexico production of Michael Winterbottom’s Killer Inside Me, Natalia Leite’s Bare, the holiday film Santa Fake, the award-winning Sundance Trans-centric film Drunktown’s Finest by Sydney Freeland, and most recently Billy Luther’s feature debut, Frybread Face and Me, premiering at this year’s South by Southwest. He won the Mark Silverman Award for New Producers from the Sundance Institute, was nominated for Spirit Producers award twice and is a member of the Motion Picture Academy. Burris graduated law school in Oklahoma and was former counsel for law firms, practicing in Indian law and entertainment law.
“I am honored to be chosen to lead the New Mexico Media Academy. This new endeavor presents an amazing opportunity for New Mexico and the entertainment industry at large. With the support of the state and assistance from the many great film programs across the state, the academy will be a leader in producing New Mexico talent and content on a scale never imagined. I look forward making this a hub for all local talent and a launch pad for new ideas,” Burris said.
“This is a game-changing day for New Mexico’s film industry. I can’t imagine a more inspirational filmmaker, leader, and visionary than Chad Burris,” Secretary Keyes said. “With Chad at the helm of the New Mexico Film Academy we have a proven professional who will position our state to be a premier training hub for a new generation of media professionals to work in this exciting industry and build a career right here at home.”
Across both campuses, the NMMA will house:
- traditional sound stages
- volumetric stages
- classrooms, offices, lab, post-production and flex spaces
- industry-standard equipment and technology
“With an iconic location and a Native award-winning filmmaker at the helm, the New Mexico Media Academy is poised to lead and empower students for the next generation of jobs and opportunities in the film, television, and digital media industry,” Amber Dodson said, Director of the New Mexico Film Office.
The film industry now supports some 8,000 jobs across the state and the median wage of a film worker in New Mexico is about $32 an hour.