Shared Vision: Media Arts, Film and Photography merge

TC Townsend was working on a ranch in Colorado and had no experience in the film industry when he decided to enroll in the Film Program at SFCC. The whole idea seemed “far-fetched,” but he had always loved movies, and the industry was growing in New Mexico, so he decided to move here.
Townsend earned an associate degree and now he is a member of the IATSE 480 stage and film crafts union and finds regular work as a production assistant for films, commercials and fashion shoots.

“The program gave me the foundation that everybody needs. It got me plugged in,” he said.

The college’s Film Program aims to serve students even better with the recent merger of Media Arts, Film and Photography within the School of Arts, Design, and Media Arts.

Although some students were already taking classes across various disciplines, the merger will make that easier, aid the departments in sharing resources, and assure students that their college credits transfer easily when they continue their studies.
Peter Taussig, chair of Media Arts, Film and Photography, called the merger a “great marriage.” “I see media arts, film and photography as very complementary,” he said.

The merger will allow for better alignment of the curricula, increased student support, additional sharing of workforce training partnerships, and more focused marketing.

“A person who wants to be a cinematographer also needs to be a good photographer,” said Milton Reiss, professor of Film Production and Workforce Training. “Students are already making these connections.”

Will Wilson, head of photography, agreed, saying, “To be a media producer you really need a wide skill set. The core is storytelling.” (Read more about Wilson on Noteworthy.)
Film, which became a degree program in 2008, now has about 200 declared majors, many of whom hope to become the next Steven Spielberg. Others will find success in landing union jobs in the film industry in New Mexico.

According to Monique Anair, assistant professor and Coordinator for Contract Training, 67 percent of the students in SFCC’s film technician training program will participate in Film Crew Advancement, a state-funded program managed by the New Mexico Film Office that assists production companies in hiring new talent to create more job opportunities for New Mexico film and television professionals. The program pays half the wages of qualifying crew members in specialized craft positions for up to 1,040 hours of work.

The new collaboration has been facilitated with Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 federal grant funds. This grant has been instrumental in providing technology that helps bridge career pathways between local high schools, SFCC and four-year universities. Grant funds have been used to acquire a laser cutter, a 3-D printer and to develop new curricula. The department provides students the most current technologies and software to meet changing job market demands. Media Arts, for example, offers cutting-edge classes in game design, web design, 3-D graphics and animation.

Taussig said he and Anair will be working on the concept of meta majors, a way to mix and match different courses that can then be applied toward an overall degree in multiple career pathways. Faculty members point to success stories. Every week Taussig looks at The Santa Fe Reporter to see what its art director Anson Stevens-Bollen, one of his former students, is doing. Stevens-Bollen got his degree from the college in media arts and said the program, “created a drive for me. It was such a positive environment and the teachers were great. I pushed myself the furtherest I could go.”

The film faculty cited Daniel Carlton, another grad who is a union member, who has worked in sound departments (boom operator and sound utility) and composed music for 35 films and TV shows. “Those are skills I learned from taking just about every audio class with (instructor) Jason Goodyear,” Carlton said. He’s now spending time writing musical scores for short films. “Composing is where my passion lies and I wouldn’t have been able to bridge the film and music world without the things I learned at Santa Fe Community College,” he said. Townsend, who came from Colorado to study film at SFCC, is putting skills he learned at the college to use on movie sets and in commercials for products such as Under Armour.

His first paying job was as a location assistant on “Cosmos,” a 2014 science documentary hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that aired on the National Geographic Channel. He also worked on Adam Sandler’s Western, “The Ridiculous Six,” and on the Western revenge tale “In a Valley of Violence,” with Ethan Hawke and John Travolta.

The 28-year-old worked on “Hostiles,” a Western shot in New Mexico. The Scott Cooper-directed movie features Christian Bale and Wes Studi. He continues to work on his own writing projects, and will work on a television show expected to go into production soon.

“SFCC’s training is seated in reality,” he said. “I find lots of my peers, some with four-year degrees and giant debt, are doing the same thing I’m doing. I’m very thankful to the college for designing a program for students wanting to get into the business and teaching them how to use the tools available.”