New Mexico family stars in hunting TV show
Farmington star of 'Beyond Rubicon' says the Sportsman Channel TV show documents the 'true essence of hunting'
FARMINGTON — New Mexico has long been a lure for hunters, and for the past year, viewers of the TV show "Beyond Rubicon" have gotten to experience that thrill from the comfort of their homes.
The Sportsman Channel show is produced by Albuquerque resident Brian Cillessen. It stars him and his brother, Jeff, and their father, Bill, both of whom live in Farmington.
The show's first season, which included 12 episodes, began airing on the channel in January 2016. The second season is now in post-production and could start airing in January 2018, according to Brian Cillessen.
The show documents the family's adventures as they hunt big game in New Mexico and across the country. It aims to showcase "the true essence of hunting," said Bill Cillessen, who owns a Farmington general contracting company called B & M Cillessen.
"My family has been hunting for about four generations, and the connection that Brian and Jeff and I have on a hunt is amazing," he said. "I've really gone from the teacher to the student because Jeff and Brian have worked very hard to learn not just about hunting but about the entire experience."
The Cillessens focus on free-range, fair-chase hunts on public land. Episodes have included hunts for antelope, Barbary sheep, javalina, oryx, elk and deer.
"We want to do and we want to show what other hunters in New Mexico do," said Brian Cillessen in a recent phone interview. "Not everyone can afford private ranch hunts, and there aren't many professional hunters. And a lot of people might scoff and say, 'Don't tell people our secrets about hunting in New Mexico,' but it would be an injustice if we didn't highlight New Mexico public lands."
After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for 22 years, Brian Cillessen dove head first into the hunt-filming industry. To film the show's first episode, a team of six hit the trails like "a bag of monkeys," he said.
"Nobody wanted to talk about our idea, they wanted to see our idea," Cillessen said. "So we filmed our pilot episode and that became our pitch episode. There probably wasn't a piece of bark on any tree that we didn't touch and make noise with. Having a camera crew with us who didn't know much about hunting worked for us and against us. Yes, we made a lot of noise, but because they didn't have much experience, we opened up to the camera a lot more, we explained things a lot more and that translated on screen really well."
Another part of getting the show off the ground came from a good contact.
While serving in the Marines, Cillessen met Ann Lerner, who works for the city of Albuquerque Film Office. The two struck up conversation during a chance meeting at a Toys for Tots event in Albuquerque. Lerner inquired about what Cillessen wanted to do after the military.
"I told her I wanted to star in, direct and produce a hunting show in New Mexico and about New Mexico," Cillessen recalled. "Her face lit up, and from then on, she has been a tremendous support."
With Lerner's help, Cillessen met industry professionals with experience in filming and a sense of adventure.
"I introduced Brian to a few local filmmakers for him to talk to who could help him produce his show," Lerner said in an email. "And we talked about the 'nuts and bolts' of filmmaking, which trust me, is not all glamorous."
Cillessen's goal was to get his show on local or regional channels. But Lerner and his new connections urged him to aim for a national network.
"With Ann's help, we set some pretty high standards, and we aligned ourselves with the right people. We were lucky enough to get on with Sportsman Channel and the rest is history," Cillessen said.
In addition to starring two Farmington residents, the show has other local ties.
Bill Cillessen said he and his son, Jeff, who works for his father's company, rely on local resources for everything from processing meat from harvests to purchasing equipment for bows and firearms, which they've done at local retailers like Xpert Archery and East Main Trade Center in Farmington.
"In the first episode that Brian made, I got my first elk with a bow," Bill Cillessen said. "I hate to admit, but I turned into a crybaby on television. But that feeling was amazing, I can't even describe it, and I think that goes back to the primitive part of hunting."
Renee Lucero is a freelancer writer for The Daily Times.