Networking event designed to bring filmmakers together in Farmington

Panel discussion, film screenings planned

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Luke Renner, right, professor of digital media arts and design at San Juan College, and his project management students are staging an economic development event focusing on filmmaking opportunities in San Juan County on Saturday in downtown Farmington.
  • San Juan College professor Luke Renner came up with the idea for the event, but his students are executing it.
  • The event celebrates 120 years of filmmaking in New Mexico.
  • The event will be streamed live for filmmakers who are unable to attend.

FARMINGTON — Film enthusiasts will gather Saturday night in downtown Farmington for an economic-development event designed to provide networking opportunities and build a database of local film-related specialists.

The event, which also celebrates 120 years of New Mexico filmmaking, takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Complete Streets headquarters at 119 W. Main St.

The idea for the celebration came from San Juan College digital media professor Luke Renner, but it was a group of students in his project management class that have done most of the legwork involved in making it a reality.

"We were bouncing around ideas on things to do to generate interest in having more films come to Farmington," Renner said, explaining the origin of the project.

Renner challenged his students in early February to stage an event that would call attention to that subject, and they responded in short order.

"Three weeks is a really, really fast pace for any kind of project," he said, but he noted that his students have embraced the challenge and put in necessary time and effort to bring it to fruition.

That group includes Christine Becenti, Randy Dodge, Maurice Johnson, Michael Manygoats and Rabe Yazzie. Yazzie has helped lead the group and said its efforts have focused on designing posters and digital promotional pieces, as well as crafting an event page for Facebook. The group also secured the venue, lined up participants and found sponsors.

"I'm pretty amazed to see we got this event going in three weeks," he said.

A still from the 1908 production "For the Love of a Navajo," which is the first film shot in Farmington.

The short time frame was a product of the desire of organizers to stage an event built around the 120th anniversary of the first film production in New Mexico. Renner said Thomas Edison visited Isleta Pueblo in the then-New Mexico Territory on Feb. 24, 1898, and shot a film called "New Mexico Day School."

It wasn't long before film production came to San Juan County, he said. A film called "For the Love of a Navajo" was shot in Farmington in 1908, and though no known copies of the film exist, Renner is hoping Saturday's event will come to the attention of someone who has one and is willing to share it.

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The event will open with a networking mixer before New Mexico Film Foundation executive director Dirk Norris makes a presentation. A panel of local filmmakers will hold a discussion and question-and-answer session, then short films by local filmmakers and San Juan College students will be shown. Renner said the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau will be on hand to register local actors, directors, editors, crew members and other film specialists for its filmmaking directory, and a photography station will be set up where actors who lack a current head shot can get one taken.

A still from the 1908 production "For the Love of a Navajo," the first film shot in Farmington.

The panel includes Kody Dayish, Brent Garcia, Luke Hawthorne, Robert Martinez and Jeremy Orr. The event also will be streamed live for filmmakers who are unable to attend.

Although San Juan County is far from the state's relatively busy filmmaking corridor between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Renner believes the area offers plentiful opportunities, noting that the film industry has moved away from Hollywood blockbusters and toward more modest, independent projects that could find a home here. He is hopeful Saturday's event will open some eyes, and minds, to those possibilities.

More:Young Navajo actor poised to make big screen debut in 'Hostiles'

"If you have all these people who don't know each other in the same room, that lends itself to future projects," he said.

Yazzie is hoping for a crowd of between 50 and 100 people, and he hopes the event does well enough to become more than a one-off.

"I really want this to succeed and, hopefully, have this occur every year," he said. "We want to show we have some talented filmmakers in San Juan County. We also have a lot of beautiful location sites around here, and a lot of people just don't know about that."

Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.