New Mexico Film Office announces new grant for Native American filmmakers

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Emcee Chizz Bah addresses the audience at the second annual Navajo Film Festival on June 22, 2019 in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON — A new grant offered by the New Mexico Film Office is designed to support Native American filmmakers in their quest to tell their stories on film.

Todd Christensen, director of the state film office, announced on Jan. 22 the establishment of the Senator John Pinto Memorial Filmmakers Fund to advance filmmaking in Native communities in New Mexico.

State lawmakers approved appropriating $100,000 to the film office for the grant last year, an effort championed by Pinto, who died in May.

"This looks like a great opportunity for native filmmakers to help fund more projects," said Tacey Atsitty, director of the Navajo Film Festival.

The annual festival, which marked its second year in June, screens films that have dialogue solely in the Navajo language.

"Obviously we hope Navajo filmmakers will take advantage of this opportunity to make a film that can be submitted to our event, but we are also excited to see what filmmakers from other Indigenous communities come up with as well," she said.

A press release from the state film office states a board consisting of scholars and film professionals, including Indigenous directors and media specialists Ramona Emerson, Beverly Morris, Chris Eyre, Nanobah Becker and Beverly Singer, will make the grant decisions.

The grant is named in honor of Pinto, who believed in the importance of supporting the Native American film community and understood that "in order to change stereotypes of Native Americans, it is necessary to support students interested in filmmaking" and educational institutions working with Native students in the state, the release states.

John Pinto

Tribal enrollment among requirements

Applicants must be a registered member of either one of the 19 pueblos, three Apache tribes or the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

Grants are awarded to projects by Native American students and Native American filmmakers living and working in the state.

The allocation will be distributed in $5,000 increments and can be used to fund any aspect of production, including those situated for film, television, video games or audio-visual projects.

Applications need to consist of a project description and budget explaining how the amount would be used, and include any supporting material.

Projects must be completed within two years of funding and films created through the program will be screened or highlighted through the New Mexico Filmmakers Conference or Showcase.

For more information about the Senator John Pinto Memorial Filmmakers Fund, contact the New Mexico Film Office at 505-476-5600, or online under the "education" tab on the film office website,

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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