FARMINGTON – The New Mexico Film Office has created a new grant to benefit Native American filmmakers in the state while creating more educational and financial support.
Director of the New Mexico Film Office Todd Christensen announced the creation of the Sen. John Pinto Memorial Filmmakers Fund last week. State lawmakers approved $100,000 annually for the grant program during last year’s legislative session.
“I know New Mexico will be made proud by the writing, acting and directorial talents of the recipients of these awards,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a written statement.
Sen. Pinto, who died last May, sponsored the legislation. According to the state’s film office, he “understood that in order to change stereotypes of Native Americans, it is necessary to support students interested in filmmaking as well as education institutions working with Native students in New Mexico.”
The grant “will provide Native Americans with the resources they need to develop and engage with the media industry and educate others as to who we are, to move our communities and people forward,” said Lynn Trujillo, secretary of the Department of Indian Affairs.
The funds will be awarded in $5,000 increments, and all projects have to be completed within two years of funding, according to the state’s announcement. The grants can be used for all aspects of production for film, television, audio-visual projects or video games. To apply, filmmakers should include a project description, budget and letters of support.
The grant’s establishment comes as the state is trying to expand its film industry and entice large productions to New Mexico with tax cuts and incentives. For example, Lujan Grisham signed a law last year that raised the film tax credit cap from $50 million annually to $110 million. And both Netflix and NBCUniversal announced plans to expand their film presence in the state and create studios in Albuquerque.
The film industry already represents a large economic force within the state. According to the state’s film office, from July 2018 to June 2019, the film and television sector generated about $525.5 million in direct spending.
The grant is seen by many as a way to promote local talent and elevate diverse stories alongside the developing presence of larger Hollywood productions.
“We hope to develop the talent of Native filmmakers so they can work in a growing industry and tell their own stories,” said Alicia J. Keyes, secretary of the Economic Development Department.
The legislation also established a board of scholars and film professionals throughout the state to decide on grant applications. Board members include Ramona Emerson, Beverly Morris, Chris Eyre, Nanobah Becker and Beverly Singer. Films funded through the grant program will also be screened and highlighted through the New Mexico Filmmakers Conference.
Applicants must be a registered members of one of the tribes or pueblos of New Mexico.