Located on the first floor of the Student Union Building, the Southwest Film Center offers free movie screenings and other events throughout the semester to all University of New Mexico students. The center provides film fanatics, like newly appointed SWFC executive director Rylee Norman, a voice within the Associated Students at the University of New Mexico.
The SWFC offers students on campus a venue to enjoy art house films that may not be showing on other big screens near them, according to Norman. The center also helps to showcase student work.
“I work with a team of students and staff who help me support student filmmakers, student actors, students who just love film (and) the Reel Club. And we give them a voice within ASUNM Student Government and allow them to make decisions on events,” Norman said.
Norman is a film and digital arts major at UNM and an aspiring director. She often feels there is a need for more female voices in directorial roles as part of the storytelling process.
“Directing is the big thing I want to do with my life. I want to get out there. Women directors have always inspired me since I was young, so that's like my big thing I want to do … We've been notoriously underrepresented, and we still are and I think that that goes along the lines with people of color and film and people with disabilities and film as well,” Norman said.
Alongside planning different events with prizes, Norman is creating new opportunities for the student film community, including changing the Cherry Reel Film Festival by establishing a Reel Club committee to help facilitate it. The Reel Club is a student club hosted by the Film Center that is focused on viewing and creating films.
“We're doing it in a totally new format. We'll have our first Reel Club meeting (on Sept. 16) where we'll hire the Reel Club Committee, which is a first thing ever. They’ll be a part of the Southwest Film Center staff, but there'll be a Reel Club president, vice president, projects coordinator and marketing director, and they'll be the self-sustaining group of people who love film,” Norman said.
Norman and the other members of the SWFC have big plans for the upcoming semester, including collaborations with other ASUNM student service agencies, according to Emma Harrison, the center's assistant director.
“I'm really excited personally for the Halloween event that we're working on planning. We're doing a collaboration with the Arts and Crafts Center … We're working on some activities to include … We are thinking we will do a costume contest, which will be super fun, and we're looking at getting some really cool prizes for that,” Harrison said.
Having heard of the SWFC’s screenings her freshman year, Norman began to get more involved with the center her sophomore year after being selected as a chair for the Cherry Reel Film Festival. In this role, she worked with staff to plan the festival, find sponsors and judge submissions.
“It felt like a very small position with Southwest. But, in reality, no position with Southwest is small, and that's what I learned. And so I fell in love with it,” Norman said.
In addition to her position in the SWFC, Norman is a leader with the faith-based student organization Young Life, which she says prioritizes “community, adventure (and) significance.” To manage all of her leadership roles, Norman says she tries to prioritize her mental health.
“Prioritizing my mental health comes first because I haven't done that in the past with past jobs … I'm learning that if I want to keep going and I want to keep putting my heart into these organizations and things that I love to do, I really need to know my limits,” Norman said.
She aims to do that by communicating with staff about how she’s feeling, opening a dialogue for those conversations, capping her hours she spends dedicated to each organization and making sure she makes decisions based on staff interest.
“If an idea for Southwest Film doesn't make me super excited, or make somebody on my staff super excited, we're not going to go through with it,” Norman said.
Harrison also spoke to Norman's leadership qualities, excitement for the year and ability to take the center further than it has gone in the past.
“(I'm) so happy to be working with her. She's super enthusiastic. (She) has so many ideas for taking Southwest Film Center farther than it has gone in the past and really wants to get more people involved. So yeah, she's a really great leader. Super welcoming also, and just like, makes it a really fun environment,” Harrison said.
Madeline Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @maddogpukite