With the film industry in New Mexico growing at a rapid pace and big-name production houses like Netflix bringing large-scale operations to Albuquerque, it’s clear more college graduates will gravitate toward the field after finishing school. The Albuquerque Film and Music Experience seeks to provide those opportunities in the field to students by connecting them with industry professionals while also allowing them to showcase their own work, according to executive director Ivan Wiener.
The festival is currently open for submissions to its 2023 festival, with students interested in submitting in the student film category being permitted free submissions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for a fee waiver code.
“Our mission is to provide opportunities for students in film, music and the arts. So, we created this student film category to showcase what talent there is on the college level as well as the high school level. (The University of New Mexico) has become a very strong partner as well as (Central New Mexico Community College). A lot of the high schools in Albuquerque that focus on digital arts, film and music have also taken part in the festival and have greatly benefited from the connections that they've made,” Wiener said.
Founded in 2013 with the help of Robert Redford and his wife Sibylle Szaggars, the festival mainly focuses not only education, but economic development for the city, as well as on networking. Wiener highlighted one of the big differences between AFMX and other film festivals is the festival being “wide open to approach.”
“If there's Jeff Bridges at the festival or Marissa Tomei or Robert Redford — everybody has an opportunity to walk right up to them and start a conversation. And that's really how storytelling begins. That's how collaborations begin,” Wiener said.
While education is an important tool, the film and music industries are built on relationships and connections — something students can find at AFMX, according to Wiener.
“We really want students to participate in our year-round programming and at the festival
because, in life, the education is one thing, but relationships are everything in the film and music industry. And we provide that platform for people to build relationships,” Wiener said.
Local Albuquerque filmmaker and UNM alumnus Andy Kastelic has submitted a number of short films to the festival in addition to having taken home the award for “Best New Mexico Film” four times.
“They were really appreciative of the work. I liked how they were screening things. I liked how they were treating filmmakers. It's a repeat business on my end, just being able to keep submitting,” Kastelic said.
While Kastelic’s tenure at UNM didn’t coincide with his discovery of the festival, he still said the low cost to submit combined with the relationships formed and the ability to screen and talk about your work were more than enough reason to submit to the festival.
“Especially as a student, if you’re looking to, one, showcase your work and, two, talk about your work, I’d say they’re pretty darn good about that … And for a student, it shouldn’t be enough just to share your thing; it’s how you talk about it. And, especially how you talk about it might be why someone comes up to you afterwards … And three, I’d say, are the relationships … Some of my relationships (from the festival) really have gone on to last,” Kastelic said.
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Student submissions account for about 8% of the total 5,000 submissions that the festival has received in its 11-year history, according to Wiener, but submitting is not the only way students can get involved. AFMX also offers internships, volunteer opportunities, scholarships and year-round events, like their “Dinner & A Movie” series.
“The students that attend the festival (and) build relationships with the special guests that are here have an opportunity to have a leg up when it comes to getting employment on a production because they have the relationship … And for students that want to submit film projects, we do offer a free submission. It pays off for students to submit their project to the festival … If they’re accepted to the festival, it’s only gonna increase their notoriety, connections, relationships and the like in the industry,” Wiener said.
This year’s late submission deadline is May 8, with the festival taking place from Sept. 26 through Oct. 1. Submissions are currently open.
John Scott is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @JohnSnott