Rebecca Stover has ironed 300 towelettes, swept a road at 4 a.m. and held a microphone while balanced on the edge of cliff.
“I enjoy it so much,” she said of her time on a film crew. “It just goes by fast.”
Stover began her film crew career by enrolling in Albuquerque TVI’s film technician training program, which began in January to train workers for New Mexico’s growing movie industry.
In its second semester, the program is doing well enough to have its coordinator happily worried. Many TVI students are interrupting their studies to work on media productions lured to New Mexico by an array of financial and logistical incentives.
“My problem is not that there’s not enough jobs; there’s not enough students to fill the jobs available,” said Grubb Graebner, a film industry veteran who coordinates the curriculum for the training program at TVI. “They’re trying to grab my students before we’re even done with class.”
In April and May, 15 of 52 students in the first phase of the training program in Albuquerque joined the local film workers union, said Michael Cranney, director of Digital Imaging and Visualization at TVI.
Union membership is often a key step to getting work in the industry.
It’s likely many students who joined the union will be busy working on media productions, despite having completed only one semester of the three-semester training program, Cranney said.
He said students may receive credit for working on media projects, depending on whether the job demands meet the TVI training program’s goals.
He said three films will be starting production in New Mexico this month, and at least one production would be starting up each month over the next eight months.
“We’re going to be busy,” he said. “Demand is still outpacing supply.”
Since 2002, films made in the state have had an economic effect of more than $245 million, according to the New Mexico Film Office.
But with the fickle film industry, a flood of work can sometimes be followed by a trickle, Graebner said. New Mexico still has a way to go to build up a steady supply of productions.
“Right now, we still live on the edge,” he said.
To further solidify the industry’s presence, the program at TVI will expand when its third semester begins in September. The courses will cover camera skills, sound and video editing, and production office work.
Graebner said such offerings would complement the skills being taught in the training program and give students more job options when they graduate. He also wants to see more training for directors and writers – the people coming up with the ideas that can employ hundreds.
Stover, who has had several jobs operating a microphone on productions, said she plans on taking the sound editing course.
Though she’s not sure editing is in her future, she said it is valuable to understand the entire cycle of sound in a film, from the capture of dialogue from an actor’s mouth to the editing of digital files in a studio.
Stover said she intends to finish the training program before going to work full time. She plans on joining the union in August or September.
TVI’s next three-semester technician training program could begin in September, a semester earlier than planned. The idea for an accelerated schedule, which is not finalized, came about because of the influx of media productions hungry for skilled workers, Cranney said.
“Some concern was voiced that we weren’t going to meet the needs of all the movies that are going to be shooting over the next year,” he said.
“We look like we’re kind of running ahead on what we had estimated on projects.”