New Mexico: Are you ready for your close-up?

March 5, 2019

I have worked on Hollywood movies for more than 40 years — lots of movies, ranging from Apocalypse Now, a couple of Star Wars films, Indiana Jones movies, Avatar and a bunch of Marvel films. The total box office for the films I worked on is over $6 billion.

I’m at that point in life where I want to mentor youth who are interested in working in the media industry someday. I volunteer with nonprofits in Northern New Mexico that focus on teaching media skills to New Mexican youth.

A lot has been written about the dire state of our public schools, but there is a little jewel of a program being run by True Kids 1, a nonprofit operating out of Taos. True Kids 1 has an educational model where K-12 classrooms are supported by industry professionals to create media projects that engage them with their communities and develop vocational and social and emotional skills.

What’s unique about this program is that through working alongside media professionals on film shoots, interviews and youth-hosted radio shows, True Kids 1 students develop a wide range of skills and experience that will help them compete for jobs in the media industry.

And that’s where things really get interesting for our state.

We are all aware that New Mexico has one of the largest unemployment rates in the nation and the extreme hardship this brings our communities. Without a source of jobs, it is no wonder many of our youth leave the state seeking opportunities elsewhere. And without a qualified workforce, many industries shun coming here. Except for one. Drum roll: Hollywood.

Production is booming in New Mexico. The studios come for our beautiful locations and talented crews. But as production expands, the industry is wondering where the necessary workforce will come from to fill all these new jobs. Drum roll: New Mexico’s talented youth who have benefited by being trained by the True Kids 1 model.

This program acts not only as a funnel to New Mexico colleges but also directly into the media industry. Besides being trained in technical skills, the students are taught how to interview for jobs and how to succeed in those jobs once they acquire them. Much of this teaching happens in the form of mentoring by industry professionals who know exactly what is needed. Like my colleagues and me.

Recently, my attention was brought to a bill in our state Senate, Senate Bill 103. This bill wants to expand the True Kids 1 media educational model into schools throughout New Mexico in a cost-effective way. We cannot afford to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.

So about that close-up. Our youth will get high-paying media jobs, they get to stay in our state, and we get to chip away at that unemployment rate.

Sounds like a blockbuster to me.

Ken Fischer lives in Santa Fe with his wife, award-winning author, Carlyn Montes De Oca.