When I first knew I wanted to be a filmmaker, I was around 12 years old and not thrilled to live in Santa Fe. Wanting to be a filmmaker made up most of my identity; I felt restless without opportunities to do the one thing I thought about all the time. I wrote scripts in Google Docs and swindled my friends into reading them. I felt like if I made a movie, there would be no outlet or audience to share it with. It felt like shouting into a void.
Recently, I’ve seen headlines telling New Mexicans to brace themselves for an inflation of film industry jobs and to get excited because Netflix is investing a large amount of money in New Mexico’s film industry. I’ve seen differing numbers describing said investment — the smallest amount reported was $200 million.
A lot of my filmmaking has had the crutch of the Stagecoach Foundation’s support. It is a nonprofit in Santa Fe dedicated to expanding the film industry in New Mexico. In my experience, it’s definitely the best place to start for filmmakers, and I only recently realized the opportunities I have working with the foundation aren’t available to people in other places, and not a lot of indie filmmakers at the beginning of their careers get to have the experiences I do. Despite what a younger Emma thought, New Mexico has a substantial film industry.
My third opportunity in film — my first to work as a filmmaker to work with Stagecoach — was 2019’s Desert Nightmare, a two-weekend class that ended in a film festival. I vividly remember sitting in the back of the Jean Cocteau Cinema with my lead actor and watching something I had written and directed on a movie theater screen. (I was also in it because I had very limited access to actors, and when I decide my work is good enough for other people to see, it feels wildly personal.)
My film was called Better Than — it ended up being invited or accepted to two other festivals and a screening, all three of which ended up being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It usually takes a village to make a movie. I haven’t found too many people who are willing to work with me consistently, but I often need another camera operator and actors, which has been much more difficult, as safety during the pandemic is the priority. At this point, the vast majority of what I’ve done has been writing.
As I grew older and more social, I became aware of New Mexico’s thriving film industry. When I looked for opportunities, more started appearing — because I was getting older and objectively better and because there was more space for filmmakers.
I consider a lot of my projects movies, regardless of how successful they are or what the production budget was. It’s still a short story on film. If we boil down why I’m drawn to the moviemaking art form, is because it’s validating. I can express something, film other people going through it and then share it. I’m grateful for the opportunities that exist in this state for young people to share their stories and proud to be witnessing the growth of the industry.