“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.” -President Barack Obama
May 9, 2012
By Robert Redford
Actor, Director, Producer
The Albuquerque Journal published a prominently placed editorial on May 1 that was based on a recent story written by a reporter who, in fairness, requested an interview, on a short deadline, which I was unable to meet as I was out of the country. This editorial portrayed me as an unethical Hollywood interloper who, by inference, had made great personal gain from taxpayer money.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s time to set the record straight.
In February 2008, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs announced that it was purchasing the Los Luceros property. I was not even in the picture. Over some years prior, we had put time into requests from the Richardson administration on how our Sundance programs were conceived and run. That was the extent of it.
A year after the purchase the state requested that we explore whether or not there may be a collaborative model involving the property, which would result in providing programming with a focus on Native American and Hispanic populations in preparing them for careers in film and other aspects of the entertainment industry, which had been growing fast in New Mexico. It seemed a worthy goal, so we began meetings with the state.
Out of these meetings came a Memo of Understanding between Redford Enterprises, Cultural Affairs and the New Mexico Film Office. In May 2009, Gov. Richardson announced the collaboration.
The intent of this relationship was to create and expand training programs in film, arts and the environment at Los Luceros. This, he said, would enable Cultural Affairs to fulfill its dual mission of protecting the state’s cultural heritage, while supplying educational programs to benefit the people of New Mexico.
We began providing and collaborating on programs immediately, with most taking place at Los Luceros — writing and audition workshops, actors labs, directing, cinematography, production and economic development workshops. The highly regarded Sundance Native Program continued its labs and workshops, in New Mexico.
All of this education, job training and career building have been provided free, at no cost to any of the New Mexican participants.
These programs, agreed to in the MOU signed in February 2010, were the operating framework for the state-funded master plan and federally funded architectural designs, building renovations and new construction. The MOU provided for us a priority reservation use of Los Luceros via the Department of Cultural Affairs, and participation in a job-training program funded by the New Mexico Department of Economic Development and the New Mexico Film Office.
In late 2010, as state budget cuts appeared necessary, we were asked to amend the MOU in order to reduce the state financial commitment. We readily agreed. The use of state training dollars was dropped from the revised MOU that we, and the state, signed in December 2010.
This revised MOU became an issue when Gov. Susana Martinez took office. Mind you, it’s the MOU that drops a state funding requirement. We remained in limbo on many aspects of the relationship, and yet, we continued to provide programs at Los Luceros and at other locations.
As of today, Cultural Affairs hasn’t unequivocally said the department will honor either MOU. We were asked to obtain liability insurance, which was in process when they closed Los Luceros.
We continue offering programs in other locations and are exploring alternatives should collaborating with the state prove too political or impossible. I have a long history with the state of New Mexico and I love it here. I try to make a contribution as both a taxpayer and a citizen and will continue down that path with or without the blessing or cooperation of Martinez and her administration.
There seemed to be some promising developments between one big government office and our own International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees after the dust-up in March, wherein the NM Dept. of Tourism and New Mexico dollars went virtually ALL OUT OF STATE (save for approx. 6 actors and 2 crew members, and a 4 day local shoot).
Then IATSE 480 business agent Jon Hendry released this statement regarding the possible mends in going forward with the current administration giving NMFilm a fair shake, however…
A new row is brewing as another branch of our government too appears set to utilize out of state film resources and is requesting non-union talent to shoot state PSAs.
The latest word from Jon Hendry on the matter:
So the DOT are shooting a spot as they do regularly ( or it could be the MVD but whomever it’s your tax dollars) and from what I’m being told they’re bringing in an out-of-state Director and possibly a DP. They’re also casting only non-union actors. Now I’m finding this all a little hard to believe, as I sat in the Govenor’s office and i was personally assured, by the Deputy Chief of Staff, that every effort would be made to ensure this didn’t happen again, so for now I’m assuming it’s all a rumor.
There are some fine commercial directors here, as good as anyone that could be brought in. Even if there wasn’t, how would our people ever get better without the opportunities that in-State Government commercials allow ? I actually know of what I speak. In a previous life, when I was the Director of Marketing for then Gov. Richardson, we shot dozens of spots without ever bringing in anyone from out of State including the Directors and we somehow made the spots on budget and Union. Including the iconic ” You drink,you drive, you lose ” and the national award-winning ” You’re in the right state of mind, just the wrong State “
We viewed commercials as training grounds and showcase opportunities for New Mexico talent both in front and behind the camera. After all, if the State won’t help who will ?
Rather than just complain here’s a couple of concrete suggestions ; first here’s what I will be told ” Why do you care.? They are using your guys ? ” I care because I’m a New Mexican. Bringing in ATL is just wrong. Putting BTL locals on doesn’t make this right. As I’ve said, I will be an advocate, but the real key here is the film office. If they ask through the Governor that all departments send there RFP’s over so they can be emailed to interested New Mexicans who register with them, then at least the production community will have an opportunity to bid. They could also put on a job fair for State agencies which brings together possible clients and vendors. I used to bring in all the PIO’s from the State for a monthly meet and show them examples of New Mexican work, took them to sets, introduced them to our peeps. It worked.
Regardless if New Mexicans are not getting hired, we-the production community- need to fix this. I need to fix this. Because frankly I’m a big fan. I have had the privilege of working with many of you and with many outsiders. We take a back seat to no one.
In the meanwhile, today the Albuquerque Journal reports, “Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration is laying the groundwork for a wide-ranging study of New Mexico’s film rebates that it hopes will put to rest the debate over the program’s effectiveness.”
We have to wonder if the study will aim for a balanced look or simply take further aim at dismantling the industry which this administration has been so notorious for. Albuquerque has fallen from NUMBER ONE in the nation for film production to third and the state as a whole has fallen from third to NINTH under Martinez’s relatively short rule.
Study or target no study the numbers of productions which are fleeting and fleeing continue to mount, from Django Unchained in Louisiana, to Iron Man and Hunger Games in North Carolina, where Government offices actively work for film jobs and notoriety for their state residents.
New Mexico presently sits on the bench with infighting while neighboring states, previously daunted by the New Mexico’s top ranking in film were falling away, others are ramping-up as our reign is loosening and slipping away.