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.