When did you graduate from CMI?
Where are you and what are you doing now?
I currently live in Albuquerque, NM where I work as a commercial and film producer. Shortly after graduating, I was introduced to a few CMI alumni, Keagan Karnes and Sheridan O’Donnell, and we began working together. As projects and opportunities grew, we noticed the need for a company structure so we started a production company now known as Hardline Films.
What do you like most about what you’re doing?
I love that I can continue working with the people I met in CMI. We built such a collaborative artistic team fostered by the program and I feel so lucky that we are able to continue those relationships in our professional careers. As a producer, you always want to have a strong trustworthy team going into production, and I can always count on my fellow CMI alumni to create top level content. The team has definitely grown over the past few years, but our reputation allowed us to work with some of the best cast and crew members in Albuquerque.
What are some projects/jobs that you’ve worked on since graduating?
My favorite commercials include our “Someone For You” spot for eHarmony which was named one of the “Top Mother’s Day Ads of the Year” by the national publication, Advertising Age. Most recently, I’m tremendously proud of the spot I produced titled “The New El Paso” created for Destination El Paso. It aired across the nation on CBS!
As far as narrative content goes, I produced a short titled “A Picnic Table, At Dusk” directed by Sheridan O’Donnell and starring Taylor Hickson (SyFy’s Deadly Class, Marvel’s Deadpool). It premiered at one of the 5 largest festivals in North America, the Vancouver International Film Festival! Over the summer I produced a short executive produced by WeTransfer and directed by Jessica Mendez-Siqueiros called “Pozole.” It was just selected to screen at the academy award qualifying festival, Cinequest!
This will also be my second year as the Artistic Director for the Las Cruces International Film Festival! We’re bringing in some of the best independent films we’ve ever had and an incredible guest list including George Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Kathleen Quinlan, Beverly D’angelo, Zoe Perry, and the recent winner of NBC’s The Voice, Chevel Shepherd!
What classes and learning experiences at CMI were the most valuable in building towards your current job?
Mixed Class Productions and Senior Projects really helped give me an understanding of how each of the departments worked together. Working with so many different people in a variety of roles really helped my group of friends find each other and continue to create together throughout our years in the program.
Ilana Lapid’s Portfolio Design class was essential to helping me create a website and showcase my work. Although I do not want to be a director, Ilana’s Directing I class was a huge turning point for me in my CMI career. Before that class I had always done just enough to keep my GPA up in school. Her collaborative environment and constant encouragement really pushed me to challenge myself, leading me to a much more rewarding CMI experience.
What are you doing when you aren’t working?
When I’m not working, I’m hanging out with my film friends. It’s not always easy to get everyone together with long work days and inconsistent call times, but we always have a blast when we’re all together.
I’ve also been really into hiking and interior design recently. I love studying different aesthetics and color palettes and figuring out what works in my home.
I’m not sure if this counts as “not working” but I love traveling to international film festivals whenever my films get in. Belize and Vancouver both put on top notch events.
What’s some advice you would give a CMI student (or maybe potential CMI student) about their time at CMI?
Can I give you a top ten list? I have lots!
- Work on as many projects as possible. Whether it is someone’s senior thesis project or a small assignment, working on set will make you a better filmmaker.
- Stay humble. You will not always be in an above the line position, but volunteer anyway.
- If you find someone else who can do what you do, they are not your rival. You will find that it benefits you both more to work together, challenge each other, and learn from each other. In the future you will find that you will be recommending each other for jobs.
- It is perfectly okay to go into CMI pursuing a certain career and discovering a different passion along the way. I went into CMI wanting to be an editor and found that producing fit my skill set much better.
- Accept that criticism will come your way. It is an important skill to be able to take in notes from professors and peers. It will not always be fun, but it will make you better.
- You don’t need an assignment to create something. Making more films will help you develop your craft.
- Find your team. I began working with a very talented director named Robert Dugan while in CMI. We are still working together 5 years later.
- It is never too late to start taking your classes seriously. My first few years in CMI, I did the minimum required to receive an A or B, never really standing out. Once I started holding myself to a higher standard, the quality of my projects and assignments grew exponentially.
- If you’re going to start a production company, know that you will legally have to keep books, pay taxes, and stay insured. LLCs are really affordable in the state of NM, there are lots of accounting firms that work with small businesses, and production insurance is always cheaper if you go for year round coverage instead of job to job.
- Know that working in film is not easy. You will be working 12 hours or longer each day, you will sometimes be working nights, you will put in hard work for little praise, and there will be periods of time where it will be difficult to see your friends and family. If you can accept that, knowing you still love it anyway, then this career is for you.
What’s next for you?
Right now we’re getting ready for the Las Cruces International Film Festival! I’m really proud of the film selection this year. We have a really strong program. Right after, I will be heading to San Jose to see my film screen at Cinequest!
Other than that, my company is bidding on a few commercials right now and I’ve put together a budget to line produce a feature film coming to Albuquerque this year.
Thanks for sharing with us, Jenn! Anything else you’d like to say?
Once you get out of school, I would definitely recommend finding a mentor that works in the line of work you want to pursue. I was lucky to work with another CMI alumni, Keagan Karnes right after I graduated. I learned so much so quickly working with someone who shared my work ethic and passion. We ended up starting a company with a third CMI alumni, Sheridan O’Donnell called Hardline Films. It has been such a fun journey since.
And thank you to all of the professors and staff that encouraged my friends and I while we were in school. Your support meant so much.