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The Farmer — CMI Student Experience

Poster for The Farmer

The Las Cruces International Film Festival welcomes the premiere of The Farmer, an independent feature film created as a collaboration between the Creative Media Institute, Tomahawk Bridge Films, and Film Four Corners.

The film, which was directed by CMI’s Sherwin Lau, written by filmmaker Alec Garcia, and shot by CMI professor Mitch Fowler, is just one of many independent features filmed here in Las Cruces. What separates this film from the others, however, is the fact that it was crewed almost exclusively by CMI students through a tailor-made course dedicated to its production.

Among these students were CMI seniors Paulina Lopez and Mario Martinez, who served as DIT and 1st AC, respectively. Lopez, as with the other students, was brought into the project during pre-production. While Martinez and the camera team practiced crew drills and advanced lighting setups, Lopez was sitting in on the producing, scheduling, and screenwriting meetings that were open to any student in the class.

On set, Martinez worked primarily with BlackMagic Design’s URSA mini Pro, while students on A-Cam were able to familiarize themselves with the ARRI Alexa. Meanwhile, as DIT, Paulina Lopez was transferring footage on various shuttle drives and backing up terabytes of data on a RAID array. Though Lopez had worked on numerous student films, a full-fledged feature proved to be a different beast. “Production can be messy,” Lopez laughed, “but it was great to learn how things could go wrong, and see the people who go out of their way to make them right.”

Paulina Lopez on set.

Mario Martinez with the URSA Mini Pro

The class was intended to give students hands-on experience of every aspect of feature film creation, from story development and screenwriting to production. By the end of the project, it not only provided this experience, but also connected students in unexpected ways. Having a feature film credit, even on a small independent feature, can make a world of difference when it comes to future opportunities. The Farmer gave students like Paulina Lopez and Mario Martinez a level of experience and skill that not many other film students have when graduating from a film program, and will certainly serve to bolster the success of Lopez and Martinez’s future careers.

“There aren’t a lot of times when undergraduate students get real experience” Martinez said, “For a lot of undergraduate students, their experience is PAing on a larger production, and when you’re PAing, you don’t necessarily get the department that you want to go into. Using experiences like The Farmer as a basis for the program would allow the CMI to become a larger player among film schools.”

After graduation, Lopez plans on moving to a larger film hub and pursuing a career in editing or animation. Martinez, on the other hand, is waiting to hear back from graduate programs, and ultimately aims to establish himself as a cinematographer in the independent film industry, eventually settling as a film professor to pass knowledge on to the next generation.

The Farmer will be screening during the Las Cruces International Film Festival from Friday March 5th at 8:00 PM to Sunday March 7th at 8:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased from the LCIFF website.