CMI CMI Alums Reunite to Promote Local Restaurants on ABQ Channel 26 | New Mexico State University - BE BOLD. Shape the Future.
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CMI Alums Reunite to Promote Local Restaurants on ABQ Channel 26

It all started in the early 2010s. The blazing Las Cruces sun beat down on Matt Holguin and Julian Nuñez, lying in the desert at the foot of the Organ Mountains. Just a couple of college guys and a camera, drenched in sweat and filled with determination to make an awesome short film. Seeing the hard work and creativity of Holguin, Nuñez thought to himself “Me and Matt, we’re gonna do a lot of projects together.”

Then came the zombie music video. Julian Nuñez met with another CMI student, Luke Hawthorne, and with the help of other members of the CMI, brought together extras, prosthetic effects, and smoke machines, dressing countless people (including Nuñez himself) in full-on zombie getups. Their hard work and resourcefulness shined through the project. “I knew these guys were some solid guys that I definitely wanna keep around.” Nuñez said.  “Just great guys.”

After graduation, however, the three found themselves on separate paths. Nuñez pursued the business side, creating his own brand as a media marketer with his company Line In Media. Holguin worked his way up through the film industry, starting out as a Production Assistant, eventually working roles like Set Dec Coordinator and Transportation Dispatcher. Hawthorne, meanwhile, served as an Assistant Locations Coordinator for both union shows and independent films. While they kept up with each other at a distance, it would be years until the three of them would get to work together again.

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But nearly a decade after leaving the CMI, an opportunity for reunion presented itself. While wrapping his short film, De La Luz, Nuñez stumbled upon a project sponsored by the city of Albuquerque’s Arts and Culture Department called The Virtual Visionaries, spotlighting local creatives doing what they do best. With his project La Vida Buena: The Good Life, Nuñez aimed to focus on local restaurants, many of which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. With grant money from the city of Albuquerque, Nuñez brought Matt Holguin and Luke Hawthorne, among others, to crew the project. Hawthorne was already highlighting local artists through his Passions series on instagram, making him the perfect candidate to direct. Meanwhile, Hawthorne worked as cinematographer while Nuñez wrote the script and hosted the project.

The team worked with four local restaurants, speaking with their owners and managers and showing off their food. Restaurants run the gamut from Tako Ten, a fusion taco restaurant, to neighborhood brewery B2B, 505 Central Food Hall, and sustainable eatery Farm & Table. Without a doubt, the program is guaranteed to make you hungry.

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On top of that, thanks to years of industry experience and a little bit of luck, the production process turned out to be a piece of cake. “It was really funny because we were doing preproduction and we’re like ‘Why is this so easy?’” Nuñez laughed. “We kept telling each other ‘This is going too smoothly, guys. There’s been no major issues.’ It turned out to be an easy pre-production, and an easy eight-hour day.”

Without a doubt, the knowledge and skill sets the crew gained through the CMI served as the foundation for independent projects like these and industry careers alike. “All the time, I’m constantly reminded of CMI, whether it’s Sherwin’s producing class or Mitch’s Cinematography class, Rajeev’s Documentary class.” Hawthorne remarked. “There’s something I pulled from every class that I use from a daily basis. Sometimes it’s not in the ways that I think. That’s why I love it. It was a great place to just practice”

“I just wanted to say thank you to CMI and all the instructors we had.” Holguin added. “If it wasn’t for them, I think we’d be stuck somewhere else, but they pushed a lot of us to continue growing and following our passions and dreams.”

What’s next for the three alums? Nuñez is a busy man, but although demand for media services has skyrocketed during the pandemic, he still makes time for his own projects, sending De La Luz around to festivals, finishing up a documentary, and preparing to shoot another documentary about cockfighting in New Mexico. Meanwhile, Hawthorne is working on a show until October, before launching his feature film off the ground, and Holguin aims to continue highlighting local artists in his Passion series. Through it all, they hope to create new opportunities to work with each other for years to come.

The three alums stress the importance of supporting local businesses during the pandemic. Restaurants have been hit especially hard by a decline in customers, high risk of exposure for restaurant workers, health restrictions, and extra costs associated with adapting business models to these new circumstances. “Support the mom and pops restaurants and businesses.” Holguin emphasized. “Anyone you can. That’s the best thing we can all do right now.”

La Vida Buena: The Good Life will premiere on Saturday, May 8th, at 6:00 PM on Albuquerque’s Comcast Channel 26, and will be streamed on the Studio 519 website, or on YouTube at the following link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2_-Hk1ZuJk


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