The future of film at UNM has a new name: Department of Film and Digital Arts slated for fall semester

by elizabeth dwyer

The film landscape in New Mexico is changing, and cinematic course offerings at The University of New Mexico are changing right along with it. UNM’s Department of Cinematic Arts has been renamed the Department of Film and Digital Arts, and its curriculum has been updated to better align with the burgeoning film and television industry in New Mexico.

The new degree plans in Film and Digital Arts will allow students to choose a focus in Film Production, Gaming and Animation, or Film History and Criticism. The department is also offering new minors in each of these areas.

With new classes being introduced, such as Acting for the Camera, Directing, Set Design and Construction, Practical Special Effects and expanded coursework in Screenwriting, department chair James Stone is adamant that Film and Digital Arts offers a highly flexible and interdisciplinary path to graduation.

“We want people to be able to focus on their main interests,” Stone says. “At the same time there is this tremendous opportunity to work across the disciplines.”

About three years ago, the department of Cinematic Arts and Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media program joined forces, and have been gradually working toward this moment ever since.

“With Netflix coming to town, and the new governor being so proactive about forging what they call an ‘above the line’ (film) industry in New Mexico – not just providing the crews for Hollywood or Netflix productions, but nurturing a whole community who would be the creative force behind these projects,” Stone says, “I think UNM will be instrumental in providing that creative force.”

Many working professionals teach in the department, including cinematographer Barry Kirk and screenwriter Matt McDuffie (The Face of Love). While the film and television industry has grown rapidly in the last decade or so – in 2018, Moviemaker Magazine named Albuquerque the No. 1 city for filmmakers to live and work – movies have always had a home in New Mexico.

“We have a storied film history,” Stone says. “People don’t realize that it goes back much further than ten years. If I were a student, I’d want to be a part of that heritage, the heritage of moviemaking in this state.”