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Haley (2011) Student Film from the University of New Mexico

Updated on January 26, 2014
The movie poster.
The movie poster. | Source

The Project

For 10 months, Haley brought together the amazing talents of over eighty industry professionals and students. In cooperation with the Albuquerque Film Office, Albuquerque Studios, the IFDM program, UNM Department of Cinematic Arts, UNM Department of Communication and Journalism, the UNM Department of Computer Science, the UNM Department of Theater and Dance, and CNM's Film Department, Haley stunned all.

Riley
Riley
Adan
Adan
Kamas
Kamas
Haley
Haley

Behind-the-scenes

The University of New Mexico is unique in that it has not one, but two film programs: The Interdisciplinary Film & Digital Media Program and the Department of Cinematic Arts. Of course the question is why. The answer is far more complex.

The two programs are radically different in terms of curriculum. The Department of Cinematic Arts was created in the 1960s originally to teach the fundamentals of filmmaking both linear and non-linear to students. Eventually as time progressed, the Department slowly shifted its focus away from traditional film and instead chose to focus on teaching film and video as a form of art. Unfortunately, this was bad news for students interested in commercial filmmaking. Prior to the creation of IFDM, there was little offered in terms of production classes and those that were offered barely scratched the surface with technical skill and training.

When I entered college at UNM in the fall of 2005, I quickly discovered the roadblocks that Cinematic Arts had in place for commercial filmmaking. Lack of resources, budget and staff prompted the lack of production courses.

Cinematic Arts' official view on traditional filmmaking is neutral. Some of its professors have had successful careers in television and film and encouraged students to pursue commercial film regardless. Other professors unfortunately are notoriously negative towards this and actively failed students whose work resembled narrative filmmaking. This paved the way for many frustrated students to graduate with degrees they did not want nor could rely on to gain employment after college.

In 2006, in direct response to former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's film incentive program, the groundwork was laid for a new film program that would also teach new media in its curriculum. Sony Imageworks, which was moving a division to Albuquerque, also was instrumental in the creation of this program. In 2007, the Regents of the University officially approved the program and the Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media Program was born.

I was chosen as one of the first fifty students admitted into the program as Cohort 1. Using us as the prototype class, the program and its administrators would test out the new degree. The process, which lasted four years, raddled cages throughout the university. Not everyone was thrilled with the new program. Because it was so new, many of its classes were vague and lacked any technical direction. Some of its professors were also employed by Cinematic Arts, eager to impress on the new program the artistic only approach. Frustrations eventually lead 40 of the original 50 students to drop the program. Only ten of us made it to the capstone year.

Filming the climax at an abandoned power plant.
Filming the climax at an abandoned power plant.

Director's Note

The passion that drove each of us during the ten month production is something that I will never forget. Not a single member of the cast or crew was paid, the hours were insane and the workload, unparalleled. But the spirit was never broken and the film speaks for itself. The level of cooperation behind the city, university and community college is something that has never been seen before at this scale. We filmed in the very locations that some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters were. Yet we were considered to be at equal standing by both the Albuquerque Film Office and Albuquerque Studios. Marvel's Avengers was not allowed to prep the location until we handed in the keys.

Haley is an example of what I've come to coin as a "MiniBuster", where a low budget film is able to execute and achieve the same production elements once only available to blockbusters. Haley featured a 100% computer animated character and had over 50 visual effects compositions. The sound track is a work of art and is 95% recreated. Thousands of individual sound effects were painstakingly layered into a masterpiece, including ADR, foley, and ambience. The music represents the talent of over a dozen composers and musicians. The music was written 100% for the film.


Filming at New Mexico's Abandoned Railyard
Filming at New Mexico's Abandoned Railyard
Filming on stage
Filming on stage
Filming at night at the abandoned railyard
Filming at night at the abandoned railyard

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