A decade ago the Albuquerque Film and Music Experience began life as the Albuquerque Film and Media Experience. AFMX Co-founder and Executive Director Ivan Wiener recalls what went into that groundbreaking first year. “In 2012 I was fortunate enough to meet and grow a relationship with Robert Redford and his wife Sibylle Szaggars-Redford that led to their acceptance of our invitation to take part in our inaugural year in 2013.” Mr. Redford and Robert Lynch, CEO of Americans for the Arts, participated in “An Evening with Robert Redford and Robert Lynch” at the historic Hiland Theatre. Mrs. Redford produced a performance art extravaganza called “The Way of the Rain” at the Hiland. Each of those events, along with 118 films, Center Stage Conversations and after-parties and fundraisers drew close to 10,000 attendees throughout the week of that first festival. The Redfords’ gracious participation, “along with many other A-list actors, producers, directors and musicians launched AFMX in a big way that carried over into the next year, and each year to follow,” says Wiener on the verge of his festival’s tenth annual outing.
Over the years AFMX has replaced the broader “Media” with “Music,” evolving into the Albuquerque Film and Music Experience, an annual festival that brings together professional film and music industry members with high school and college students to “showcase and celebrate film, music and the arts” and to “provide a platform for education, networking and career development.” Wiener calls it “a celebration of the creative equality of film and music” and touts the past participation of drummers Steve Smith (Journey) and Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers), legendary bassist Nathan East, Michael Jackson’s music director Greg Phillinganes, Jeff Bridges, T Bone Burnett, Marisa Tomei, Giancarlo Esposito, Neil Giraldo and Pat Benatar.
Of course, like so many other public events, AFMX found itself having to course correct its way through COVID. In 2020 and 2021 AFMX went virtual, screening all of its events online. Amazingly, the festival welcomed over 130,000 viewers while in lockdown. Thankfully, for this year’s 10th annual festival, organizers are allowing audiences to attend both virtually and in-person. Between Tuesday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 18, AFMX 2022 will offer another broad selection of shorts, documentaries, features, conversations and classes at the University of New Mexico and the National Hispanic Cultural Center—as well on as their virtual platform (watch.eventive.org/afmxnm2022).
The backbone of Albuquerque Film and Music Experience is the AFME Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing “support to students and up-and-coming New Mexico filmmakers, artists and musicians who, otherwise, may never pursue their college education or realize their artistic dreams.” Students are invited to volunteer at AFMX, attend educational panels, workshops and Center Stage Conversations with talent for free, and to take advantage of free passes to the overall festival through the “Sponsor a Student at AFMX” program.
The festival kicks off Sept. 13 at UNM’s Fine Arts Center with a block of student films starting at 2:30pm and capping off at 7:30pm with the opening night documentary Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival. The film follows Nashville music legends John Hiatt and Jerry Douglas as they team up during the pandemic to record their Grammy-nominated album Leftover Feelings in Elvis’s favorite studio, RCA’s fabled Studio B. Following the screening there will be a Q&A with the filmmakers. Screenings continue throughout the weekend, jumping to the National Hispanic Cultural Center for an Animation/Music/Dance Block, an Indigenous Short Film Block, a Documentary Shorts Block and a host of feature films. Among the feature-length offerings is the shot-in-Albuquerque comedy Third Act, directed by Doug Montoya & Phillip Griego, about a down-an-out theater troupe that decides to rob a bank while shooting a short film.
Despite the wide selection of films, AFMX’s focus remains on the idea of film and music professionals imparting their knowledge onto a new generation—in the form of Master Classes and Center Stage Conversations. “As our foundation focuses on education, our Center Stage Conversations Series focuses on what filmmakers, musicians and students are starving for—experienced and impactful professionals in the entertainment industry sharing their journeys,” says Wiener. Among this year’s educational highlights are a “Documentary Filmmaking from Concept to Distribution” Master Class with Chris Schueler, whose local production company has earned 17 Emmy Awards in the last 20 years. That takes place Wednesday, Sept. 14 starting at 10am at UNM’s Fine Arts Center. On Friday, Sept. 16 at 10am at NHCC there’s a Center Stage Conversation on “Line Producing” with Stewart Lyons. The Emmy-Award winning producer from “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” “Night Shift,” “The Cleaning Lady” and many others will outline the necessary steps to produce a TV show. For those a little less interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the film industry, there’s a Center Stage Conversation titled “Fearsome Femmes of Horror Film” scheduled for 12:30pm on Sept. 16 at NHCC. Audiences are asked to join actress/author Dee Wallace (E.T., The Howling, Cujo), director/producer/writer/actress Deborah Voorhees (13 Fanboy, Friday the 13th Part V, Avenging Angel) and local horror film actor Monique Candelaria (“Lovecraft Country”) as they discuss how to create and act in horror films. That’s followed by a special screening of 1983’s classic horror film Cujo with a Dee Wallace Q&A at 8pm at the NHCC’s Bank of America Theater.
As for the next 10 years? “AFMX will continue our tradition of bringing talented film and music industry members together at our annual festival each September while offering year round events.” promises Wiener. “Our focus on education for local students, filmmakers, musicians and the entire community is important to us. Having the unique program that we have, we are excited to keep the intimate environment going where anyone and everyone in attendance has access to special guests, filmmakers, panelists, moderators and other attendees. Our goal is to provide a platform of education, personal growth, and future collaboration.”
For a complete schedule of films and events for this year’s Albuquerque Film and Music Experience, go to afmxnm.com. Full festival passes ($125), virtual passes ($100), student passes ($75), day passes ($10 to $50) and individual film tickets ($10) are also available for purchase on the website.