Here it is, due to popular demand; a lot of folks are speculating about what exactly I wrote to Governor Richardson back in October when I was in the US, desperately trying to land a venue to screen SUSAN HERO, in person, in New Mexico while I was still in the US.
Dr. Alan Rice for example (the actor who’d submitted the movie to the Santa Fe Film Fest without my knowledge or permission, as per previous post) tells me that I’d earned quite a reputation amongst the folks at the festival for this incredible letter I’d written to the Governor [postd here]…”yea, we know about Rosette”, Alan related, regarding comments made by some of the festival staffers when he met with them.
Anyway, in order to stop the rumor mill and let people see exactly what revolutionary, controversial thoughts were on my mind during those days this past October, when I’d taken a chance, spent the last of my bucks, and headed to the US from Asia to try–any way I could–to do an in-person NM screening of SUSAN HERO and bring the movie “home”.
Here it is:
My letter to Governor Richardson
(If anyone finds anything offensive, my apologies in advance…)
October 3, 2007
Attn: Governor Richardson
Office of the Governor
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, NM 87501
My name is Jason Rosette; I’m a filmmaker and resident of New Mexico, though I’ve been living and working in Cambodia for the past two and a half years on a variety of projects. (My NM driver’s license is still valid at least!) I happen to be back in the US now, as I’m promoting several projects including my recently completed, 100% New Mexican made feature, SUSAN HERO.
Anyway, I’m writing to you because, as I know the media/filmmaking sector of the NM economy is important to you and the economy of New Mexico, I wanted to share my experiences first hand as an independent filmmaker there. This is not a criticism, but an objective telling of my experience of making movies in New Mexico as a local, independent filmmaker, which may have some later bearing as I have at least one more NM feature in me (script complete)
I have been making films in New Mexico since the early nineties, when I edited my first dramatic 16mm movie here, a movie called Charlie’s Box. I came back again in the mid nineties to edit my first feature, BookWars (a New York story, but edited in Albuquerque) where it screened at Basement Films in 96’ I believe. That movie went on to be a pretty decent success, and if you Google it or check IMDB, you’ll find a significant amount of coverage.
Even still, both times I was in New Mexico back then working on those pictures (this is pre-financial incentives days), I was clobbered by the local NM economy. In general, I had to support myself when working on those projects doing non-media related jobs at nearly minimum wage, because the media sector was simply not robust or dimensional…I recall working nights at a bank downtown making copies of account books, etc for around $6 an hour.
Not to complain, as it was my choice to come to New Mexico to do those projects, but at the same time I did not anticipate that level of difficulty.
Nevertheless, I was young(er) and I managed to bounce back and scrape by during both projects until I was able to gather enough money in the end (both times) to leave the state before I went completely broke…
But still, I sensed there was something there in NM for future projects, not to mention that over the course of making both of those first two movies, I’d grown attached to New Mexico (surprise, surprise!).
And so I returned AGAIN, this time in 2003, to make my second, recently completed feature, a road movie called Susan Hero. That movie was 100% NM cast and crew as a matter of ideology, even though it didn’t have to be. Moreover, as there was no means to locate talent in the state comprehensively, I founded a Group, the NM Talent Group at Yahoo back in 2003, as a networking resource for actors and talent in the state. The Group is still up and running, now boasting 420+ members. (if you like, go check it out at Yahoo Groups)
I mention all these items because I want to demonstrate some ways in which I did contribute, without obligation or mandate, before the NM film scene was a “hot topic”—as an early adopter in the early and mid nineties, and later in 2003-2004.
We had a very minimal budget with Susan Hero, for instance—in fact, I had to step out of SAG in order to act in that movie because I could not afford to pay my own workman’s comp insurance. Yet, even with such a minimal budget, we were determined to 1) cast 100% local NM cast and crew and 2) set up useful mechanisms such as the NM Talent Group, in that I believed that both would contribute to the development of the movie industry.
I did so, even as I struggled to find work in the movie industry in 2003-2004 when we were making Susan Hero—I ended up taking work outside of my field again, this time at a local Synagogue in Albuquerque, Congregation Albert.
Thus, in 2003-2004, as much as there was a lot of press about the NM film incentives, I found that there was not really much in the way of support for local NM “homegrown” projects such as Susan Hero; in fact, after shooting Susan Hero I was unable to find steady work, either in the movie industry or AT ALL, and so I ended up living out of my car for a short time, then staying at a variety of sublets.
I went broke. I got foods stamps. But I still did not give up on the goal of finishing the movie, could not give up until it was completed. I hope you can understand that, at that time, in those circumstances—looking out the window of the NM Film Commission, for instance, and seeking my Toyota Corolla there in the parking lot with all my worldly belongings in it, that I did not consider the NM film Industry to be fully addressing the vital issue of cultivating, supporting, and retaining homegrown talent such as myself, filmmakers with local indie projects. In all fairness, though, I did get a rebate from the NM Film Office, and they all did help me as much as they could—but I had, in a way, rolled the dice and taken a chance while believing the highly touted NM Film Incentives would kick in.
So, I left New Mexico (while still could) with the goal of building up an alternate, more universally marketable skill set. I went to Asia to get some teaching experience, taught English, and then Video production at a local university, volunteered at an orphanage, and set up Cambodia’s first independent movie festival.
I also scraped together an editing system while I was there and managed to complete Susan Hero—three years after we wrapped shooting in New Mexico. The movie is now, finally complete.
So that leads me to the point of this letter; I’m back in the US now promoting the movie as best I can with what remaining cash I have. And I now hear and see that the NM Film Industry, “Tamalewood” as the Hollywood Reporter calls it, is roaring, with TV series and many more productions and more support than had been available when I was here in 2003-2004, and of course more than when I was here in the early and mid-nineties.
Which makes me want to come back. I’d like to come back and show Susan Hero, the movie that I clawed away at and struggled with for so long, our 100% NM local feature. I’d like to show it to the cast, the crew, all the members of the NM Talent Group at Yahoo which I established, to the NM Film Office, to the whole movie loving state. I’d like to be able to “bring the movie home”, so to speak, which in turn might soften any of the hardships I endured while living there and making it.
I’d like to explore the incentives program again, to see whether I might retroactively be able to get some assistance for the incredibly tough and unsupported effort of making Susan Hero.
As you know, filmmakers thrive on their War Stories, and there’s some real value to them in that the tougher and more insane the process of making the movie, the more bankable cache one can earn, PR wise at least for an otherwise unremarkable project (although I think my last effort was remarkable).
Accordingly, some folks in the NM film community might consider that I’m trying to do an active disservice to the movie industry when I share the stories of my tough struggles in New Mexico back in 2003-2004, and back in the early 90’s and then again in the mid nineties—but that’s not the case. I’m just sharing my experience, my War Story.
I was unable to find significant work in my industry, and I was sometimes unable to find any work at all! Even in 2003-2004, I went broke and had to take emergency actions. I hope you can understand, sir, that despite the best intentions of the State, and my wish to maintain a decent rapport in NM so that I might return to make my third feature (now a script), if I can’t gain in-kind or other forms of support as an independent filmmaker then I need to derive some value from the difficulties of those times—hence my current War Story.
HOWEVER: I’d be equally happy even at this late date to receive some kind of backing and support from the NM Film industry, official or otherwise, which would then naturally temper my experiences and, accordingly, my overall War Story.
Specifically: I’m low on resources now, as described, yet I’d still like to do a screening/fundraiser of Susan Hero in New Mexico, before my cash runs out and I have to head back to Asia. (I’m scheduled to leave the US at the end of October, because the guy subletting my apartment in Phnom Penh is leaving then—plus, my cash reserves are getting low
So, herewith, I ask:
1) Can I receive some assistance, formal or not, even just a casual but meaningful referral, to a venue who would be willing to host a fundraiser-screening of my most recent New Mexico feature, Susan Hero?
2) Is there some kind of fund which is available to homegrown indie NM filmmakers NOW, which there hadn’t been when I treading water in the cauldron back in 2003-2004, trying desperately to get my production developed, financed, cast, and off the ground from within NM?
If so: can I be retroactively considered for such a fund or support, especially now that Susan Hero is done?
3) I’m interested in returning to NM to live and work there once again—I still (hopefully) have my agent there at Applause, for example. Moreover, I read in the Hollywood Reporter and online, etc, that there’s a lot of work there now.
BUT: I’ve gone to New Mexico three times on spec (in the early 90’s, again in the mid nineties, again in 2003-2004) and all three times I nearly ended up in the poorhouse.
So, I therefore ask if anyone in your office, or under your sphere of influence or contact, might be able to assure me, even if casually/unofficially (but meaningfully) of a means of my making a livelihood there in the movie industry, in advance, versus my coming back to NM on spec with my limited cash reserves and hoping that the reports, the articles, the testimony is accurate.
In short, I feel like I paid my dues there already a couple times over, and it would be great to have something, anything, in hand before I head back to NM.
I still feel that, as before, I have a lot to offer, and I hope that my contributions to the nascent New Mexican movie industry at those times, before ‘Tamalewood” was coined, before NM became a hot property, might have some bearing on the validity of my claim, and on the integrity of my motives.
Thank you sir, for enduring this long letter, and hopefully reflecting on its contents; if any assistance or referrals or insights might be offered that can add value to the properties of this message, I’d be very happy to hear them!
I can best be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or alternately at email@example.com. Some of the talent and myself from the Susan Hero effort will still be pushing for a screening event in NM before the end of October. If we can pull this off, I would be happy to invite you or a representative from your office, of course.
I’d like to head back to New Mexico, to continue making movies and contributing to the industry there—and I wouldn’t mind revising my War Stories from the Susan Hero experience! I have another script ready, for my third feature; it’s complete and it was designed specifically to be shot in New Mexico.
Finally: If there were any fortuitous opportunities in NM which came my way in the near future, I’d be happy to use them as my cue to head back and continue where I left off—as a fulltime New Mexico filmmaker.
Anyway, all the Best,
CAMERADO ~ firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com