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Sunday , December 16 2018
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Home | News | Local Duo Look to Help Educate, Inspire Local Filmmakers with El Paso MediaFest 2019

Local Duo Look to Help Educate, Inspire Local Filmmakers with El Paso MediaFest 2019

Are you a filmmaker? Do you want to make a film? This article is for you. Trust me: you’re going to want to read this, grab your camera and start filming.

I fell into the field of documentary filmmaking, and audio documentary works as well, through trial and error. I would fumble around with things like sound stacking, color correction, editing all by making major mistakes and then trying to figure out how to fix it. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, and I burned out so much film, tape, and almost every ounce of patience I had.

Still, I learned a lot through trial and error. I learned how to fix almost any situation that might come up. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve encountered along this journey. I’m also learned about redundancies, like capturing sound on more than one device if possible.

I still wish I had someone I could have turned to for advice, lessons, or even a bit of encouragement.  What I would have given to have someone – anyone – taking the time to show me what to do and how to do it.

Back in the day the biggest way for me to learn, to grow, was to watch some of my favorite documentaries, or listen to my favorite shows on NPR and try to recreate what they did.

When I was living in New York, I even attended the New York Film Festival to see how others were doing it. It was a good way to get going, but not something you could build from.

Now, El Paso is a hard town for anyone trying to do anything. As I’ve written before, if you are wanting to break into music, movies, or even writing, our friends and family may not take us seriously.

Joe Lujan, an El Paso filmmaker, had the same problem.

“People taking it serious,” says Joe of his beginnings here in El Paso. “I think that’s been my struggle. When I was here a lot of people thought it was just a hobby. They didn’t know this is where my heart was at; this is what I what I want to do with my life.”

In creating films, in expressing himself, that was the biggest struggle he had, convincing people this is what he wanted to do. I can relate, we can all relate to this, it’s not easy, but Joe continued.

“I did a short film, and that was the one…they started seeing the passion and drive…it was called Shear Death,” Joe recalls. “It was a short horror film, and they were getting creeped out by it.” (Author’s note: The quote is from my article about Joe Lujan which can be read here)

Now, what if I were to tell you that there is an event coming to El Paso that is going to marry both the film festival and panel discussion on craft?

Well, that’s what Chris Hanna and Daniel Valdez are doing with El Paso Media Fest.

“The El Paso Media Fest is a combination of not only film, which includes shorts and features,” says Daniel Valdez. “It also marries education and the world of film to educate the community about different international films, local film, Texas made films, to inspire them to go out there and shoot these wonderful things that we call art that we look at on our TV’s.”

By and large, most film festivals you see and attend, you can catch some great works of art. You’ll be inspired as Daniel said during our interview, but you are not provided with the tools, the knowledge needed to go out and create your films. That’s what EPMF is hoping to change.

“That’s what El Paso Media Fest is,” says Chris Hanna. “It’s been years since we’ve had so many different festivals here and people are so excited about this one because they’ve never had that educational value.”

With the scheduled panels and talks, paired with short and feature films, you will leave equipped with everything you need to get the ball rolling on your project. It can be done.

“I think people tend to forego shooting in El Paso because they think they are going to have to take out all these permits, and all these different things,” says Daniel Valdez. “They go to New Mexico; they recreate our sets, our city, which has a lot of value and a big story to tell.”

That right there, to me, is one of the best things EPMF is working on. They want to show that it does not take a lot to get a production going here in El Paso. Daniel and Chris can see a production studio opening here in El Paso, more work being done here. It can be done, it is possible. It’s been done before.

Some of the films shot here? Glory Road, Fort Bliss, Extreme Prejudice, Courage Under Fire, Last Man Standing, Lolita, Lone Wolf McQuade, The Original Latin Kings of Comedy, Manos: Hands of Fate, and more.

So, why can’t we do it? Why can’t we make it happen again? El Paso can be more than just a footnote in the history of filmmaking, but a major destination for major projects. That’s what El Paso Media Fest is working on.

“Our state is not helping with incentives,” says Chris. “I don’t think that should stop us from getting people out here to film. It starts with events like this, planting a seed, so they come and say ‘wow, El Paso is cool. Look at all these mountains, look at all this landscape.’”

They are right; there are a lot of places to would be awesome backdrops to a small independent film or a major motion picture.

Some of those coming, giving talks or hosting panel discussions are Fred Lehne of Supernatural, Julian Bonfiglio and Kent Kirkpatrick of Better Call Saul and Octavio Solis who was the costume adviser on Pixar’s Coco.

Seminars will cover everything from how to get started, marketing yourself, writing for your assets, virtual reality, and more.

“I think people are looking for a way in,” says Daniel. “We plan to give people a detailed list – this is where you start, this is where you go. As we all know, taking the first step is the hardest.”

“What prevents us from moving forward is the unknown,” says Daniel Valdez.

He’s right. We’re not promised tomorrow, but that still does not stop us from making plans. Nope. So, get your gear out and start shooting.

It’s time for you to show EPMF – and the world – what can come out of El Paso.

Submissions for the El Paso Media Fest are open. The regular deadline ends on December 4th , and the last day to submit is December 24th .

You can submit your film and see all the categories you can enter at FilmFreeway.  You can also find EPMF on Facebook and via their webpage.

Now, there is so much to learn about this festival that you need to check out the video interview above; you’ll learn more about EPMF, Daniel and Chris, and the scheduled speakers.

I’m entering. Are you?

(lf) Chris Hanna and (rt) Daniel Valdez and yours truly in the middle


About Steven Cottingham

Steven Cottingham is a writer, photographer, and poet. In addition to his work for the El Paso Herald-Post, he is a videographer for AJ+, is launching a weekly podcast based on his forthcoming book, “Leap of Fatih” which will be released November 2018 from HarperCollins. Through his company, Still Going Somewhere, he is producing a series of micro-documentaries with individuals who have survived the Holocaust. You can contact Steven at 915-201-0918, or by email at To learn more about Steven, visit his webpage at

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One comment

  1. I really do hope this even can, and will continue past the first couple of years. This is something the city really needs!

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