The Las Cruces International Film Festival kicks off Wednesday, March 8. The five-day extravaganza features more than 100 national and local indie films and workshops led by some of the industry’s hottest key players. Among those attendees can rub elbows with are “The Mummy” series’ star Brendan Fraser, Jon Heder, who played everybody’s favorite uber-dork “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Big Bang Theory” star Johnny Galecki.
“We set up the LCIFF as a home for the independent filmmaker who wants to find an audience and find a distributor,” said Ross Marks, the event’s executive director. A filmmaker, he’s had two of his films premiere at Sundance. “We’ve got 101 films we’re screening this year. Because 65 of the filmmakers will be here, it’s not only a film festival, but it’s going to be an independent film convention with all these filmmakers together networking.”
Marks, who is also a film professor for New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute, is familiar with the trials and tribulations of the industry. He parlayed this experience into the creation of the area’s only independent film festival.
The event evolved from the White Sands Film Festival, which was shuttered a couple years ago. Along with film screenings, the festival includes several workshops that will be led by industry insiders.
“Not only are we creating a Hollywood-comes-to-Las-Cruces feel, but we’re preparing and educating people to work in the industry,” Marks said. “The workshops are a way to make people set-ready and prepare them for a career in entertainment.”
Makeup artist Pepper Gallegos will lead a free makeup and special effects workshop on Saturday, March 11 on NMSU’s campus. She has worked on numerous productions and feature films, including “Sicario,” “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “The Lone Ranger.” Her work has been seen on many television shows including the critically acclaimed “Breaking Bad.”
Her foray into the field was sparked by the death of her parents, who died within two years of each other. Each of her parent’s appearance changed at the time of their deaths, and Gallegos applied makeup to help make them look more like themselves at the funerals.
“For me it was closure, and I felt maybe I could help other families deal with their loss,” Gallegos said.
Gallegos’ skills run the creative gamut, from prosthetic design to guts and gore to tattoo design. At the workshop, she’ll focus on the process of creating movie magic through makeup and special effects from start to finish.
“I really want to show what happens before the cameras start rolling,” she said.
Las Cruces filmmaker David Salcido said the region is a “powder keg” of filmmaking creativity and opportunity. Along with New Mexico’s tax incentives for film production, an established film crew community and the area’s unique landscape and incomparable weather, the scene is a hotbed for the industry. Salcido’s short film anthology “Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades” will be screened at the festival.
“The importance of having a film festival in any town is it becomes the bedrock for an industry,” he said. “It offers a tasting platter of films for everybody. There are student films, independent films, foreign films, and this plays well into an idea of building an industry.”