EL PASO, Texas — El Paso’s border culture generates nationwide interest because of its unique history —its Hispanic-Texican roots and cowboy folklore— and has been a signature element in many major films such as Glory Road and Border Town.
But the border city has yet to produce a great filmmaker.
Some students believe that filmmaking is almost a foreign concept at the University of Texas at El Paso, but Michael Huante and Joel Gannon and a few others hope that attitude will be changed by Miner Movie Makers, a new organization at UTEP that aspires to ignite a movement in film that goes well beyond the norm.
The idea to start Miner Movie Makers originated in October when Stephanie Soto, who is now the president of the organization, was applying to grad school and realized that most film students at UTEP don’t have much to put on their resume.
When she pitched her idea to Michael Huante, who is now the vice president and Joel Gannon, secretary, they jumped on board. They teamed up and established a club that was aimed for students looking for a career in film. “I think it’s a great idea, it is nice to see students taking initiative.” said UTEP film professor Patrick Mullins.
Although the Miner Movie Makers are open to any ideas and don’t have a particular theme to their films, they want to someway or another incorporate El Paso into each project they produce. They want to reflect the authenticity of the Sun City in all their films by applying the border language best known as ‘Spanglish’ and filming in key places such as Chico’s Tacos, the Don Haskins Center, and Scenic drive.
The club also wants to include the vibe and flavor that El Paso generates. “We want to get El Paso on the map, give the people a taste of what this place is all about,” said Huante.
This new group recently tacked its first big project —a nationwide contest for a Coca Cola commercial with the grand prize set at $10.000. They wrote, filmed, edited and produced it in a matter of two days.
The Miner Movie Makers are now focusing on three new projects. One they are submitting to the Sun City Festival takes place in a flower shop. The 20 minute film focuses on a middle aged florist and the impact he has on the many customers that enter his store. This unique story line aims to give the viewer advice in life featuring the many stories told by the individuals who visit the shop.
The club also plans to work on a comedic/horror film that follows six characters on a road trip and submit it to the Atlanta Horror Film Festival in May. Another project that is still in the works focuses on the different types of people from all parts of El Paso and how they affect each other.
“El Paso is a big city with a small town feel” Huante said. The club wants to touch on the culture and authenticity the Sun City brings. “Because El Paso is a border town and brings people from around the country with Fort Bliss, it makes it ideal for great film ideas,” said Gannon.
When it comes to having the right equipment to make movies, money plays a huge factor. Many organizations across the globe have the means to supply their students with the proper equipment but UTEP doesn’t compare. “It’s hard if you’re not enrolled into a class that involves camera work; the equipment is limited,” said Mullins, and adds “We barely have what we need.” Until they can earn their credibility, funds are non-existent, so for now, the club makes do with what they’ve got.
UTEP has been recognized for engineering and athletics, but there is no mention of the film industry, but the club has only existed for a month and a half and there are already 25 members signed up.
“We hope to make it big, something to carry on after we graduate because UTEP is not a strong foundation for film, and with this club we hope to change that,” Huante said.
The Miner Movie Makers are currently asking for scripts from writers all across the city and are going to choose the best submission for some of their next movie projects. They have also established their own Facebook page and are passing out flyers to get their name on the streets of El Paso.
This organization hopes to one day look back at their years at UTEP and see all of what they’ve accomplished and hopefully see their nationwide film festival take place here in El Paso, but the only way they can achieve this, is through backing and demand from El Paso itself.