ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Film students at Central New Mexico Community College are taking on the growing film industry. They’re hoping a new project will inspire film studios to bring in more New Mexico talent to productions.

“Some of the best training we can get is just being on set,” said Clint Obenchain, a local actor.

It’s the hands-on experience those looking to get into New Mexico’s burgeoning film industry want and need. It inspired a final class project at CNM this past semester.

“I was going to CNM and part of my studies there, now that I’m exiting, I was asked to write a script,” said Riley Del Rey, a recent student at CNM. “I wanted to create a challenge for my CNM film crew and I had about 25 people working in various positions.”

Thought I Lost You‘ started out as a Neo-Western script by student Riley Del Rey about a cowboy traveling through space and time. It has since turned into a full-blown pilot episode with one goal in mind: 100-percent cast and crew from New Mexico.

“It was fun for me to write something that was a bit of a challenge, but also to take these actors and students working on the project to times and places we have never been,” said Del Rey, who produced the production and stars as bounty hunter Pearl. “Part of the reason I felt I could create this script in my class at CNM was because we’re all looking to enter the industry but a lot of people that want to direct, produce or act have to leave home to go to different markets.”

Local actor Clint Obenchain was quick to get in on the project. Del Rey had worked with him before and wrote the lead role of Legend, the cowboy, specifically for him.

“I read the script and learned about the story, and wanted to work with her and it was a good team that she put together,” said Obenchain. “Just being written a part, of course, I’m going to say yes.”

He says oftentimes, productions miss local talent. The more these veteran actors get in on projects like this one, the more young actors can learn at the beginning of their careers.

“Actors will get on these projects where they don’t have a lot of experience and it can only be so good with someone in the very beginning of their career,” said Obenchain. “There are a lot of local professionals who are veterans and have been doing it for decades. I would encourage them to start to be involved in student films more and independent film-making more because it helps to level up the project.”

While the ultimate future of Thought I Lost You is still in the air, Del Rey hopes it continues and gets picked up by a big studio like Netflix or Epix. She also hopes it inspires some of those big film studios moving into the Duke City to utilize all the Land of Enchantment has to offer — especially, the people.

“They may want to pick it up and continue to develop it, but staying true to keeping it largely New Mexican cast and pulling our actors for leading roles from New Mexico,” said Del Rey. “That’s the whole purpose and goal of this project.”

The pilot was filmed at the CNM sound stage during Del Rey’s final semester in the program. Future episodes will be determined as they find new locations and a studio and distributor since as a graduate, she will not have access to the school’s crews and materials.

The production value is around $50,000 and the pilot was mostly funded through CNM, providing the crew, equipment, and space to shoot the episode. Much of the rest of the project is self-funded by Del Rey, along with community donations and cast/crew coming on for lower rates or donating their time and talent.

Thought I Lost You utilized crew and cast from New Mexico with 25 crew members and 11 actors, all training in the film industry or CNM. There are a few scenes of episode one left to shoot later next month for. The second episode has been written and is in pre-production.

You can catch the show in the early summer of 2020 online and through local theaters, pending on distributors.