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Homegrown film directed by NMSU professor gets international release


"Walking with Herb," a movie filmed in Las Cruces, directed by a New Mexico State University professor and financed 90 percent locally will be distributed internationally next spring thanks to a deal in negotiation with PureFlix/QualityFlix. (Courtesy photo)


“Walking with Herb” is a grassroots Las Cruces movie with an all-star cast filmed in and around southern New Mexico. Soon people around the world will be seeing it.

It features Academy Award winner Edward James Olmos in the lead role as a banker who encounters God during a crisis of faith that leads him to play in a golf tournament, guided by Herb, his ever-present “Angel” and motorcyclist, proving that anything is possible as long as you have faith.

It was the faith of Ross Marks, New Mexico State University professor who directed the film, and the NMSU Creative Media Institute alumni and students he hired to work on the project that made it a reality. Next spring, the film will have its theatrical release thanks to an international distribution deal in final negotiations with PureFlix/QualityFlix.

“The opportunity to work with a company like Pure Flix is a great pleasure. When it comes to inspirational content, Pure Flix is synonymous with many great successes,” said Marks and producer Brian Espinosa in a joint statement. “We worked diligently to create a film that we are extremely proud of, and are excited about this collaboration with them. They are the perfect partner to help us share it with a world audience.”

A community labor of love, the screenplay for “Walking with Herb” was written by the late Mark Medoff, legendary Tony Award-winner and Academy Award nominee. It’s based on the book of the same name, written by Las Cruces banker and NMSU alumnus Joe Bullock.

Ron Gell, vice president of International Sales and Distribution for Pure Flix/Quality Flix, said, “We’re excited to bring this new theatrical comedy to all of our international partners at AFM. This film has the rare combination of great writing, great directing, a great cast and a feel-good story. It has tremendous international potential for everyone looking for a charming and heartwarming story, something everyone worldwide needs right now.”

The homegrown film is a first for Las Cruces. In addition to the writing and local production talent of NMSU alumi and 32 Creative Media Institute students hired for the project, the film was also 90 percent locally financed.
“Jon Hummer and Brad Beasley put together the financing for the film. So everything about Herb from the genesis of the novel, to the screenplay to the financing is all a Las Cruces effort.”

The film was shot in Las Cruces and surrounding areas in September 2018 and edited in 2019. Marks hopes the success of “Walking with Herb” will lead to more projects born and raised to grow southern New Mexico’s share of the state’s half-billion dollar a year film economy, which would mean jobs for NMSU students.

“Our students when they graduate have anywhere from 10 to 30 credits on their resume,” said Marks. “Everything from short films to feature films, music videos, promotional videos. The thing about CMI that is so unique and so exciting is that our students get first-hand practical experience – not just classroom theory.”

Amy Lanasa, CMI department head in the College of Arts and Sciences, said the department’s emphasis has been on bringing productions to southern New Mexico by developing a ready-made workforce available to work in films.

“It’s been very wonderful for us is to see these great filmmakers graduating from our program who are creating their own content and their own opportunities,” she said.

The impact of the pandemic and current restrictions on interstate travel reinforces the need to create grassroots content funded in Las Cruces. Changes in the industry provide an opportunity for locally produced content to thrive.

“The need for content is growing every day,” Marks said. “As more and more studios pivot to streaming and online platforms, they need more content. Myself, my colleagues at CMI and our students are in a great position to provide that content for the various studios and streamers.

“My job as a college professor is not just to educate and inspire, but to provide jobs for our students,” he said. “‘Herb’s’ international success will provide more opportunities for me as a filmmaker, and for our CMI students and alumni.”

Lanasa emphasizes although CMI has many accolades when it comes to film, it also has one of the top-ranked animation programs in the nation.

“We are training students for jobs that haven't been invented yet,” Lanasa said. “Our animation students are getting jobs at video game companies. That’s the area we experience the biggest amount of brain drain because they not only do they leave Las Cruces, but they leave the state. But we hope that will be changing in the future.”