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NMSU film grad to screen documentary, fundraise for Animal Rescue League

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A melancholy Dane and a young woman seeking companionship nearly miss meeting. Just when all seems lost, a wise woman intercedes to make the match. The result is a 20-minute film. No, it's not another remake of one of Shakespeare's plays, but "Finding Forever" is a love story that Julia De La O was inspired to tell.

De La O, a May graduate of New Mexico State University's Creative Media Institute, adopted a Great Dane from the Animal Rescue League with help from the shelter's director, Loretta Hyde. Her experience with Hyde's method of matching shelter pets with forever homes sparked De La O's passion to make a documentary about the shelter and its special approach to pet adoptions.

De La O's 20-minute documentary about the Animal Rescue League of El Paso will be screened at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces. The donation requested is $5 or whatever guests would like to give. The proceeds will go to the Animal Rescue League.

"I wanted to make a documentary that not only shows the animals that needed to be adopted, but also the people that work there and what Loretta does to keep it up and running and have successful adoptions," said De La O. "I just love the way Loretta does adoptions. They take extra steps to make it a successful adoption."

Ilana Lapid, NMSU Creative Media Institute associate professor, had De La O in a number of classes, including a yearlong directed study. Impressed by her love of animals, Lapid encouraged the student filmmaker to create a community impact film that built on her interests.

"The result is this moving and beautifully produced short documentary," Lapid said. "Julia spent a lot of time and energy building relationships with the staff at the Animal Rescue League and filming the important work they're doing. I'm excited for the community to see her film."

De La O, who majored in digital filmmaking and minored in animation, spent the fall 2021 semester filming at the Animal Rescue League, understanding the experiences of the staff and seeing how the organization has a positive impact on the community. She spent the spring editing "Finding Forever" and produced the final cut of her documentary in May.

"I hope "Finding Forever" encourages people to rescue animals," De La O said. "If they adopt from Loretta, they will be set up for success with the way she does it. And every penny counts, and everything counts. They accept other useful donations like blankets."

Alongside her colleagues at CMI, Lapid's focus in teaching is about empowering students to use their creative voices and skill sets to create content that can have a positive impact in the world. To this end, Lapid teaches environmental filmmaking and the social impact of film, and she just started teaching the Gila Film School over the summer.

"Our students are the next generation of content creators, and as such they have agency and the power to engage with and shape their realities," Lapid said. "It's exciting to see talented students like Julia create work that will directly benefit a no-kill animal shelter in our region."

One way De La O is helping the shelter's mission is by screening her film as a fundraiser. She also is offering the documentary for the Animal Rescue League to use on their website, social media channels and at adoption events.

"I hope the film has an impact because they did let me spend time with them and film with them and didn't limit my access," said De La O. "I hope that I can help them a little bit with the fundraiser and with the donations that we can get for them through the screening."

After De La O adopted her Great Dane from Hyde, she returned to adopt two cats as well. Lapid even adopted her own black Labrador from the Animal Rescue League.

Learn more about the Animal Rescue League.