Santa Fe New Mexican
Streaming channel looks to provide Santa Fe’s missing link
Digital network to offer distribution outlet for area filmmakers, highlight city’s film-industry credentials
Picture Top Gear with Española lowriders. Or Chef ’s Table in Canyon Road kitchens. How about a version of House Hunters up in the hills?
Throw in the features, documentaries, series and shorts of local writers and directors, and the result — a constantly updated digital assembly of local-made, locally focused content — would be a sort of Santa Fe network. And that’s what they’re calling it. The Santa Fe Network, a forthcoming streaming channel expected to go live by mid-June, could provide a much-needed distribution outlet for area filmmakers as well as advertise the city’s growing film-industry credentials, its backers on the city film commission say.
“The only limit is our imaginations,” said Lee Zlotoff, a veteran television writer and producer and a driving force behind the still-fluid digital network idea. “You look at: What are the resources of the community? What’s here? … That’s the fun of this thing.”
As the state’s film and television business has grown, reeling in a record $387 million last fiscal year and stretching Santa Fe facilities to nearcapacity, there remains a sense among the local filmmaking community that the pathways to success, or an audience, are limited.
While some particulars remain under discussion, Zlotoff and others have a clear vision for the Santa Fe Network as a remedy to one aspect of the local filmmaker’s dilemma: The question of distribution, how local creators get their stuff out there and seen.
Organizers say the channel could promote Santa Fe as a stronghold of independent filmmaking and serve as a catalyst for fresh ideas and collaborations, providing an outlet for local content creators of every stripe — students, writers, directors — in the new media environment, where streaming is increasingly seen as king.
“For 20 years, I’ve watched the industry here support studio productions from Hollywood and support crew in a really wonderful way but not actually support above-the-line talent,” said Anna Darrah, president of the newly incorporated Santa Fe Media Network. “The concept here is to provide a missing link.”
The network would stream original content, regularly refreshing with new material, and also maintain a roster of the film and television projects produced in Santa Fe.
In practice, Darrah said, the site would be “a window into the talent and the media being created in Santa Fe.”
The network grew out of discussions at the Santa Fe Film and Digital Media Commission, the volunteer advisory board launched in 2016 by Mayor Javier Gonzales with the mandate to outline a path to year-round, sustainable film business in the city.
The network would be the first tangible project to emerge from the commission.
Deborah Potter, the commission chairwoman, said the group has identified and urged fixes to the infrastructural gaps holding back industry growth, such as a lack of high-speed internet and the need for more soundstage space.
The issue of distribution was one Potter said the commissioners felt they could address on their own, and relatively quickly.
Zlotoff, a film commissioner, best known as the creator of MacGyver and a full-time Santa Fe resident since 2014, declined to be specific about how much he hopes to raise to initially support the network but said he hopes it would eventually sustain itself through ad revenue, subscription fees or some other mechanism.
Darrah, a longtime veteran of film acquisitions and alternate film commissioner, said distribution was “the most reasonable thing to start with — it shows the world what’s happening here and then we can work backwards in bringing more support to the makers.”
And a locally focused streaming network would be a first for a film commission anywhere, according to Zlotoff, who recounted how members of the Santa Fe commission contacted film representatives of New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other U.S. cities to hash out the nascent idea.
“To a person, they went, ‘We don’t have anything like this … but that sounds very cool. Once you get that up and running, would you call me and tell us how to do it?’ ” Zlotoff said.
“I went immediately from, ‘Oh my God, we can’t do it, no one else has done it,’ to ‘Oh my God, we’ve gotta do it, we’re way ahead of the curve!’ ” he added.
The network will open to local artists’ submissions May 15 at santafenetwork.tv. All sorts of ideas and different media will be welcome.
“I don’t know what’s going to hit, and I don’t have to know what’s going to hit,” Zlotoff said. “All I know is, if we start doing things and they’re cool, at least one of them will turn out to be a hit, and before you know it, we’ll have more and more eyeballs, and then we’re off and running.”
Meetings with potential financial backers have gone well, Zlotoff and Darrah said, mentioning the city agency Tourism Santa Fe and the Stagecoach Foundation, the new film and technology nonprofit founded by George R.R. Martin as two groups eyeing the network idea.
Randy Randall, executive director of Tourism Santa Fe, said he hopes to secure some financial support for the network through the City Council. Film has become an important factor in driving tourism to the area, he said, adding that too often he feels he has to chase down the film industry to chip in.
Marisa X. Jimenez, executive director of the Stagecoach Foundation, said the group had met with Zlotoff.
“We look forward to seeing what they produce, and that’s all I can say at this time,” Jimenez said.
Although there are myriad more places for filmmakers to put their material online than in even the recent past, reaching an audience has not become easier.
With a surplus supply of content online, getting noticed is particularly difficult, said Jilann Spitzmiller, a local filmmaker and member of the city commission.
Originally skeptical of the network idea, Spitzmiller said she has come around. The digital network, she said, is not merely a platform; if the eclectic, dispersed creative energies of the Santa Fe film community can be brought together, she said, there is a real potential to actually reach viewers and build an audience.
“The more we’re known for creating content rather than just being a place where others shoot content, the more support we’ll gather from inside and outside the community,” Spitzmiller said.
Contact Tripp Stelnicki at 505-428-7626 or tstelnicki@ sfnewmexican.com.