German filmmaker documents New Mexico

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As a filmmaker, Reinhard Lorenz found his transition to New Mexico from Germany to be a bit of a shock.

“New Mexico is an interesting place, because it’s still fringe,” Lorenz said. “It’s still a little bit remote. It’s a fledgling place in the making, and I think that’s a really good thing.”

He says his hometown Berlin, on the other hand, had a thriving film scene.

“Berlin, you take it for granted because there’s a film festival every other week,” Lorenz laughed. “In retrospect, you realize it was a big thing.”

Lorenz began his filmmaking career as a photographer, taking photos for film festivals. After a while, he thought he would try out film for himself.

“[The festivals] were a good way to get into the bigger world of filmmaking,” Lorenz said. “Then it just evolved from there.”

He said photography prepared him well for film because both are visual mediums. Both photography and filmmaking also allowed him to focus on the things that intrigued him.

“I had an interest in people and their stories, their lives and who they are,” Lorenz said.

Lorenz’s passion translated into documentary filmmaking, the kind of the work he does in Albuquerque now through his local production company First Eye Films.

“We’re not dealing with fictionalized characters. We’re dealing with real people and real life,” Lorenz said. “We’re dealing with history and society and why things are the way they are.”

Still, Lorenz says the change was intimidating.

“At the point (of transition) I was like ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’”

First Eye Films

First Eye Films originally was founded in Berlin. After years of freelancing, Lorenz decided it was time to start his own company.

“It was just to give an umbrella and a bigger structure to something I do anyways,” Lorenz says of his decision to found First Eye Films. “It wasn’t something completely new. I was basically extending what I was already doing into the structure of a company.”

When he decided to move to the United States, however, there was a problem.

“You can’t just come to this country and be self-employed,” he said. “Although that would be very nice.”

Instead, Lorenz says he spent his first few years in New Mexico working as a professor at the University of New Mexico. Once all of Lorenz’s visa requirements were sorted out in 2015, he created the American version of his old company. The current version of First Eye films is basically the same as its German predecessor, but Lorenz says he offers a few more services these days.

“In a way, even though I’ve been doing it for a while, it’s still kind of a startup,” Lorenz said of the company. “It’s still growing. It’s still on it’s way.”

Lorenz produces everything from documentaries to commercials. On his company’s website, he displays some of his most recent work, including films about extraterrestrials, the Armenian Genocide and the process of printmaking.

“I think with documentary comes an eclectic taste. It would be a luxury to say I’m producing history documentaries and that’s it,” he said. “It also reflects me, I’m an eclectic person, so I have a broad range.”

Lorenz says he is most passionate about documentaries with a social cause or impact. He also says he enjoys filming pieces about dancing and the arts.

Combining film with dance

Lorenz got his start in film creating film sequences that were shown on stage in conjunction with dance performances.

“Multimedia on stage was kind of the thing to do,” he said. “At that point it was the new thing.”

For his most recent project, Lorenz created a promotional video for Keshet, a nonprofit dedicated to Albuquerque’s art and dance community. According to its website, Keshet began as a professional dance company in 1996, but it has since evolved into a much larger organization. It offers dance classes and resources for artistic entrepreneurs.

Carolyn Tobias, Keshet’s communications director, said working with Lorenz was easy and he offered valuable input about the project.

“He came on board as a collaborator, not as a vendor,” she said. “He was able to really grasp the vision of what we were trying to achieve.”

Tobias also said she valued his love of art and experiences filming dance and performance.

“He’s good at catching dance and movement,” she said of Lorenz. “A lot of the programing that Keshet does is difficult to capture, but he really helped us tell the story.”

Tobias said she chose film as a medium because she thought it would make a stronger impact than an article or audio recording.

“We’re very visually driven as a culture,” she said. “We wanted to leave a visual impression with people.”

Brent Morris, a fellow filmmaker, also says he met Lorenz through dance. He collaborated with Lorenz on a documentary about flamenco in New Mexico.

Morris says he became interested in the project after he saw a live flamenco performance.

“I was drawn to the beautiful, brightly colored dresses,” he said.

Morris also praised Lorenz’s ability to translate live performance into engaging video. According to Lorenz, filming dance is difficult because it’s fast paced, and there are no chances to redo a shot. Moreover, a live performance doesn’t have time to pause and repeat a section that the filmmaker might have missed.

More space in New Mexico

Overall, Lorenz says he really enjoys filming in New Mexico.

He said it’s easier for small entrepreneurs to get started in the business because the state’s industry is smaller than other places.

“There’s literally more space here than in one of the big places where you’re in competition with others doing the same thing,” Lorenz said. He added that New Mexico has built up an impressive system of individuals and organizations who want to help the film industry grow.

To encourage film in New Mexico, the state provides a number of tax credits to the film industry.

According to a recent report conducted by the New Mexico Film Office, these tax breaks for filmmakers have contributed to New Mexico’s growing presence in the film industry. The report estimates that spending by filmmakers in the state generated over a billion dollars for New Mexico’s economy.

Another report sponsored by the organization found the industry supported about 3,000 jobs in the state of New Mexico from the year 2010 to 2014.

Still, Lorenz says that smaller filmmakers need more support.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we don’t have, or that’s still in the making,” he said. “There are still a few question marks.”

A few organizations, like Keshet, work to improve support for smaller filmmakers. Lorenz says that, in the past few years, he has seen an increased interest by the state and private organizations in the future of creative startups.

Looking ahead

In the future, Lorenz says he hopes to hire a few permanent staff members and continue to grow and experiment as a filmmaker.

Currently, Lorenz is co-producing an indie film. He also plans on going back to his filmmaking roots by working with Keshet to create a film sequence as a part of a live dance performance.

He hopes to continue creating films with a social cause or an impact.

“That’s certainly something that I’m most passionate about,” Lorenz said. “Sadly some of those projects are still on the list, so they haven’t been made yet.”

He said he’s eager to try something new and would even consider working on a feature film if given the opportunity.

“I’m just interested in a lot of things,” Lorenz said. “Keep learning. You’re never done.”

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