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Desert Light Film Festival

1301 N. White Sands Blvd.
Alamogordo, NM 88310
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Desert Light Film Festival

Desert Light Film Festival (DLFF) began in 2004 and has been successfully running as a film competition and festival for nine (9) years in southern New Mexico. Held annually in Alamogordo, New Mexico, Desert Light was the first statewide film competition in New Mexico aimed at middle school and high school students. The Otero County Film Office initiated this festival and presents it in partnership with New Mexico State University-Alamogordo. The J. C. Penney Company has contributed the corporate funds endowment and sponsorship annually to make the festival prize funds possible each year.

Festival Awards

Each year, the winning filmmakers are been presented with cash and other prizes at an awards ceremony held at the end of the festival day. Over $2,000 is awarded in prize money during the festival. A Best of Festival Award is given to that film which is judged to be the best of all of the submissions. Other awards include first place and honorable mention in each category. In addition to the screenings and awards ceremony, participants attend workshops given by teachers and professionals in the film industry. Some of the 2012 workshops included "Special Effects Makeup for Film," "Editing using Final Cut Pro," "Fantasy Creature Effects for Games and Films," "Pyrotechnic Special Effects," and "Experimental Film Instruction."

Desert Light Film Festival sports a competitive entry field for the two school divisions, each featuring six (6) regular categories and sometimes special categories open for competition. The festival day, itself, is a composition of various comprehensive educational opportunities. The true core of the festival is the real film training and educational seminars that the festival committee is able to offer to its students each year. The day starts off with film screenings and seminars. Screening the top competitive films is a student favorite on the schedule, allowing students to showcase their own work and to view the work of top competitors. The seminars and hands-on studies in film are popular and fill up quickly. There is a catered lunch on the campus, and more film screenings. The day ends with the highly-anticipated awards reception and ceremony finale, on-stage at the campus theater.

Festival Seminars

Through the years, Desert Light has brought outstanding professional filmmakers as keynote speakers to students at the festival. Emmy award-winning screenwriter Kirk Ellis showed a clip from "The Dark Knight" to begin his seminar in 2009. Students each had the first four pages of the script, and learned to follow the screenplay while seeing it in action.

In 2010, Rachel T. Nicoll, Senior Technical Director at Sony Pictures Imageworks in Albuquerque, inspired students as she spoke about her work in visual effects and future career opportunities in digital arts. She showed clips from one of her projects, "Alice in Wonderland," and offered resume training in producing film industry demo reels for showcasing their digital work.

In 2011, Dr. Phil Lewis, Creative Media Institute Director at New Mexico State University, opened his keynote seminar by giving a terrific introduction to a new category for the festival: Experimental Film. He showed clips from various Experimental Films, and gave students a visual idea about combining media, and what makes an abstract film.

"The whole purpose of the festival is to give students a forum and to provide them with further instruction in film education," said Jan Wafful, Otero County Film Liaison. "We hope to increase the number of New Mexican film makers who will ultimately participate in the professional film industry here in New Mexico, much like the esteemed Milagros at Los Luceros initiative for Native-American and Indigenous filmmakers launched in 2009 in northern New Mexico." Jan is Co-director of DLFF along with Joan Griggs, Coordinator of Community Education at NMSU-Alamogordo—who, incidentally, was an Otero County Film Liaison—and she, along with Film Office Director, Ed Carr,—was an originator of DLFF and of the professional filmmaker film festival, White Sands Film Festival, now also in it’s 9th annual production year.

Every year, there is a new theme or directive for the festival to keep it fresh and exciting for its young school-age competitors. To celebrate the 2012 Centennial of New Mexico's statehood, the festival was designated as a special 2012 Centennial Event with a new centennial category and prize offered for the film that best highlighted some aspect of New Mexico's history. To further promote films that celebrate New Mexico's history, the 2012 festival brought in Canada’s native-born filmmaker, Michael Lennick, an award winning documentary film director, CEO of Foolish Earthling Productions LLC., as its keynote speaker. His credits include outstanding documentary films for the Discovery Channel, PBS, Nova, and The History Channel, among others.


A special event night has now been added to the DLFF festival schedule the night preceding the festival day. This year, it was marked as a centennial event. A keynote filmmaker reception and screening was held for the students, the public and the local film community honoring Mr. Lennick. His feature-length film documentary about local space research and history in southern New Mexico, titled "The Land Of Space And Time" was shown in HD at the local Allen Theatres Aviator 10 in Alamogordo followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker. Free admission for the public was made possible by Allen Theatres and festival sponsors.

Traditionally, the evening of the festival now wraps up with an evening at White Sands National Monument, for students and teachers only, where the students are given a briefing about filming in White Sands by Film Ranger Kathy Denton, responsible at White Sands for all filming on the Monument. After the information session, young filmmakers may film in the area, enjoy White Sands, and some of the top film submissions are shown on the dunes.

Each year, DLFF has been growing larger, with it doubling in size over the last two years alone for its 9th annual festival. In 2012, a record 118 films were entered in the competitive fields from an educational base of twenty-three (23) schools expressing interest from across the state of New Mexico. This film and educational event has risen to visible heights in nine years.....
Otero County Film Office, 1301 N. White Sands Blvd., Alamogordo, NM 88310,, K. Jan Wafful, Film Liaison, City Desk: 575-439-4353 Office: 575-434-5882

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