Home News Local News Producer of Roswell-related TV show visits local students

Producer of Roswell-related TV show visits local students

“If you are director or a writer, get out there and start shooting and figure out what works,” says Ken Topolsky, a TV producer who talked with students and the public Saturday at the Roswell Museum and Art Center. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Aspiring television and film industry professionals in New Mexico are starting their careers at a great time and are working in a good state, according to television producer and director Ken Topolsky.

“The business is better than it has ever been,” said Topolsky. “It is better than it has ever been because it is being democratized. Anyone in this room can make a film, and not only make a film but you can get it distributed.”

Topolsky is now serving as producer of the CW network series “Roswell, New Mexico,” a sci-fi drama partly filmed in the state.

During his 35-year career, Topolsky also has produced or directed 500 TV episodes of various shows, including the popular “Wonder Years.” Earlier, he worked as a producer and manager for recording artists and as a music coordinator for feature films.

He gave a talk Saturday morning at the Roswell Museum and Art Center for graduates and current students of the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell media arts program, as well as the general public.

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Today’s technology, he said, makes it possible for most people with an interest to create short films or visual art pieces and post them publicly. Even experienced professionals are using smartphones to shoot commercials, he said.

“You have so many places where you can just put up your film, and so many people, producers, are looking at those,” he said. “If you are director or a writer, get out there and start shooting and figure out what works.”

Topolsky also talked about New Mexico’s current film and TV industry, which he predicted will grow significantly in coming years.

“In terms of getting into it, you are probably in one of the better places,” he said. “Atlanta, with its (tax) incentives, exploded. It is almost impossible now to get crews in Atlanta. New Mexico is like a young Atlanta.”

According to information posted by the New Mexico Film Office, the film and commercial audiovisual industries contributed an average of $311.5 million a year in direct spending to the state from fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2017, with projects with budgets over $1 million averaging just over 29 a year. The number of worker-days for the industry during that five-year period averaged 278,862 each year.

ENMU-R media arts instructor Alan Trever said that Topolsky’s visit with students was an important educational and networking opportunity.

“It’s everything that we need to get students connected with the industry,” he said. “It is important for them to hear it from someone known in the industry. I can say it a thousand times, but, if they hear it from someone like Topolsky, it sticks with them.”

The producer’s visit was arranged in part by the the city of Roswell, said Director of Public Affairs Juanita Jennings.

“We have been working with the state Film Office on promoting Roswell, and this opportunity came up,” she said.

Some of the ways in which film or commercial audiovisual production companies can receive tax refunds available as incentives is to provide educational workshops for film or media arts programs in New Mexico and to help promote the state’s film industry.

Topolsky took some time to engage several of the students individually, asking them about their interests and pursuits.

He also described some of his duties as a producer, and he told the group that anyone interested in pursuing film or TV careers should read literature and watch movies, study paintings and create stories about the people in them, and become conscious of how sunsets, natural light and indoor lighting can affect color and be used to suggest mood and character.

He also said that the motivation for pursuing a career in the industry matters.

“You do this because you love it. You don’t do this because you think you are going to make a lot of money,” he said. “When you are working 16 to 18 hours a day and you have to work seven days a week, when you are on Lake Winnipeg and it’s 30 below zero and you are shooting nights . . . sooner or later, there isn’t enough money,”

But, he told students, “If you really want to do this and put your heart into it, you are going to succeed.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.