LL native recognized by Hall of Fame
LOS LUNAS — What began as a playful suggestion from her father turned into a career for Los Lunas native Mykel Salazar who was recognized as a Rising Star Honoree by the New Mexico Film Hall of Fame.
The Rising Star honors up-and-coming forces in the New Mexico film and TV industry. Salazar works on film productions in both Albuquerque and Los Angeles.
“I worked predominantly in Los Angeles last year, but I just go where the work takes me,” Salazar said.
She works full-time as an assistant director on film crews, predominantly on independent films productions. An assistant director, or an AD as they’re more commonly referred to as, serve as a liaison between the director and the rest of the crew on a film set so both can do their jobs efficiently.
“We take the script and plan it into a shooting schedule. It’s a lot of interacting with cast and crew members and producers to get the day moving,” Salazar said. “We kind of get compared to a drill sergeant because there’s always that person who needs to take the lead and make sure everyone’s doing their job.”
An AD is in charge of the safety and well-being of the crew members on the set, and are the ones making sure everything is running smoothly.
“We’re kind of like the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ always behind the camera, behind the scenes or behind the curtain, always running everything,” Salazar said.
Salazar grew up in Los Lunas and graduated from Los Lunas High School in 2006. She went on to attend college at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas to earn a degree in Indigenous and American Indian Studies.
It wasn’t until after earning her degree that she fell into the entertainment industry.
“I was in Kansas after graduation on the law school route, but my dad had gotten really sick so I packed up everything and came home,” Salazar said.
Her father, Robert Salazar, was a teacher at Los Lunas High School for many years before he was diagnosed with cancer.
“It was one of those things where I was wondering what I was going to do for a job. My dad said, ‘Well they’re filming a lot of movies here, maybe you can be in one,’” she said. “I thought I’d try it and get out of my comfort zone.”
She began working in casting for the television series called “Godless.”
“I started watching the crew members and noticed that the AD’s were the ones running everything and managing everything and thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I just was resilient and kept talking to every single production assistant and assistant director I knew just trying to get on set.”
Salazar has been working on film sets for about four years since then.
According to the New Mexico Film and TV Hall of Fame website, Salazar is of Laguna Pueblo descent and prides herself on being an Indigenous filmmaker and helping to support other Indigenous filmmakers and people of color break into the industry.
“I’ve been trying to recruit more people of color and minorities to work with me, but it just takes people being willing to step out of their comfort zone,” Salazar said.
One of her favorite projects to work on is a short film called “Kaya”, which tackles the topic of sex trafficking of Hispanic women and was filmed in southern New Mexico.
“That topic alone was something that attracted me to [the movie]. It was near and dear to my heart because of the crew I met and the story. Hopefully we get to make a feature film out of it,” Salazar said.
Something Salazar says what makes a project memorable is the crew.
“We spend more time with our crew than our own families. We’re on set anywhere from 12 to 17 hours a day, so we definitely get to know each other, and because of that you become like a family,” Salazar said.
Her advice to those looking to get into the film industry is to get out their comfort zone and do something different.
“No job is too small, definitely start at the bottom and build a thick skin because you’ll definitely need it,” Salazar said. “It’s intimidating but just get your foot in the door and see if you even like it. Take whatever stepping stones you can.”
To read more about the New Mexico Film and Television Hall of Fame, visit nmfilmandtvhalloffame.org.