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Hollywood Filmmakers Name Grand Junction an Emerging Film Hub

WCCC and CMU students collaborate on feature films

Just west of the Rocky Mountains is a group of talented film professionals who have set up shop in the great Grand Valley. The area has become more than just a viable film hub, it’s a community — or in filmmaker Ariell Brachfeld’s words, “a film family.”

For many years a digital film making program was top of mind for Western Colorado Community College, and once it was up and running, it attracted more than just interested students.

After 21 years in Los Angeles, California, industry veteran Brachfeld and her husband Hank Braxtan wanted to continue helping the next generation of creatives. They dreamt of leaving the Hollywood hills for their home state of Colorado to continue supporting the arts and the education that goes with it. After learning about CMU and WCCC’s film programs, and downtown Grand Junction’s Creative District status, they sold their house, packed their cameras and hit the road.

“It was so exciting to see these creative enterprises in their inception and think about how we could work with that emerging community,” said Brachfeld. “You can make films anywhere. Technology at this point is so powerful.” 

For Brachfeld, the hands-on, technical approach in the classroom was a tremendous draw — just as it is for students enrolled in the programs, students like Joel Cochan.

“I always liked telling stories, I’ve always liked movies. Even as a kid I knew that I wanted to make them,” said Cochan, who enjoys escaping to another world through film.

Now, he gets to help create those worlds.

Brachfeld and Braxtan brought Cochan on as the associate producer of the feature film Dragon Soldiers, which first premiered in Germany and the United Kingdom.

“Being a part of a real production gave us practical, on-site experience. It felt really great being on set because we were doing the things we were learning in school,” Cochran added.

It’s not every day college students get to collaborate in real-time with Emmy award-winning and Emmy nominated filmmakers, but Brachfeld believes it’s essential for artists to support one another.

“I’ve been blessed with a variety of mentors in my life that have given me opportunities to be successful in my career. You don’t get anywhere by yourself. You have to reach back and pull the next person up.”

Dragon Soldiers hits the big screen next month at the Avalon Theatre. The film premiers on Saturday, June 19, 2021 at 7pm. A Q&A and afterparty with the crew will follow.


Written by Kelsey Coleman