EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A new Christmas movie shot in Las Cruces might make it to your list of holiday favorites next year.

Local filmmaker and professor at New Mexico State University Ross Marks has taken the director’s chair for “The Santa Assist,” a Christmas rom-com that follows the story of Santa’s cousin who is sent to a small town in New Mexico to bring back the spirit of Christmas.

“It’s funny, it’s charming, it’s whimsical, and it’s also really heartfelt, and it’s everything you want in a Christmas movie,” Marks said.

Marks explained he wanted to bring a major feature film to the Borderland to include his NMSU students and give them an opportunity to work with Oscar-nominated actor Eric Roberts as well as John Stoddard and Alexandra Harris as Hallmark stars.

Roberts is taking on the role of Santa Claus and loves to stay in character on set.

“They should expect everything they ever wished for because I’m Santa,” said Roberts as Mr. Claus.

Through his Las Cruces International Film Festival and film production exclusively in southern New Mexico, Marks wants to continue bringing Hollywood to the Borderland and help expand the local film industry.

“We give back to the community because the local businesses benefit. We’ve had hundreds of extras, people that got to be in the film. And we’re showcasing the beauty and that wonderful community that is southern New Mexico, Las Cruces, Mesilla and all the surrounding areas,” Marks said.

Most of his production crew for “The Santa Assist” are NMSU students taking his Feature Film Production class.

One of his students Blake Bundy is working with props on this production and said it’s a great experience and will look great on his resume.

“It’s for our new employers to look at our past work and be like, ‘Hey what films have you worked on before and search our IMDB, and there we are,'” Bundy said.

Another student Marisol Hernandez, who is working as a costume designer, said it allowed her to explore different career paths within the film industry.

“I was really lucky to be a part of this opportunity. It’s definitely something I would consider doing in the future and just running with this costume designer thing for the rest of my life,” Hernandez said.

“This is my sixth feature film. I’ve worked with some major actors. I worked with Brendan Fraser and Faye Dunaway and Edward James Olmos and Rosie O’Donnell. I worked with a lot of actors, and I’m blessed to work with Eric Roberts on this film and a lot of different crews. But this has been the most rewarding, most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had making a movie,” Marks said about working with his students.

Marks applauded the screenplay writers for this film, Judy Pinnel and Mary Harmer.

“I was so impressed with this script and Mary gave me another script. I said, ‘I want to direct that one too,'” he said about his upcoming project on the story about Canaan Bower, a Las Cruces high schooler and wrestler who prevented a kidnapping in progress back in 2020 and tragically died in a car accident in 2022.

“The Santa Assist” production is entering its final stages with only about a week left on the set.

Marks said the movie is expected to be released for Christmas 2024.

He’s hoping it will make it to the theaters with one major streaming service (best known for its Christmas movies) already eyeing the project.