Sharpened Iron Studios | Making Texas-Sized Dreams a Reality

by Aubrey Hamilton
Published November 16, 2020

Get to know our neighbor Sharpened Iron Studios.

Sharpened Iron Studios is a full-fledged movie studio located in AC's new Innovation Outpost (formerly known as the Downtown Campus). They have wonderful plans, not only for the facilities but also for their partnership with Amarillo College and our future students.


Plans for AC Students

Through the partnership between Amarillo College and Sharpened Iron Studios, the Amarillo School for Cinematic Arts is going to be a unique program unlike programs anywhere else. Students will have access to a 3,000 square foot sound stage which will be constructed where the exhibit hall currently stands, be able to showcase their productions in a state-of-the-art screening room (the former auditorium), and have opportunities for hands-on experience in a professional production environment working on real movies, TV shows, documentaries, and commercials. All the labs will be done on-site and the internships will be practical experience-based internships, rather than the more traditional theory-based internships.

The other great resource available to students at AC is the Tech Kit, which is included as part of their tuition and fees. In most traditional film programs, students are handed their diploma/certification and sent off into the world. When they get out there and have to start filming their own content, they typically need to rent used filming equipment or find a job at a company that provides the equipment. With Sharpened Iron’s approach, the students graduating with one of the two associate’s degrees or one of the four, 1-year full immersion certificate programs will have the tools and equipment to start work immediately. Items in the Tech Kit include a camera, microphone kit, tripod, lighting kit, clapper board, and a laptop (their choice of mac or PC) fully loaded with programs you need to run a business (like Quickbooks) as well as all the programs you’ll need to work in the film industry. Students can go out and start filming their own commercials, make promo movies, documentaries, etc. as soon as they finish. If they plan on transferring to another program like Baylor, NYU, or USC after graduating from AC, our students will have an advantage over their peers by being able to work during that time because they will have all the tools and basic skills they need to stay successful in a production career, while furthering their education.

Because of their prominence, and in some cases geographic location, many of the major university film programs are unable to develop relationships with any one specific studio. They are unable to send their students to intern with a specific major studio without the risk of upsetting the others. While professors may be able to recommend a student reach out to a specific personal contact at one of the major studios, the schools as a whole can’t directly establish that connection. At AC, our students will be working in the studio not only with the Sharpened Iron team but with other production companies who come in to produce their content. With this immersive experience, they will be able to forge relationships in the industry and get a leg up on fellow students from other programs across the country.

Everyone is encouraged to look into this program, even if it’s only one class. You can learn something new about cinematography, how to be a producer, or how to act. These are skills you can apply to almost any aspect of your life, whether it’s professional or as a hobby you enjoy. 


About Sharpened Iron Studios

They will be producing their own content, which will include a mixture of faith-based and secular productions. These original productions include a children’s show called Toolie Tech, in which Toolie and his assistant Faith visit local businesses, such as Bell Helicopter, to help fix a specific problem. The goal of this show is to get kids interested in how things work in technology and to share the message that if you have a can-do attitude you can fix any problem. They’re also producing Flatlands, a detective series centering on incidents happening in and around Amarillo, particularly at well-known landmarks such as The Big Texan, Cadillac Ranch, and Polk Street; there may even be a chase scene or two.

Aside from their original content, Sharpened Iron Studios is also reaching out to other production companies and studios, particularly the streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney, etc. who are known for their original content and extending the offer to come rent the facilities here for some of their productions. They will be able to utilize the 30,000 square foot soundstage on what is now a parking lot. It will be the largest Hollywood level sound stage in the state of Texas.

Many people may be wondering, “Why Amarillo?” According to CEO Sean Doherty, “Amarillo is a city that is small enough that you know people in the grocery store, and everyone’s friendly and wanting to help make the community better, but it’s big enough that it has big dreams.” It’s safe to say Sharpened Iron Studios is planning to help make those big dreams a reality. They’re anticipating when everything is fully operational, they will employ 200 people through the studio with a potential for more employees as other production companies come in. They’re always open to give tours and enjoy sharing what they do.


Meet the team


Sean Doherty – CEO

Sean has built an impressive resume in the entertainment industry. Not only has he worked in acting and entertaining on the stage, TV, and film, he also has years of experience in the corporate side of the business. He helped run his family’s production company, Irish Eyes Productions, and founded Wildhorse Consulting with more than 30 years of experience in the political and legislative arenas.

Kirk Manton – Chief Operations Officer

Kirk has 30 years of experience in the business working for studios and running sound stages as a key grip. For the last 15 years, he has been here in Amarillo working on various productions and projects. One of his major accomplishments was helping to build Trinity Fellowship’s impressive production facility. His knowledge of how sound stages are structured and how they should run is invaluable to the team.

Judith “Thanne” Doherty – Chief Brand Officer

Judith brings a wealth of knowledge regarding event planning, social engagement, and media strategy. As a managing partner of Wildhorse Consulting, she has successfully planned and managed events of all sizes and in various industries from political to non-profit and consistently produced significantly higher social media engagement for her clients.

Michael Wilbanks – Director of Production

Michael is a local award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of Lumos Pictures. He has been responsible for writing, directing, and editing many of the company’s productions, as well as associate-producing the Amazon Prime series “Vindication”. Michael’s experience as an independent producer within the entertainment industry enables him to utilize his unique set of skills to help lead the production development team at Sharpened Iron Studios.

Devenie Graham – Artistic Director and Project Coordinator for the School for Cinematic Arts

As an award-winning actress and successful businesswoman, Devenie brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to the program. Not only does she have experience in acting on stage, television, and film, through her company D. Graham Entertainment, she has partnered with business executives, professional actors, and cinematic productions to develop film and television around the Texas panhandle.

Joey Graham – Chief Business Development Officer

Joey is a financial specialist in growing business and currently sits on the board of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce. His main focus with Sharpened Iron Studios is to grow the business, raise money for Sharpened Iron Studios’ various projects, build corporate sponsorships, and work on business partnerships within the community.


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The COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine will be available to all currently employed (full-time and part-time) faculty, staff, and student workers, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 9-10 at our Carter Fitness Center.

Vaccinations will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis.