EDITOR’S NOTE: Dead Men does some amazing things. It began as the most intense web series we at TVWriter™ had ever seen. And now it’s a film. As they used to say back in the ’30s, when westerns were considered “easy” to shoot – now they’re anything but – “Read all about it!”
Better yet, watch this trailer, and then start reading:
Dead Men Tell Tales
by Henry C. Parke
Walmart shoppers grabbing a DVD of the new Vision Films Western Dead Men, directed by Royston Innes, starring Ric Maddox and cowritten by the pair, might be surprised to learn that the three-hour drama first rolled camera more than six years ago.
“The flashbacks work so well because Ric and the others look so much younger,” Innes says. “It had literally been a couple of years, and the age shows.”
“A couple of Hollywood years,” adds Maddox, with
a chuckle. “You know, a Hollywood year is like five years on a Texas ranch.”
Which is where Maddox grew up. Innes left Australia when he was 19, “and lived on several continents,” before he arrived at Playhouse West in Los Angeles, California. Maddox, fresh from the Iraq War and from New York’s Stella Adler Conservatory, met Innes doing a play. Each was impressed with the other’s intensity and commitment.
To make their Western, they drew their inspiration from nearly the same source. “My favorite movie is Lonesome Dove; his favorite book is Lonesome Dove. I keep threatening to read the book,” Maddox says.
But Dead Men didn’t begin its life as a movie. “Our focus was to get a Western in the hands of a younger generation, 18 to 35, people who normally had little interest in the [genre],” Innes says. “We did it as a web series, to bring in the younger crowd.”
Although their project first screened on the Internet, the format, in many ways, is an update of the Republic-style serial, telling brief chapters of a dramatic story, often with a cliffhanger ending.
“It was to be a celebration of a certain type of man,” Innes explains. “The type of spirit that we wanted to bring back; that grit, that feeling of anything is possible.
“And we’re living examples of this. Our grit, and the fact that anything is possible, is the only reason this thing got made.”
Working with boundless enthusiasm and precious little money, the first season was posted in 10 eight-to-10-minute chapters. Shot in Western movie towns and rugged locations all over Arizona, the story is about Jesse Struthers (Maddox), who barely escapes when his father is murdered by a hired gun (Craig Hensley) for his gold mine claim. When Jesse, his father’s close friend (Brent Rock) and Jesse’s ne’er-do-well brother Jake (Aaron Marciniak) try to go up against claim jumper and would-be politician Cole Roberts (Richard O. Ryan), blood spills. Jesse nearly dies, only to be rescued by an Apache warrior (Sam Bearpaw)….