ABOUT “WANDERING WITH THE DEAD”
I was 22, trying to find my footing, and desperately looking to create something. After graduating from film school, and after our group of filmmakers completed our biggest short film at the time, I now wanted to direct. I had grand ambitions of doing a western. One about a bounty hunter who drags his prize across the old west to where he can collect the highest bounty.
The short film was going to be a proof of concept: Just 5 minutes, depicting the initial kill of the wanted man. I started working at a production company, receiving sustainable income. I put down $4,000 to fly myself, our producer, and our director of photography out to Colorado for a grand location scout of ghost towns for four days. It was my first travel gig for a job. One that we paid for.
We landed in Denver and headed for the mountains, got lost on the first night, not far from "The Stanley Hotel", and camped at some unplanned KOA for four quick hours. We continued on before we ever saw anyone else at the campground. That night, we woke up to the sounds of wolves in the distance; howling and fighting. It was a brilliant manifestation of where we were and what we were heading into.
We spent the next few days traveling all along the “Rockies”. We camped where we could, drove where we shouldn't, and got lost much more than once. After getting stuck in a ghost town in the mountains overnight; we scrounged up money for a hotel and finally showered.
It was a lasting experience; seeing these quiet desolate areas would leave an impression on my work. The tall tales now seemed grounded in reality. It was all useless though. We returned, and I never got the script where I liked it. I never raised enough money to do it properly. I never made it. I was too unrelenting on what I wanted and refused to change anything to accommodate my actual surroundings and the resources I had to actually create something. I spent $4,000 on a learning lesson for a young filmmaker (me). This was 2010.
The scripts went on the backburner and disappeared... until the end of 2019.
I wanted to get my work and voice out there. "Shorts" were expensive. I was getting sick of shelling out my own money to do them, so I decided to shell out my money into something else. I also wanted a challenge. I wanted to do something I had not done before. I realized, through the help of my peers, that my short films became repetitive; I wasn’t extending myself like I should be or showing growth in a way that I thought I needed to. No idea in short-form made me excited. I wanted to make feature films but thought, “I need to prove to people I could do long-form storytelling.” Then, I thought of our old western short and a few other versions of that story that morphed and changed (Back then, I wanted us all to take a crack at the story of the bounty hunter and release a slew of short films). It would be ripe for some audio design.
In my mind, it was a little lightning in a bottle—not because it was a good idea, but because I finally thought about marrying my stories with something else that I always loved, which was sound design and music. I narrated one of the short stories and started laying down background tracks, horses, and footsteps. I laid in songs from Musicbed.com. I sent it to a few friends who thought it was pretty sweet. One said that I should add actors to it. He was totally right.
I decided that this was a decent use of time and started to revisit the stories. The caveat was that I disliked all of them now. They were written by a different filmmaker—figuratively speaking—and I didn’t care for that kind of story anymore. So instead of scrapping them, I updated them. Back when I first started writing them, I was 21, working a few jobs, and living with my girlfriend. Now I was married to that girlfriend, had two children, and was looking to sell our condo.
The world was also a much different place and serial storytelling was forever changed by the likes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Watchmen, The Leftovers, True Detective, (Early) Walking Dead, Chernobyl, Show me a Hero, and countless others. I tried to infuse current issues in my mind. Tried to update the stories and challenge myself where I could. I think it's most specifically, in the character Daniel. I thought about how monsters in men have been preying on the weak for centuries. And though subtle, the line delivery of the main character, Christian, about meeting “men like you…when I was young” was meant to allude to that fact that Christian himself had suffered from something similar and that the “Man with No Name,” who could save the day and be untouchable, wasn’t what interested me anymore; and certainly, wasn’t what was real.
Then, COVID hit and put a whole different spin on things. After the initial shock of it all and switching to working remotely to seeing what the future might hold, we clutched our earnings tight. Would we head into the mountains and start building a log cabin and hiding out? Who knows, but best to be prepared, we thought.
As the dust “settled,” we realized, like everyone, while this would all be a long haul, it was not irreversible. I felt all right moving forward, throwing money back into ideas and creativity that excited me. I was ready for the new challenge. We started back up again. I placed all the sounds in through premiere pro because it’s where I felt most comfortable. I originally wanted someone to mix it, but after the first episode ended up being 30 minutes, I knew I couldn’t pay for someone else to do it, so I taught myself how to mix and master it. After posting casting calls for actors and receiving rates; I knew I couldn’t pay for a narrator, so I decided to just keep myself narrating and try to get the best actors I could. We finally launched our first two episodes in October.
The cast has been one of the most heart-warming aspects I’ve run into, specifically, Brian Stivale, who plays Christian (and Bear-man!). He was the first person I cast, and he has been incredibly gracious. After taking him on, we just snow-balled with incredible actors like Kim Ramon who plays Mama. I was not intending Mama to be younger, but after hearing her, I couldn’t help but to think how much it added impact to the others calling her Mama. She was incredible. Beau Marie, who plays Daniel, swung for the fences for us and hit a grand slam. He was willing to go where the terrible dark character was supposed to go. He returns for episode 3 as the auctioneer. I had someone really specific in mind for Donato Almonte, and I came across someone that nailed it. It was Mark Dodson, who when I learned played Salacious Crumb in “Return of the Jedi” as well as some gremlins, my childlike wonder took over. I geeked out about it with him for a moment, and then he brought some incredible horror elements to the character and his transformation. Donato might be one of my favorite characters I’ve written.
For better or worse, "Wandering with the Dead" is an amalgamation of all the things that I love. It's the crack of thunder that startles the horses. The creaking wind in the hallways. The rain on the roof that drains into the bucket. The haunting melodies and the crashing drums that carry us to the next chapter. It's bombastic and preposterous... but we hope you can see its heart. Even at its most disconnected from reality, it still feels personal to me.
As we prepare for these final chapters,
We really hope you have enjoyed “Wandering with the Dead” and we really hope that you enjoy what's left. Some really incredible people put their talent into it.