The first person to read a draft of Death & Taxes was cinematographer, Erick Castillo, a former student of mine at the College of Santa Fe. His response – “It’s great, let’s do this!” His enthusiasm was refreshing, but I knew doing a film for next to nothing was going to take time & effort to put together. Aaron Rhodes, who plays the lead, HAROLD, read it next. I had Aaron in mind when I was writing because he's one of the funniest guys I'd ever met. I had no idea he was a ten-year vet of Chicago's Second City, had toured with the company, and had done a short film with Stephen Colbert. When Aaron said he'd do it, if I offered him the role (which I did after auditioning other local actors), for the first time I actually felt the film could happen.
Other former students of mine, Greg Byrd, Nick Najdowski, and Jason Siegel, stepped in to help, as did many recent Santa Fe City College film grads. The first crew members to start work, however, I found on Craig's List. Lisa Jay, my Art Director, had recently moved to Santa Fe and had never worked on a film before, but she was smart, talented and eager to learn, and even with two small kids somehow found the time. Shawn K. Deasy, Attorney at Law, who specializes in estate planning, I persuaded to set up the LLC and other necessary documents to get the production rolling.
Other key personnel just seemed to fall into place. Lynn Goodwin, who plays Harold's wife, JUDY, I’d admired in local theater productions. Lynn introduced me to Patty Smith, my casting director and 1st AD, who then introduced me to Oscar Cifuentes, whose company, Seige Films, provided our gear, and who became an integral crew member.
Makeup artists, Adelicia Rodriguez and Dayan Morgan-Sylvaen, heard about the project and found me. One of the final crew I found was Donovan Thomas, a Native American craft service person, who my buddy, Dale Lotrek, had recommended. I lucked out when Donovan agreed to do the film. He helped in so many ways and kept us nourished and smiling for 20 days of principle, a pickup day, and a green screen day, all in one month.
What’s different about Death & Taxes as compared to most micro-budgeted (under ten grand) digital productions is that it was shot in a retro fashion. There weren’t a bunch of cameras wing-dinging every scene, just one. And the script was tight, rewritten dozens of times. Then it was broken down into a 5-day, 4 week, production schedule. Shooting axioms for the look of the film and production axioms for the design were adhered to. Most of our public locations, like the mini-mart gas station, the bar, the church, and the park, we never own and had to shoot around whatever activity was happening. And sometimes there was a lot. We were fortunate that a some great Santa Fe restaurants kicked in meals, which was a generous thing to do.
Post-production took longer than expected, but it always does. Aside from learning Final Cut Pro X, I continually honed the film and tried to make it as tight as possible. I also did the laborious digital timing to get the look I wanted for Harold, which was way more time consuming than I anticipated. During post an incredible thing happened; award-winning dialogue editor, Rich Quinn, a friend of Erick's, saw the film and offered to put together a team to cut sound and do a mix. Working with re-recording mixer, Roy Waldspurger, sound supervisor, Everett Moore, and a talented crew of sound technicians was truly a memorable experience.
Everyone who gave their time and effort did it pro bono, and in return will be a profit participant, if the film ever makes money. The fact that a radically satirical film like Death & Taxes could get made in New Mexico, and be done the way I envisioned it, is amazing and speaks volumes about the burgeoning film biz here. The movie's awesome look and wonderful acting is a testament to everyone who contributed, and I can't thank them enough.
Writer, Producer & Director
Aaron Rhodes, Lynn Goodwin & Lisa Jay
Shawn K. Deasy, Attorney at Law
Casting Director & 1st Assistant Director
Art Director & Still Photographer
2nd Camera & Assistant Camera
2nd Camera, AC, DIT & Steadicam
Key Craft Services
Donovan "Donzer" Thomas
AC, DIT & Grip
Additional Gaffer, AC, DIT & Grip
AC & DIT
Astrid J. Segovia
Electrician & Grip
AC & Best Boy Grip
AC & DIT
2nd Assistant Camera, DIT & Grip
Digital Information Tech
Additional Production Sound
Green Screen Production Sound
Swing Boom Operator
Green Screen Editor
Original Score by
Additional Score by
hill & Trip
Supervising Sound Design
Additional Re-Recording Mixer
Special Thanks To
Digital Cinema Print
High Desert Digital
ADR,Music, Additional Sound
Cutting & Mixing
Digital Effects & Color Correction
Hamell on Trial
Lisa Jay, Patty Smith, Nick Najdowski, Aaron Rhodes, Greg Byrd, Peter McCarthy, Erick Castillo, Oscar Cifuentes