Crew, Location Essential To “We Regret To Inform You”
By: Marjorie Galas
Coming off the success of the award-winning made for TV movie “You Don’t Know Jack,” producer Steve Lee Jones has invested as much dedication in amassing talent and crew to lift his upcoming projects off the ground as he has towards researching and selecting content worthy of attention.
His upcoming feature project,”We Regret to Inform You” is currently in production. The thriller, written by Scott F. Butler, follows an U.S. Army Notifications Officer snowbound in terrifying conditions. Straying from the nonfiction material that typically intrigues him, Jones was attracted to the script’s exploration of contemporary political and social attitudes.
“It’s a commentary on the ongoing disputes about war,” said Jones. “There’s also a very sharp focus on the subversive groups in our country who will go to any lengths for what they believe is righteous.”
Set on Christmas Eve, a desolate landscape and a remote farm house are the birthplaces for the action. Jones immediately set his sights on shooting in New Mexico to capitalize on the vast, open landscapes. He knew finding a line producer who he could communicate with and who was familiar with the shooting locations was a crucial element to the production’s success. His search led him to Stephen Milburn Anderson.
“He’s an interesting person who’s done ground-breaking work,” said Jones. “He’s integral to the New Mexico film world. He’s the man who created the New Mexico incentive program.”
Stephen Milburn Anderson began his film career in New Mexico. As many professionals have done over the years, he left his home state and came to Los Angeles looking for work. For 17 years he rose through the ranks, starting as an electrician in shorts and eventually wrote, produced and directed films, including 1992’s indie gem “South Central.” In the late 90s Anderson reconnected with an old theater friend who had an idea that would kickstart New Mexico’s film incentive program.. Anderson immediately became engaged. In 1997 he packed his bags and moved back to New Mexico, devoting his efforts into developing a plan that would put New Mexico in the production landscape.
“We brought our plan to the legislature in January 2000 and it passed that year unanimously,” said Anderson. “It was completely unique. It started a boon town that introduced a new source of wealth.”
One of the goals Anderson had in initiating incentives was to create viable below-the-line opportunities and develop a regular New Mexico crew base. As dedicated professionals began populating the area, major studios were built, and filming has flourished for the past ten years. While competing incentives in states such as Louisiana have pulled some of the work and crew away, Anderson still has reliable professionals he consistantly works with in the area.
“Our crew base is phenomenal, and this group of people sticks together,” said Anderson. “I have A crews, B crews and C crews, and there are also a lot of film students to reach out to.”
Included in his A crew are the Essets, a family of electricians, and Allan Swain, a location manager who’s been in the business for twenty years and “knows everything about the state, the people and the job.” Although 70% of the action will be shot in interior settings built on a sound stage, securing locations that match the desolate farm house and vast, wintery landscape was a task Swain would be well-suited for.
“We were scouting the state far and wide, focusing on the northern points,” said Milburn. “We’ve been focusing on little communities and farm settings in areas like Taos and Red River. Because it is a psychological thriller with a specific vibe, we must have enough snow, so there is a time concern added in.”
While Anderson ensures the crew is secured, the budget stays on track and the locations perfectly match the descriptions in “We Regret to Inform You,” Jones brought Rupert Wainwright on board to direct. Coming off commercial work including the 2012 Olympic Campaign and having flexed his horror muscles on fare such as “Stigmata” and “The Fog,” Jones felt his style would perfectly serve the intense psychological state the actors will need to display. Jones also wanted to secure a cinematographer who could capture the tension in the sparse setting. With credits including “We are Marshall,” “Terminator Salvation” and “Act of Valor,” DP Shane Hurlbut was hired to join the crew.
As production moves forward with “We Regret to Inform You,” Jones and his production company, Bee Holder Productions, are busy cultivating several other projects in a variety of stages of development. “Stereovision,” a heist caper written by Mark Kratter, focuses on a group of young techies who retaliate after they are manipulated by high end stereo consumers. Jones will also tackle another Scott F. Butler script entitled “Sodom,” a horror tribute to the making of Pasolini’s notorious film “120 Days of Sodom,” which is one of the most well known international horror films of all time. Jennifer Lynch is attached to direct this project. Bee Holder Productions will align with Inferno to produce an adaptation of Harlan Coben’s best seller “Hold Tight.” Jones will also re-team with “You Don’t Know Jack” Emmy winning scribe Adam Mazar on two fact-based scripts: “Contingency,” a story about the first attorneys to advertise when it became legal in 1978, and “DeLorean,” focusing on the life of the General Motors mastermind who was arrested for drug trafficking in 1982.