As the sun was setting over the ridge of the hills behind us, we rolled the last shot on Cowboys & Engines. It was a close-up of Libby Letlow as Guinivere Turner, ducking down behind a rock as yours’ truly assaulted her with fake bullet hits from a paintball gun.
And then the direct sunlight was gone. The shadows in the valley of our dry riverbed location began to lengthen, and our day was done. To say I’m thrilled with what we were able to capture is an understatement; I’m positively ecstatic, and I think this film is going to be something truly special.
It’s impossible to properly thank everyone involved in a project like this. Like most films, Cowboys & Engines was a huge team effort, and I’m honored and gratified that everyone gave their all and then some to make this little movie seem so much bigger than it is.
I could fill the next thousand words with specific examples of people who went above and beyond for our Steampunk Western; Our astonishing and talented cast; our amazing DP and camera department; our incredibly helpful and supportive producers and execs who have kept us on the rails and rescued the show a half-dozen times; our slavishly-dedicated art department who literally lost blood, sweat, tears and sleep to make this movie happen; wardobe, makeup, props, even catering. Everyone, all down the line, has been magnificent.
As a better way to say thank you to everyone, here are the credits for the film as they currently stand (most of the post credits, the special thanks, the copyright, etc., are all still missing).
Michael Hemmerich & Melissa Kimbro present
An 1876 Production
An Unpunished Film
Kaila Katesh Freas
and Malcolm McDowell
COWBOYS & ENGINES
Kevin Alexander Heard
Written & Directed by
Director of Photography
Visual Effects Supervisor
Additional Assistant Directors
2nd Assistant Directors
Key Makeup Artist
Assistant Makeup Artist
Special Effects Makeup
(In Order of Appearance)
Cade Ballard — Richard Hatch
Guinivere Wheeler — Libby Letlow
Myrmidon — Mark Whitten
Symphony Furst — Stasya Knight
Professor Timéon — Walter Koenig
Mercy Timéon — Kaila Katesh
Spyglass — Jenifer Ellis
Dr. Clay — Malcolm McDowell
Salomé — Chase McKenna
Gunner — Jim Fulton
Starboard — Tye Lombardi
Iron Mike — Derrick Pierce
Mr. Hatch’s Stunt Double
Ms. Letlow’s Stunt Double
2nd Assistant Camera
Jim Van Cooney
Jim Van Cooney
Visual Effects by Hall of Shadows
Stills & EPK
Catering & Craft Services
Grace Craft Services
Dirt Cheap Soundstage
Epic Valley Studios
Santa Clarita Movie Ranch
And on Location in the Angeles National Forest
Camera & Lenses provided by Birns & Sawyer
Following a chaotic production collapse like the one that ended our previous run on Cowboys & Engines, you gain a lot of clarity… well, I do, at any rate. As we’ve all been busting our asses to put the shoot back together, I realized — or maybe, remembered — how important this project is to me. I can’t wait to start editing it. I can’t wait for it to be finished. The first time the public at large will see any portion of the film is when the trailer screens at ComicCon, and last night, I dreamed about that happening.
In my dream, they loved it. And so did I. That’s a very good sign. If my subconscious has no doubts about the project, it makes it easier for me.
The problem is that the re-tool has given me time to start feeling the weight of this thing I’m carrying on my back. It matters to me, in a way nothing has in years, and that stresses me out. Normally, I can shoulder pretty much any burden you care to heap on me, and slog forward apace. In the case of C&E, it’s a heavy, fragile package I have to deliver intact, and in mint condition, and that unique situation is changing the way I carry it.
Unfortunately, I can’t allow that to happen. Directing a film is like playing blackjack; you can’t do it carefully. You can’t win if you’re afraid of losing. You have to play the game joyfully, and with a sense of daring and abandon. Playing it safe in blackjack means you lose, and playing it safe in filmmaking nets you a stale end product.
So (to mix my gambling metaphors) I’m going to spend the next three days forgetting what’s on the line, enjoy the hell out of working with Richard, Libby, Walter, Kaila & Mark, revel in my excellent crew, double down and let it ride. And I’m going to make every effort not to count my winnings until July, when people get their first taste and tell me if we won.
— Bryn Pryor
Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.
We’ve had two amazing days of filming on Cowboys & Engines, and one day that will live in infamy for years to come. As has been said before, and better, filmmaking is an inherently chaotic process; a constant battle against forces that threaten to bring the whole enterprise crashing down in pieces around your head. I’ve always likened it to a snowball rolling downhill. Sometimes, that snowball gains unstoppable momentum and simply gets bigger and bigger, smashing all the obstacles in its path. Other times, you have to constantly pack the snow together as it rolls, keeping it from falling apart.
Often, you think you have one, and realize you have the other. C&E is the first snowball, but for a brief moment on Sunday, it was masquerading as the second.
We started shooting Friday. We got amazing footage with Richard Hatch, Libby Letlow, Walter Koenig, Kaila Freas and Stasya Knight. Each actor surpassed my expectations for them, out sets were gorgeous, and everything looks amazing.
Saturday was devoted to our scenes on the bridge of the Karlova, Dr. Clay’s dirigible, with the legendary Malcolm McDowell joining us to play Clay. Malcolm was charming, funny, a joy to work with, and I think we made a good impression on him as well. Kerri and Andy Appleton surpassed themselves with the Karlova bridge set, and again, my amazing cast – now including Chase McKenna, Tye Lombardi & Jenifer Ellis as well – blew everyone away. Libby, Kaila & Chase particularly each did a fantastic job of standing up to the challenge of acting opposite a star like McDowell.
Sunday was to be the start of our exteriors. It promised to be a hot, grueling day, but it was cut short when issues with the location and the base camp owner shut us down and left us without any options to shoot out that day. Given that everything was connected to the next day’s location as well, we simply pulled the plug and decided to re-group and attack with a new plan. I went home feeling like I’d been kicked in the gut, but four hours later, we had the beginnings of a plan. Now, two days later, it’s starting to solidify, and we’re all pretty well convinced that it’s going to work out to the benefit of the movie.
I was speaking to a friend on Monday who said, “Everything happens for a reason.” I replied, “Yeah. Usually my own incompetence.” However, sometimes I’m a genius at making exactly the right mistake at exactly the right time.
So shooting is on hiatus until the end of May when we will all re-group in the desert, and see if we do, indeed, have a snowball’s chance in hell.
— Bryn Pryor