The supernatural is happening in Socorro County as the ghost town of Kelly, N.M., has come alive during the filming of the movie Dead Man’s Hand during the week of Halloween.
Socorro-based film producer Jim Burleson’s schedule wasn’t based on filming on location in a ghost town during the year’s most significant nod toward the supernatural. Still, it probably doesn’t hurt — unless the area happens to throw some tricks your way.
On Oct. 27, Burleson and what appeared to be 50 people, including actors and film crew, were battling chilly weather and a 10-15 mile-
an-hour breeze. The season’s first dusting of snow on the Magdalena mountains in the background capped the day’s cold surroundings.
Adding frustration was one of two film locations where a crew was setting up a pair of teepees.
The area’s bedrock wasn’t allowing a proper setup. The workers on location discussed their options as they looked at a teepee and its covering, which was about 18 inches higher than it needed for filming.
“Maybe we can put some props on the outside,” one worker suggested.
The idea was quickly shot down by Burleson, who explained there would be filming from inside the teepee. Filmgoers aren’t going to buy Native Americans “air conditioning” their homes with snow in the area.
The lodge’s poles have already been tied, and after digging down about a foot, the shovels began encountering bedrock. A little more than 100 yards away, gunfire can be heard as actors Jake Kilmer and Cody Jones film a scene. The teepee scene is next, and time is ticking.
“Call Raks (hardware store) in Socorro and see what they might have regarding a paint drop cloth,” Burleson said.
A crew member whips out a phone and begins the hunt.
Burleson is calm under pressure, and a busy film schedule has tempered his patience. “Dead Man’s Hand” is his fourth production in Socorro County this year, and his movie “Letters at Christmas” (filmed in Socorro) starring Dead Cain is set for release next month.
It’s been quite a journey from promoting MMA fighting to producing movies starring upcoming actors like Kilmer (yes, Val Kilmer’s son) — Stephen Dorff and Cole Hauser are also starring — and working with people like author Kevin Minor and his artist brothers Jake and Matthew.
The trio’s collaboration brought about “No Rest for the Wicked,” a 120-page graphic horror novel that is the basis for this supernatural western.
According to Simon and Schuster’s online synopsis, “A mysterious cowboy named Reno shows up in the booming silver mining town of Crooked Creek. A card game goes about as badly as it can, and Reno runs afoul of the local powers-that-be. Rescued from death in the desert by a local native tribe for their own purposes, Reno is sent on a mission of vengeance as more than a man, but less than human.”
“My brothers came to me and said, Matt, what ideas do you have for what can we do? And I pitched some ideas to them from the vault,” Matthew Minor said. “I said, but I got this other idea for a kind of supernatural western. And they’re like, Yeah, that’s what we’ll do. And the artwork could be gritty, and it could be rough.”
Rough describes the film’s backdrop. Burleson has disappeared to his next “crisis,” and the nearby work crew has begun taking down and reassembling one of the teepees.
In addition to bringing attention to the beauty of Socorro County, there’s also the added economic boom for towns like Magdalena and Socorro. Some of those booms might be bigger than others.
On Thursday, a Magdalena gas station that also sells pastries had run out of goodies, and in Socorro, a hotel’s maids were refreshing the crew’s 18 rooms booked until filming ends. There are 25 local people involved with the project.
A for-sale sign that hung on a fencepost at Kelly’s “entrance” three months ago is gone now.
Burleson and his family have purchased Kelly (the mine is not included). They have plans to “re-establish” Kelly as a western town that will hopefully garner the attention of filmmakers like Santa Fe’s Eve’s Movie Ranch has done.
The ranch has been the film location for numerous Hollywood blockbusters, including “Silverado,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “Lonesome Dove,” and “The Dead Man’s Crew” spent 13 days on-site.
The casting call for extras also allowed Native American actors to practice their craft, and veterans and rookies came.
Daniel Cox is a former U.S. Army soldier, a graduate of the University of Texas El Paso film school, and has a Native American lineage that includes Comanche chief Quanah Parker.
As a Native American activist, Cox is proud to help portray his heritage positively and accurately. Cox’s career has also been busy with his most recent role as Desperado Cantina Patron in the newly released “Dead for a Dollar” starring Willem Dafoe.
He hopes his career will eventually work into film production.
“I want to represent and write our stories with our own production companies. To get our stories out in the real humanistic part of it,” Cox said.
He encourages other Native Americans to take a shot at a film career and contacted Timothy Dulan, who works as a welder fabricator, the night before. Dulan has never been in a movie, but he has flowing hair and good looks that might be the key to a start.
“I’m interested in catching on in some capacity. I’m open to other jobs. I’m interested in and willing to do what they need, welder, electrician, or fabrication, and I’m also up to standing in as an actor,” Dulan said.