A local novelist and a well-known film and television director have teamed up to produce a television series based in the Southwest and filmed in Montezuma County.
Chuck Greaves, a mystery novel writer living in McElmo Canyon, and Félix Enríquez Alcalá, a director known for his work on episodes of highly rated television shows like “The Good Wife,” “Criminal Minds” and “Breaking Bad,” are recruiting Montezuma County locals for small roles and as crew members.
Greaves and Alcalá live in Montezuma County and were inspired to create something that would also boost the local economy.
“We want to bring a television company to Montezuma County,” Greaves said. “A production like that would bring, what we would spend, approximately $3 million per episode for each of the six episodes.”
The two met six months ago through a mutual friend and decided over dinner to work on a project. Their experiences in Montezuma County gave rise to a television show idea, titled “Badwater.”
But Alcalá knew from experience that if they took the typical route to create a television show – partnering with a production company and a distributor – they would lose creative control.
“It would go through so many changes,” Greaves said. “So what we are going to do is completely different.”
Greaves and Alcalá plan to produce the pilot episode independently with private funding, then shop the pilot around for a company to pick it up. The process would allow Greaves and Alcalá to “control the final product much more readily than we otherwise would,” Greaves said.
Alcalá’s connections in the industry and his experience directing a variety of projects would allow him and Greaves to “make a quality television show at half the price,” Greaves said.
Filming is set for 10 to 15 days in October in Cortez, Mancos and Dolores. Alcalá said the mayors of Cortez and Mancos have been supportive of the project.
Alcalá hopes to film in iconic buildings like the old county courthouse.
Shooting and sourcing the cast and crew locally would boost local trade and the economy, Greaves and Alcalá said.
If the television show were picked up, the producers would include a nonprofit component to teach locals about acting, trades and what goes into making a television show, Greaves said.
Montezuma County residents are invited to an open casting call on Tuesday, Aug. 18, at the Mancos Community Center on 130 Grand Ave., from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The contemporary series is about a small Southwestern town that borders a Native American reservation, so Native American actors are encouraged to join the casting call, Greaves said.
Alcalá’s idea for the show was inspired by current injustices, especially racial injustice. “Badwater” is about the “gray area of drama; there are no clear good guys and bad guys,” Alcalá said. “Everyone’s just trying to fix issues.”
As a Mexican American who grew up in Texas, Alcalá said he “had to push every inch of the way” to accomplish what he has.
“They just don’t let you in (to the industry),” Alcalá said.
Major characters of the story include a Native leader, a white sheriff, a Black social worker and a Latina district attorney.
Greaves and Alcalá say they would hire a Native writer for the series.
“We want to train people in the writers room,” as well as pay them minimum wage, Alcalá said. “It would be a great honor to say we started something for the community.”
The film/television industry in New Mexico is a $2 billion industry, and it would be “exciting to start a film community in Southwest Colorado,” Alcalá said.
Resumes and headshots are encouraged but not required, according to a press release. Actors and crew would be paid wages that align with the Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Greaves said.
The pair want to line up 41 to 45 cast members within three to four weeks, Alcalá said.
He emphasized that masks and social distance rules will be followed during the casting call, per SAG-AFTRA guidelines.
“The union in California will shut us down if we don’t,” Alcalá said.
Production in October would require a nurse on set and testing for the cast three times per week, Greaves said.
[email protected]Katie Chicklinski-Cahill contributed to this article.