New Pilot for TV series to be filmed in Roswell
By Christina Stock
The team behind the making of the sci-fi action TV series pilot “Enso” and its company Enso Film LLC are well-known locally and among their peers. Leading the force behind the project is its writer and director, Robin Haynes; actor Boyd Barrett, who helped write the story; and in multiple roles, Mike Lanfor and Jenna Preston Secrist of AirPlay Media and Adventure Services, LLC, who also provide the drones to shoot aerial views.
The shooting of the ambitious project begins May 24 and will last two weekends in closed sets throughout town. This will be Haynes’ first project as director. He is an experienced actor and producer on stage and screen. Haynes said that while there is a lot of passion in the story, it is not another short film or passion project.
Secrist is assistant director and accounting bookkeeper. “With all the in-kind donations — we are looking at a $50,000 budget project. This one has a higher level of capital investment. That means better distribution possibilities after we’re done,” she said.
“Enso” touches on a serious problem that military members and their families are having to deal with today — post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD.
“We’ve also had a lot of issues with soldiers that haven’t had the proper care and treatment and end up going deeper into their issues, mentally and emotionally, and ending up doing some really dark things,” Haynes said.
“Mike and I lost our son to PTSD as well,” Secrist said. “So we have a very big heart about getting the message out about PTSD overall. Ours (the TV series) is a bit of a sci-fi, but PTSD happens to military people whether or not they served in a war situation. I don’t think a lot of people understand that if there is no combat going on, they think there is no PTSD. They went to basic training and in basic training, you are mind-changed to live a certain way and that way is life and death and what a lot of them do. When they come back to civilian life, we don’t operate like the military does.”
The fictitious action-filled story in “Enso” takes place in the near future where an organization is posing as someone who tries to help military personnel suffering from PTSD, but actually has an ulterior, darker motive.
“It is going to be very much a dramatic story, based around the characters and how they handle things and making these characters complex with multiple layers,” Haynes said. “It’s not just going to be gratuitous behind everything that happened, but following the storyline. The science fiction is just the circumstances surrounding these people and what they are dealing with more or less, because that’s where you really get good stories. If you look at a lot of the series out now, they are so huge and popular. There is a circumstance surrounding these people, even in “Walking Dead.” Yes, there are zombies, but the real story is, how are these people dealing with this dystopian kind of reality and how does their humanity come to light? That’s what I want to capture with this, under these unusual circumstances, how are they handling it?”
One of the scenes that is going to be filmed for the pilot is an action-filled flash-back of the main character to a firefight during his service in Afghanistan. “Just for that scene, there are eight actors, but we have talent coming in from Tucson, from El Paso, from Albuquerque, from outside of Roswell. Then, we have a few smaller roles that are filled by some local talent as well,” Haynes said.
Haynes is especially concerned about accuracy in depicting the military combat situations.
“It is good that we have somebody like Mike (Lanfor) and we also have one of our actors who is active military. He’ll be coming from El Paso: Jeff Ararat.
“Mike was in the U.S. Army for 20 years and served in the Special Forces group,” Secrist said. “That’s what he did. A lot of people think Special Forces means SEALS (Navy Sea, Air and Land Forces), but actual Special Forces is its own group in the Army. They will be very specific to the group that they will be portraying costume-wise, wardrobe-wise and even the weapons they will be using.
“We also have a collaboration with not only Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell’s film class with Alan Trever, but we are working with New Mexico State University-Carlsbad’s film class. This is a collaborative effort between two film programs from Carlsbad, Rubin Olguin, he’s a teacher at its film class (Assistant Professor of Digital Media at New Mexico State University-Carlsbad). We’re just starting to collaborate the region so we can better satisfy the needs of any crew coming in, anybody who wants to bring film in will have a bigger pool to draw on because they’ll have connections,” Secrist said. According to Secrist, Lanfor is going to be in charge of the drones, sound and photography for the project.
Asked about the challenges, Barrett said, “Because it’s a pilot we have to get enough in to have people connect with the characters, but yet, tell enough of the story. Hopefully, we get to tell the rest of it if it gets accepted and we can get more funding. That’s the challenge, even for actors, to get somebody to say, ‘I want to know more.’”
“With the pilot, you want to present more questions than you answer, but you want to give them enough to hook them in, so they want to know more,” Haynes said. “The challenge is, don’t reveal things too quickly. You don’t want to present the question and give the answer right there. You want to drop little hints and nuggets of information. And to create multiple complex characters you can focus the whole episode on the backstory of one character and tie him back in.”
Secrist said, “We have all of our dates set and ready to go, but we are on the hinge of that one location saying yes or no. We always have a backup plan, if something happens we deal with it. Lisa Hobbs is my second DA (director’s assistant), I couldn’t do it without her. She really handles the paperwork backing for me. It’s timed — timing has to be right when you approach people for their locations, you are buying insurance for a set time, so you have 30 days to get everything done. When you execute that everything has to go, like dominos, once you pull the trigger, everything has to go and flow. Getting locations, getting people on the sets, crafting; making sure people are fed; hitting breaks when you are supposed to; signing people in and out because you pay them hourly. We operate on a close set basis — nobody can take pictures while we are on those sets, but you also have to have identification to get on that set with me.
“I know who is in the buildings where we are at and who is supposed to be there and who is not. We strike our sets at the end. That means if you ate dinner, clean it up, don’t touch things, don’t move things, you are here to do this job and so grooming them as well. It’s a learning curve,” Secrist said.
“With this, we worked so hard, and Jenna, she has been incredible, the locations she’s been able to secure,” Haynes said.
After shooting the pilot, the majority of time will be spent in post-production and then finding a distributor.
“Every time you talk with a distributor, what kind of genre is most likely to get picked up? It’s action. Action sells. We got the element of action, we got the element of sci-fi, we got the element of current events all combined into our story, so hopefully, with that right combination, it is in the direction on what they are looking for,” Haynes said.
If we don’t grab people right away, then you can always throw it into the film festival circuit and a lot of times there are scouts out there looking for new things. That’s another thing, you can grab it. We don’t want to start with that route, we want to go to the big guys first, the platforms and see what we can do.
People who are interested in becoming extras can contact Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org. “We’ll need quite a few,” he said. “We’ll be shooting in Stellar Coffee Shop, Sippy & Opals, the courthouse and one of the primary locations, we are still locking it down. We got a few of local talent coming out for some smaller roles. We’d love to have more talent.”