a film by R. Zane Rutledge
P R E S S K I T
About the Low-Budget
by R. Zane Rutledge,
writer, director, co-producer, editor, etc.
A u g u s t 1 9 9 9
Hell is Texas was definitely a longshot.
action-adventure western and a twisted ghost story rolled into one...
A shoe-string budget, super low shooting ratios, unknown actors, an
inexperienced director, and an unproven crew. A ridiculously ambitious
vision. No Hollywood backing. Barely enough money to get it "in the
can." No real plan for finishing. ...The deck was stacked against
figured if we failed at least we'd have given it a try.
photography for Hell is Texas happened way back in 1993 and
'94, shot in 16mm in the drylands of West Texas where me and most
of my crew grew up. It was a grueling two weeks in 101-degree heat
with an expanded crew of about six-to-twelve people at any one time.
and flashback photography took almost six more months, and was only
a three-man crew: me and my two best friends Jance Allen and B.Z.
Lewis (sound/music, and so much more). This phase took so long
primarily because of the near-insane needs of 1800s costuming, something
I should have thought about a little harder when I was first writing
my script. Of course, rough editing was happening simultaneously (which
revealed the need for most of the pickup shots).
original Texas production was blessed by many miracles, in spite of
the overly-ambitious script. In fact, we broke most of the low-budget
rules, including: action/fight sequences (including swordplay), guns
and bullets, horses and stunts, high-speed cars, visual effects, and
more. Somehow getting it "in the can" all worked out anyway.
had some remarkable help with some real production professionals:
Ron Hubbard and Janet Hurley (fight coordination), Randy Moore (pyro)
and Dave Whitley (makeup). Other close friends were acutely involved:
lensman Charlie Bott (D.P.) and co-Producer/A.D. Karen Inwood dedicated
their vacation time -- spending two brutal weeks on shoot, as well
as invaluable effort and support in the weeks beyond.
two leads -- Mark Nutter and Tyler Mason -- were both minor miracles.
Talented, daring, and full of the raw energy we needed; they became
great friends as well. Even after we'd put them through our own private
version of hell.
support near Big Spring, Texas also contributed a wealth of resources.
Ranch-hands turned to stuntmen played outlaws with uncanny skill,
and the entire community contributed performances, costumes, locations,
equipment, support and boundless encouragement -- a major force in
seeing the shoe-string guerrilla production through to a finished
all, we spent about nine months in Texas getting a complete rough
cut of the picture, and then another four months or so in San Francisco
finishing sound and music, before we were completely broke and completely
exhausted. We had a cut, but we were less than satisfied with calling
it "done." It still needed work, but by now we were too close to the
project to see it objectively.
financial resources dried up. Hollywood distribution was a sketchy
possibility, but most of us agreed that a final cut was important
to us; we didn't want to give the film away and let someone else finish
it. There was interest in the project, but only hollow promises and
a questionable back-end. So we shelved it. At least temporarily.
exhausted filmmakers returned to the world of "real jobs," hoping
to find new resources or other ways to complete the wounded project.
We all made positive strides in the industry, learned more tools,
gained more skills, made more contacts. Hell is Texas stagnated,
faded from memory...
passed, as they'll quickly do if you aren't watching carefully. Suddenly
Hell is Texas had remained untouched for four long years. And
about then a new revolution in low-budget filmmaking was upon us.
in the earliest days of DV (digital video) technology, I knew the
means to finish Hell is Texas was at hand. I did a test, enhancing
the opening minutes of the film with simple visual effects I could
complete on my own Power Macintosh. The results were encouraging.
I finagled enough time to dedicate to the project and got back to
work, this time with almost no additional budget whatsoever.
had new resources at work (special thanks to Western
Images), and new friends and volunteers who once again came through
for me. My nine weeks of personal project time became another seven
months of late nights and long weekends. B.Z., meanwhile, was spending
every spare moment he had tweaking the sound and music to match the
new cut built on the original, and went beyond. All of the original
16mm film was retransfered, color-corrected, sometimes enhanced with
new digital tools. Some footage that was originally considered unusable
was salvageable with digital tricks or manipulation. These tricks
included obvious things like stabilizing shaky footage, reducing grain,
or combining multiple exposures; it also included building synthetic
shots with computer graphics or adding digital matte paintings into
existing photographed plates.
of this and a tighter cut completes the final (director's) cut of
Hell is Texas. Two-and-a-half years of work spread out over
six years of time and experience. Better late than never.
is Texas was a longshot. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
-- r. zane rutledge
september 4, 1999
Hell is Texas ©1999 by Puppy Dog Head Productions. All Rights Reserved.
668 ©copyright 2000 by r zane rutledge. all rights reserved.