Imminently on Main | | Santa Fe Reporter
Imagine minding your own business, working late at night in your futuristic auto business when suddenly you are immersed in a world of ghosts and plots and hostile ranchers. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Eminent domain, a new chapter-based audio drama produced entirely in northern New Mexico and drawn from the state’s lore. It could also be your next obsessive listening frenzy.
Eminent domain follows Loretta Pacheco (voiced by Ama Zathura), a brilliant sound engineer for a fictional Tesla-type auto company that pumps smart cars, like, really smart cars — that talk to drivers. She’s working late hours at a mysterious underground facility somewhere in Santa Fe County when a near-fatal car crash drags Loretta into a decades-old mystery of missing teenagers for which the answers are closer to home than ‘she, or the listener, might expect it.
“All my life I’ve always wanted to write something ‘New Mexican’,” says co-writer Victoriano “Tori” Cárdenas. “breaking Bad didn’t have a lot of original things that are part of our culture, it’s right here. We wanted to produce something more representative of the people of the region. I wanted to reach out to New Mexico kids like me.
For creator, co-writer, director and co-executive producer Warren Langford, a self-proclaimed “man of all hats” and native of New Mexico, the project has been in the works for more than a decade and a half.
“In 2005, I had this dream of three young boys playing on the side of a highway. Under a tree, they found a strange device sticking out of the ground, and that’s all they dreamed of, ”Langford says. “So when I got back to Santa Fe [in 2017], I worked for Meow Wolf. That’s when I started to think about it a bit more.
Like the idea of Eminent domainAs the otherworldly sci-fi and horror experience began to come together, Langford locked himself in a room with his longtime friend Michael Martinez. They immersed themselves together in the construction of the world, spending days being interested in the scientific specificities and the subtleties of the narrative evolution, until the sound engineering of the fictitious vehicle; the whole project was developed in a week.
“A few months later, he committed suicide,” Langford told SFR. “He had a lot to do, so the project was put on hold. But one of the last things he told me was how much he loved the story and how much he enjoyed working on it. It brought so much shine that I couldn’t give it up.
And what better way to relaunch a project than a pandemic? Like many of us, 2020 offered a bit of extra time, especially for Langford, who was fired from his role as Senior Audio Narrative Producer at Meow Wolf. About a year earlier, he had discovered Cárdenas online and hired him to help flesh out Cárdenas Eminent domain, and together they set out to make it as New Mexico-centric as possible. But don’t expect long monologues about adobe, green chili, or other New Mexico mayflies at the surface level. Instead, Langford and Cárdenas were drawn to deeper ideas, like folklore and localized sayings. They also drew on their own personal experiences, including the life of Cárdenas who grew up in Taos and Albuquerque.
“[Warren and I] were both on the same page in wanting the characters to be neo-mexican, and not just pretend actors, ”Cárdenas says. “You can also see it in the final product. When I moved from Taos to Albuquerque for the Creative Writing and History program [at UNM], I would raise my hand and respond with that Norteño accent – and I would feel so different for that. It is a reality that we really wanted to represent.
Such milestones are no more evident than in Zathura’s performance as Loretta, complex enough to conjure up different styles of speaking between, say, friends or more professional relationships – or a budding relationship described by the adorable comedian of dubbing Antonio Marquez. Elsewhere, notable New Mexicans like comedian Carlos Medina, artist Rod Harrison and Damn Burqueños Say designer Lauren Poole adds depth and authenticity; apart from its gender elements, Eminent domain it looks like we’re listening to any conversation in northern New Mexico.
The production itself went well beyond the locals cast, with Langford choosing to record on location and in binaural audio, a first for an audio drama to its knowledge. The sound effects and sound effects were produced live on location by the actors, and the production has adopted a strict no-script policy during recording sessions.
“There is always this thing [in audio dramas] where the actors are disjointed as they enter the studio and act on the spot. It’s a disconnect, and it really shows, ”says Langford. “Ama memorized over 200 pages of this script, like memorizing an entire season of a TV show.”
Manufacture for Eminent domain Also included everything you could imagine on a film set (minus, you know, visuals), including adhering to Screen Actors Guild guidelines, strictly enforced COVID-19 security protocols, and minimal staff on the tray. Langford also asked his brother Evan for help with recording and mixing tasks, as well as recorder Georgina Hahn – and there’s a reason they suggest listening. Eminent domain with headphones for a stronger audio experience: even those uninitiated to the alchemy of audio will be impressed by its level of auditory immersion and innovation.
Protocols, cold winter months, and unknown variables paid off—Eminent domain caught Audible’s attention early in its production, and the online audio mega-brand will release the full project to the public on Thursday, November 4. Perhaps even better, Langford and his team will be making their premiere debut at the Jean Cocteau Cinema this Saturday, much of which will take place in the dark.
“It’s going to be the first 40 minutes, kind of an experimental thing,” Langford says. “From then on, it will be about spreading the word. “
Eminent domain Exit party: 7 pm Saturday, Nov. 6 Free. Jean Cocteau Cinema, 418, avenue Montezuma, (505) 466-5528, bit.ly/3GMN4ag