Billy the Kid filmmaker expects disagreements
Last updated 9/21/2021 at 3:33pm
ALBUQUERQUE — The identity of Billy the Kid is shrouded in some level of mystery, unless you ask the three towns in three states that claim to host the gunslinger’s grave.
A New Mexico filmmaker who has become one of the legend’s biggest fans is planning a different way to argue who’s right. And Michael Giudicissi expects to get “The Final Trial of Billy the Kid” to cause some disagreements.
“The story of Billy the Kid has been transformed and pulled and twisted for 140 years,” Giudicissi said. “If anybody comes away with a conclusion that’s different from the film, that’s their right. But they will be doing it in spite of the evidence and not because of it.”
Filming begins next week on the dramatic portion of the “Final Trial” docudrama — courtroom scenes at the former federal courthouse on the campus of Albuquerque’s Amy Biehl charter school.
The documentary portion of the film features interviews filmed late last year with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Billy the Kid historian and TV personality Steve Sederwall, various law enforcement officers, authors, and politicians. Some believe the gunslinger is buried in Fort Sumner, while others believe The Kid was John Miller (buried in Prescott, Arizona) or Brushy Billy Roberts (who has two graves in Hamilton, Texas).
“I didn’t quite know how to approach it with COVID setting in,” Giudicissi said. “The initial concept was this was going to be a documentary as to why we have four graves in three cities. Past the worst part of COVID, it seemed reasonable we could film again and I wanted to show this trial aspect. I want to show what the evidence is.”
The film, set for release in early 2022 on streaming platforms, is a joint production of Mankind Productions and Dyor Productions. Giudicissi helms the project as writer and director while Royd McCargish steps in as executive producer. The project employs around two dozen New Mexico cast and crew members.
The film stars Thomas Fears as Brushy Billy Roberts, Kelly Kidd as Sheriff Pat Garrett and Ryan Knudsen as attorney Carvin Aldine.
The trial will determine which story stands up, and Giudicissi said the court aspect certainly changes narratives.
“You see how little supports, really, all of the stories,” said Giudicissi, who has so far completed two films and authored three books on Billy the Kid. “There’s evidence for all of them, but there’s not a lot. Almost everything people call evidence is hearsay and handed-down stories, which cannot be relied upon in a court of law.”
At first, the plan was to film the courtroom scenes at the Lincoln County Courthouse, but Giudicissi said a long permit process inspired location scouting in Albuquerque. Two locations were found — the old federal courthouse in the charter school, and the former Bernalillo County Courthouse. “Better Call Saul” has priority at the latter site, so the decision was made to film during the charter school’s fall break.
Giudicissi said he knows the verdict, but that nobody else involved knows at this point.
“It will be written and handed to the judge five minutes before we film the verdict scene of the trial,” Giudicissi said.
Next month, Mankind Productions will release “30 Seconds in Hell,” a ghost story retelling of the shootout at the OK Corral.
Giudicissi said he has two more ideas for films related to Billy the Kid in 2022, but which one he does depends on the seed money the upcoming two films generate.