Doug Montoya has produced theater for decades.
He knows the stresses that come with it.
Yet the Albuquerque-based theater owner decided to make the leap and write and direct his first feature film, “Third Act.”
With that move, he entered another realm of stress.
“We started it in 2019 and sadly, it got pushed back a lot because of the pandemic,” Montoya says. “I thought I’d try my hand at filmmaking. I did co-direct the film with Phil Griego, who taught me a lot.”
“Third Act” follows a lovable and talented theater company – who, after being given news of their pending eviction, plots a heist to pay their rent while filming at a local bank.
The film will have its New Mexico premiere at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe. The screening is part of the Santa Fe Film Festival, which runs at various locations in Santa Fe through Feb. 13.
Montoya wrote the script over the course of four days.
“It happened after I was pinned for a project and it fell through,” he says. “I thought if I’m not going to be cast in a movie, I’m going to write a movie to be in. I had this idea in my head and I wrote a story that I know. I secluded myself in my office for three days. I wasn’t going to leave until it was done.”
After it was completed, the script sat on a shelf.
Then Montoya’s friends inquired about the script and brought it back to the forefront.
“We had a table read and everyone liked it,” he says. “I had never made a movie before, so I relied on the talents of the people involved.”
The cast features Basil Hoffman, Chris Bylsma, Jodi Lynn Thomas, Kristin Berg, Vic Browder, Matthew Van Wettering, Keith Allen West, Kelsey Leos Montoya, Doug Montoya, Michael Lovato and Virginia Benitez-Jones.
Hoffman, an iconic Hollywood actor who appeared in over 100 films and worked for 10 Academy Award-winning directors – died in September at age 83.
“Basil would often talk to the cast after filming for the day,” Montoya says. “He brought us together to learn. We were so fortunate for him to be involved in the film and give advice.”
Montoya took a different approach to the film.
Each major scene was rehearsed and filmed without any cuts or editing. It’s known as a “oner.” The longest scene filmed in one take was over 22 minutes and included over 100 choreographed camera movements.
“We really rolled the dice on that one,” Montoya says of the scene. “It wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have the incredible talent.”
Montoya is grateful to have the opportunity to make a film with a nearly all-New Mexico cast and crew.
“I was looking for reasons to shut down the project at times,” he says. “But there was so much support that it helped me keep moving forward. I took a smaller part in the film to make sure that I was giving enough of my attention to the project.”
Tribute to a legend
Actor Basil Hoffman was part of the cast of “Third Act.” He died in September 2021 and often came to New Mexico to teach acting classes.
His castmates remember him:
“He was so giving, and had such a deep love for the art of acting. I’ll never forget all the beautiful stories he shared with us. It was so moving to me that he shared his personal card with the cast and crew after we wrapped and told us to contact him if we ever needed any advice or help in the industry. I am so grateful I was able to work with not only a legendary actor, but also a caring one.” – JODI LYNN THOMAS
“I thought it was admirable how open Basil was to mentoring the young people on set and how he was always willing to share his experiences with the rest of us. That’s something we should all strive to do; pass along our knowledge to the younger generations in hopes of helping them toward a brighter future. Basil really embraced that mentorship role during the entire shoot and that was invaluable. We all learned a great deal from him.” – PHILLIP GRIEGO
“For me, it was a pleasure to get the opportunity to get to work with and learn from Basil Hoffman. He was very serious in his approach to his work, but still a joy to be around on set, and he certainly wasn’t afraid to try out different approaches each take! He was also very generous with his time and his industry advice, taking several evenings to sit with the cast and crew and walk us through his career, varying acting methods, and to field questions and give us insightful answers. I saw several actors go up to him between scenes with one-on-one questions even, and as long as he wasn’t in the middle of preparation he took the time to listen carefully and then share his wisdom.” – CHRIS BYLSMA
“With such a unique and fascinating individual, I can’t help but watch him work as an actor, teacher and mentor. He was incredibly generous with his knowledge and advice of the craft and life. I consider it a huge honor and blessing, being able to share the screen with a true legend.” – Vic Browder
“Working with Basil on a few projects like ‘Third Act’ was a career changing event. His long friendship and mentorship helped me greatly. I loved his book ‘Acting and How to be Good at It.’ He always stayed with me when he was in Albuquerque for teaching or working. His teaching style was kind, nurturing and uplifting while making real progress to improve my performance. He was a man of a thousand questions when he taught. Basil taught me to cherish the silence in a scene versus speaking as quickly as possible. No one understood the power of silence like Basil.” – KEITH ALLEN WEST
“Getting the opportunity to work with Basil Hoffman was really special. It was great to hear his excitement for the project and he would continuously tell me how brave Doug was for making ‘Third Act.’ I really enjoyed working with him. He was a gracious and supportive actor. I was lucky to also share a few meals with him and those meals were always filled with great stories about his career and always included insight into his craft as actor. He’s popped up on my TV a few times since his passing, and it’s his voice I always recognize first. I will miss learning more from him.” – KRISTIN K. BERG
“Oh Basil … he was all smiles all the time (except on camera, of course) and as personable as he was professional. A commanding and yet a gentle presence, all the while, impeccably and shamelessly rocking that 80s attire. He spent time with me and offered to do more to help on my journey, which I was and am so grateful for.” – MATTHEW VAN WETTERING