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Death, Inc – SS 2014 Fest WINNER – Comedy – 2nd Runner Up Most Votes

Life’s a gamble. Sometimes, you have to play against the odds to win. Our hero, Pete Richards, learns this firsthand when an unfortunate “accident” introduces him to the inner workings of the Grim Reaper’s bureaucracy. While he awaits his fate in the antechamber, he throws caution to the wind and makes a move to save himself. Will the gamble of Pete’s life pay off? Awards:  Gold Remi from WorldFest Houston;  Starfish Award for Best Comedy from Moondance International FF;  Best Director of a Short Film from Hollywood & Vine Film Festival

Crew: Writer/Director/Producer – Sandra J. Payne Director of Photography –  PJ Gaynard Composer — Rob Gokee Sound Recording – Curtis Newton, Janna R. Lopez Räven Key Makeup Artist – Melissa Anchondo Costume Designer – Eric Shane Johnson Set Designer – Brian Majestic Set Decorator – Alexander Tennent Editor — Perry Payne

CAST: Woody Schultz — Pete Richards  Dot-Marie Jones – Miss Charlotte Happ  Joel Bryant — Skip Dennis Mattai- Vincent Tom Konkle — Grim Reaper Sunny Keller -Veera

Genre: Comedy


After the Indian Ocean tsunami happened in 2004, I started pondering the ironies and twists of fate we humans all face. One small thing can make the difference between life and death: a phone call distracts you while you’re driving in heavy traffic; you dive into a pool that’s more shallow than you thought; you need stamps on the day someone goes postal, etc. These moments are random and capricious, yet we all tend to search for some kind of meaning among the disparate facts. After all, senseless tragedies are somehow worse than other kinds because, well, they’re senseless. Plus, they can happen to anyone at any time. Yikes! If we can only find a reason for an event, life seems reordered and we can go about our lives with a feeling that we have a firm grip on things. We won’t have to think twice about our next trip to the post office.

Taking these ponderings about our lives, free will, chaos and the random events that make up our existence, and then throwing them into a mental blender, led to “Death Inc.” Maybe, just maybe, there really is no rhyme or reason to these tragedies. Taking this even further, I started imagining that aspects of the hand we’re dealt when we’re born, like the fact that we’re going to die and we won’t know how or when, are unpredictable because there’s an unseen bureaucracy whose job it is to assign us our “check out” time, and, like most bureaucracies, it has good days and bad days. Maybe mistakes can even be made. What if they mix-up paperwork, or party too hard, or they text while driving,  etc? From this, the premise of Death Inc. was born: If the Grim Reaper gets drunk and starts gambling with his best friend, I bet bad things happen on Earth.

When I wrote the script for Death Inc., it took a few years and a few hundred hours of experience directing digital content for the web before I felt ready to tackle the challenges I’d written for myself when I crafted this script. Happily, I had a wonderful team around me—great actors (including Woody Schultz, who’s been in “Avatar,” and Emmy-nominee Dot-Marie Jones from “Glee”), a great DP, great editors, and a supportive group of family, friends and filmmakers. The vision that I originally had for this story, by and large, made it from the page to the screen. What a wonderful feeling that is! I learned a lot along the way, and am inspired to direct more projects now that this one is finally ready to laugh in the face of Death.