THE STORY OF FILTHY by ANDY LALINO
The story of FILTHY actually dates back to 2000. I was with a friend pitching some ideas for a short film when I asked myself: "what's the most disgusting thing I could put on celluloid"? To me, the obvious answer came from a report I heard on the local news about a kook who lived in a house full of garbage (now called "hoarders", a term not in fashion at the time). I could imagine nothing more nauseating than entering a home that had 20-year-old rotting TV dinners stuffed in the refrigerator, cat dung everywhere, and roach nests in every nook & cranny. YECCH!
I thought: what kind of family would live in this garbage world? What would they be like? Violent, vile, and disgusting undoubtedly. I quickly hit my screenplay softwriting program and began writing up the first drafts of FILTHY. The basic concept, the garbage people, was a perfect marriage with horror's popular "crazy family" sub-genre, such as THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE OLD DARK HOUSE, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and even THE ADDAMS FAMILY.
FILTHY was originally intended to be shot in B&W. I had a very David Lynch-ish, Eraserhead-like vision for the film, which was eventually shelved. The early drafts had little resemblance to the final film. Fermentia, Leonard, and MeatMan were the only characters that made the cut from the original concept. Originally, there was no Dana Diamond and Rocky, the story featured three male hooligans that Fermentia ensnared in the garbage house. I figured having a woman in peril was scarier than the male hoodlums, so I created the character of Dana.
Dana originated from the idea of the superficial world of TV reporting. Here is this beautiful, well-educated reporter in a $600 ensemble pretending to feel the pain of the perceived less fortunate. This was my chance to have some fun and get some (innocent) revenge on chick TV reporters! I wanted the character of her sidekick, Rocky, to be big & likable, similar to the videographers I used to work with at the Home Shopping Network.
Having a female matriarch head up the clan, unlike TCM, which featured all male tormentors, was an appealing idea. Fermentia had to be the ultimate sick, twisted old lady (see the production art), and it was imperative that a skillful actress would be needed to pull off that demanding role, which we found in actress Sheri Lawrence. We originally wanted Fermie (her nickname) to be dressed in a totally see-through nasty nightgown, but things didn't quite turn out that way.
Leonard, Fermie's son (who she calls Son Leonard), is pretty much based on real-life scary transients you might encounter on the streets of NYC. It's Leonard's job to go out and find victims to bring home to Momma. Pussey, Leonard's lover, potential fiancee, sister, and cousin (whew!) I wanted to be a pig-pen version of Daisy Duke. She wields a unique, makeshift weapon, designed by Art Director Kevin Bailey, that I wanted to look like something out of MAD MAX or THE ROAD WARRIOR.
PRODUCTION DESIGN/ART DIRECTOR - KEVIN BAILEY
Most of the terror in FILTHY takes place in Fermentia's garbage-house. We had the option of using a REAL house that we'd dress up, or build a set. We chose the latter because of the options it gave us in terms of filming (camera angles, lighting set-up's and such) and the comfort of the cast/crew.
The monumental task of designing and building the interior of the house based upon the screenplay was given to my lifelong friend Kevin Bailey. Kevin was an artist as long as I had known him; we used to draw comic books together back in the '70s & early '80s. Kevin also had experience in construction, and I figured this was an ideal combo for the job of Production Designer, so I enlisted him immediately. It always helps having close friends as part of the team when doing a movie.
Kevin was tasked with building a massive set that simulated the interior of an old, decrepit tenement house. As luck would have it, the Home Shopping Network was giving away dozens of "flats", which in filmspeak are constructed pieces of 8' high x 4' wide wood structures that one uses to build a set. Typically, flats are expensive to build, and here we had more than we know what to do with!
With the help of many of the talented crew (mostly University of Central Florida and Full Sail film students who were also PA's) Kevin and his assistant Helen Parramore began the long, tedious process of constructing the three rooms we needed for the shoot: living room, dining room, and bathroom.
For Kevin, the first order of business was to design a model of the set, which he did with foamcore & paper clips! Keep in mind the walls of the set had to physically move to accommodate camera and lighting setups, so that had to be pre-planned. Next, construction began. With the help of the crew, Bruno Brasil, Scott Poole, Doug Eldridge, Jay Anderson, Augusto Cardoso, Kyle Mueller, Eddie Sturgeon, Brooke Sauer and many others, Kevin and Helen began placing the flats together and painting the interior of the massive set.
An obvious challenge was the garbage part of the interior decorating. We all had to chip in on that one. I asked all the cast and crew to save their garbage over the months, and eventually we collected enough to stuff the living room and dining room with refuse. I asked that any garbage that was saved for the movie be cleaned, so believe it or not, the set did not stink at all! It smelled like coffee, in fact, because we mixed used coffee grounds in brown paint to simulate feces rubbed on the wall to spell out: "SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN"
Some of the "hero" props inside the house deserved special attention. In the kitchen, we needed a beat-up freezer for the drippy MeatMan to emerge from, along with junked-up appliances like a stove, a refrigerator, sink, etc. Luckily, we were able to find most of the items at Hobbs Metals, where we shot the outside-of-the-house scenes. Hobbs is this incredible metal scrapyard located in Tarpon Springs, Florida...it's like a Disney World of junk! Just wandering around you'd find a pile of motorcycles or the inside of a fighter plane cockpit at Hobbs - it was the ultimate place to shoot a movie! The owner, Carl Hobbs, was very hospitable and very receptive to a movie crew filming at his business - plus, he's a big horror movie fan.
Other "hero" props included a static-y TV set, a disgusting dining room table, a satanic altar, a barrel for bobbing, fake wall slime, and other gross things. At times Kevin would team up with other departments, such as special effects make-up, to dress up the set.
When the interior of the set was prepped and painted, we dressed it with what seemed like over a hundred garbage bags full of (simulated) garbage. We spent a whole day just stuffing newspapers in the bags. We also spread newspapers all over the floor. With the appliances and the junk, the set ended up looking incredible.
One problem was the ceiling. We knew it wasn't practical to build a faux ceiling above the set, so we had to shoot around it, which wasn't my preference because I wanted that claustrophobic feeling of seeing a ceiling. In addition, the existing ceiling of where we shot was a concern because of the flammability of ceiling tiles when placed next to hot movie lights. Therefore we had to cover the ceiling tiles in duvatyn, which is a black, flame-resistant material common in the movie biz. We unfortunately had to staple the duvatyn to the tiles after the set was built (the other way around would have been preferable), nearly breaking our necks trying to stretch over the flats. In the process, staples would constantly fall out, but amazingly the duvatyn did not collapse during filming.
Finally, after a near two-month process, the set was ready to go. Keep in mind Kevin Bailey had never designed a set before, yet pros in the industry commented that this was the most incredible set they ever worked on.
Kevin's duties were not as demanding on location. For the beginning of the film we shot at 60th Street in Clearwater near an old Checkers fast food factory (where they used to make the restaurants). Not much was needed there, but we did manage to secure an old city bus as a prop during Leonard's monologue. The bus looked like a bomb had gone off in it - but it still ran! The bus worked out extremely well as a visual.
At Hobbs, the whole scrapyard was already visually stunning, so Kevin's talents were minimally required at that location.
EDITOR - THOMAS LINKIEWICZ
All too often the post-production of a motion picture is under-glamorized. People love to see behind the scenes footage of sets, locations, and celebrities, but commonly gloss over post. Having a post-production background from working as a Graphic Designer at the Home Shopping Network, I knew first-hand the importance of post production editing and sound, and the limitless possibilities it presents to the filmmaker
Tom Linkiewicz, the editor of FILTHY, is a lifelong friend; we grew up on the same block, and as fate would have it, we wound up working together at the Home Shopping Network, where Tom was Senior Editor and I was a Graphic Designer. Tom is one of my best friends (I have about 6 best friends!) and of course he was THE master editor to cut together FILTHY.
Tom is highly skilled in all aspects of film and video editing, and is the winner of countless "Telly" awards for his work at the Home Shopping Network. He has edited hundreds of commercials, movies, promos, presentations, show opens, etc. and is extremely skilled in graphics and animation as well. Recently he has started his own business, ILLUSION FILMS, in which he hopes to edit more feature films as well as produce and direct as well. Illusion Films boasts a very impressive AVID MEDIA COMPOSER edit suite that is capable of servicing any client, be it a feature film or a 30-second commercial.
After editing literally hundreds of commercials, Tom was all too ready to tackle a gen-u-ine movie! Like myself, Tom is a big horror fan, so his love for the genre brought a lot to the table in addition to his editing prowess.
The FILTHY edit went very smoothly. The first order of business was to have Sound Designer Eddie Sturgeon painstakingly sync up the takes so that we would have sync sound for the edit clips. This was a long, tedious process that I am very grateful that Eddie assisted us with. This normally would have been done by a sound assistant in a Hollywood post environment.
When the dailies were synced, Tom and I began piecing together the rough cut, which took approx. 2 months. Keep in mind the post crew has full-time jobs (I did too), and we had to resort to doing the post work on evenings and weekends. During the rough cut, there were some minor issues, mainly the continuity, which for a short film as complex as Filthy was not bad at all (thanks to Jeania Ingle, our Continuity Supervisor).
FILTHY was a lot of fun to piece together. Perhaps the most enjoyable scene to edit was "Fermie's Disco scene" where Tom cut it together like a twisted music video. Another aspect of the film is its use of video intermingled with film; Tom had enhanced the video portions even more to make them look jumpy and more video-esque.
I recall Tom coming out to the FILTHY set on many occasions. Ideally, it's the best thing in the world to have Tom present on the set, because he can watch the way shots are done and recommend elements that will enhance the picture in the edit. It's this kind of commitment to a project that many directors only dream about from their editors.
It should be noted that FILTHY required no reshoots. Thanks to our skilled, competent crew, it was unnecessary. Tom had excellent footage to work with and cut together FILTHY masterfully.
MUSIC COMPOSER/SOUND MIXER/SOUND DESIGNER - EDDIE STURGEON (ENOTIDE)
Eddie (the hardest-working man on FILTHY) Sturgeon is one in-demand sonic artist. From his full-time job as Home Shopping Network Sound Designer/Music Composer to his seemingly endless independent film work, Eddie is one hot property. Like editor Tom Linkiewicz, Eddie is extremely easy and fun to work with and is very passionate, experienced, and knowledgeable about his craft.
In addition to Sound Design and Music Composing, Eddie was there from day one helping build the set and doing what needed to be done. Soon, the time came for filming FILTHY and Eddie was in all his glory with his trusty portable DAT recorder strapped over his shoulder. Eddie masterfully recorded all the production sound, in addition to being Sound Editor/Music Composer (note that Eddie is actually "Enotide" in the end credits!). Eddie was assisted by his 3 person crew: Robert Vessenmeyer, Augusto Cardoso, and Jennifer Contarino. Each took turns on boom mic during which Eddie manned the DAT recorder controls while constantly monitoring sound quality.
When filming wrapped and we imported in all the audio files, I was amazed at the quality of work the sound team did. Nearly every bit of production audio was usable and we had a bare minimum of ADR work to do. But that did not mean we had a lot of hard work ahead of us.
The first order of business was for Eddie to sync up the dailies in order for editor Tom Linkiewicz to do the rough cut of the movie. In Hollywood, Eddie would have many assistants doing that kind of work, but because of our budget Eddie agreed to do the syncing himself, which saved the production a lot of money and hassles.
While the rough cut was being done, Eddie was busily working on the sound effects, ambient sound, and music. Like editing, sound is an element of motion pictures that is taken for granted. I'm proud to say that I've experienced the artistry and dedication that goes into recording, mixing, and designing sound for film. It is indeed a fascinating and integral part of the cinematic experience.
The sound effects came from many different sources: foley effects, sound effects CD's, and field recordings. Some sounds were enhanced in Pro Tools, a system designed for sound editing that Eddie used. Sound was a monumental feat; this movie had so many sound effects that it boggled my imagination! Everything from eyelids getting punched, upchucking, riot sounds, flies, garbage trucks...you name it - the kitchen sink is in there.
For example, I did some cop voice-over work in a gas mask to retain that raspy, muffled sound of an actual gas mask. This had to be specially recorded. For Fermie's "fart" scene we used a gag gift I bought at Spencers Gifts. On another effect we used creamed corn and real fat & gristle to simulate MeatMan's sounds. Some sounds needed to be recorded in the field. We used Eddie's mini-disc player/recorder to acquire sounds such as shopping carts and metal gates creaking.
We had some of the actors come in to do additional ADR work, and they had a lot of fun re-creating their characters for a brief time. Most of the ADR work consisted of screams and such. No actual dialogue was actually replaced.
When the sound effects work was done, Eddie also worked on ambient sound. When you record sound on location or on a set, there is a certain "ambience" to the sound where you are shooting. If you're on location and you ask everyone to keep quiet for a few minutes and just listen, you'll hear the natural sound of the environment you're shooting in. When it comes time to design sound in the studio, this ambient sound becomes extremely important. If ambient sound was inconsistent from shot-to-shot, the viewer would notice it immediately. Eddie took a lot of pains to ensure that ambient sound was maintained and mixed properly.
Then came the music. My original vision for FILTHY foresaw little need for music (like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but once Tom and I completed the rough cut, and when we made the trailer, I realized that music was essential and would deeply enhance the terror.
For the trailer, Enotide composed a thrilling piano theme, reminiscent of creepy piano-performed horror themes such as Phantasm, Halloween, and The Exorcist's "Tubular Bells". The theme is catchy, memorable, and scary! Next, Enotide composed themes based on various characters and dilemmas, such as Rocky's death scene and the crazy family theme, again, the main instrument being piano enhanced by keyboard-generated strings, percussion, drones, and other musical effects.
Enotide's hobby is "circuit bending" old "Speak & Spell" toys (now that's different!) and if you listen close you'll hear these uniquely customized sounds on the soundtrack!
When all 3 elements, sound effects, ambience, and music are laid down on tracks, now it comes time for the final mix. Actually, Eddie mixed the film as we progressed, which saved time in the long run. Mixing is a fine art, and Eddie is the master. This was the last step in making sure FILTHY was ready for release.