About The Film

Dead Weight is an independent film produced in central Wisconsin throughout the course of 2011, and released in March 2012. It tells the story of Charlie Russell, traveling the wilderness in the wake of an apocalyptic viral outbreak, in search of his girlfriend, Samantha. As his journey brings him closer to his destination of Wausau, WI, he must face physical exhaustion, malicious survivors, and perhaps most menacing, his own emotional burdens. With his newfound traveling companions Charlie must attempt to find attempt to break his obsessions with the past. He must learn to let it go.

Friday, April 29, 2011


We are so excited to bring you the first look at Dead Weight. Even though we aren't done with production yet (just a few more shots), we couldn't wait to give you something to feast your eyes on.

This film is the product of many seriously talented and dedicated individuals. We could not have made it without every single persons involvement. 


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


It took a little longer than we hoped for, but it is finally time to announce the winners for the Dead Weight Extras contest! We hoped to get the winners announced right away, but needless to say, things got somewhat hectic once production approached.

Here's how everything will work: We have 4-5 more days of filming left, all will be weekend shoots in May. The majority of them will take place in various Oshkosh locations, with also making a stop in Appleton. The winners will be informed of the locations and times, and it is their personal responsibility to make it happen.

Sadly, we cannot shoot around anyone's schedule and cannot cover transportation. Once the times, dates, and locations are set, they are set. In the event that any winner will not be able to attend the shoot (for whatever reason), we will redraw and announce a new winner.

Let's get onto it, whatta say? All winners will also be contacted directly. The six winners of the Dead Weight Extras contest are:

Mark H.
Todd K.
Sue H.
Timothy L.
David H.
Lindsey T.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Joe Belknap, who plays Charlie (the lead in Dead Weight), took some time to reflect on last week's crazy seven day shoot and his involvement in the film:

I can back a car out of a drive way. Really, I can. It’s not difficult. You put the car in reverse, check your mirrors and blind spot, turn the wheel to rotate your vehicle into the desired position, and gently remove your foot from the brake. You continue to cycle through these procedures, as needed, while being ever vigilant for objects and, you know, things that are alive.

See? If I can describe it, I can surely do it.

So what the hell was wrong with me on Sunday?

While leaving my In-Laws home, I got stuck trying to back my car out of a little wooded area that had become an impromptu parking spot. I parked my car there in order to free up some room for other visiting relatives. I did all the things you’re supposed to do while backing up (see above), but it wasn’t quite working. I almost hit a tree. Then I almost hit my wife (well, not her, but her car while she was in it). These are bad, bad things. So bad, in fact, that my wife walked up to me, gave me a kind of inquisitive, crinkled-face look, and said, “You’re not back to reality yet. You’re in a fog.”

She was right. I had just spent this past week in mud, snow, rain, wind (do you know that wind can burn you?) and other elemental horrors. I had slept poorly on a couch, alone (This is a problem. I’ve grown pretty accustomed to being spooned by my wife, thank you very much). My diet became a mash-up of coffee, bananas, left over burrito stuffs, and ice cream. All of this, I would think, would cause anyone to have trouble returning to normalcy (normalcy being defined as: being indoors; sleeping etc.). If this all sounds miserable, I understand.

But it wasn’t.

In fact, It was actually pretty fracking glorious, and it’s because of all the people I was with this past week while working on Dead Weight.

I’ve been trying to figure out ways to explain the experience without sounding like I’m just puking platitudes. All I can ever seem to come up with is “it was amazing” and “every person involved was incredible.” Both are true, but it falls short. Way short. Neither really relays the significance and impact this past week has had on me; neither reflects the effort and dedication of everyone involved. So, rather than ending up waxing poetic all over the place, I’d rather let my gratitude to the people involved act as evidence for what this past week has meant. Ready for a laundry list? Here it comes:

I hope that my wife knows how important and necessary her support and encouragement have been. There was a short time when I thought I’d never be able to make the timing of Dead Weight work with other things happening in my life. She said, “Do it anyway.” She’s kind of right about everything, all of the time.

I hope that Scott can get his home back. We essentially took it over and clogged his toilet. I’m pretty sure I ate some of his hot sauce.

I hope all those that traveled to be with us (Reva, Steve, Cheri), and everyone who came to act and work (Coree, Dan, Nick, Adam, Lynn, Ian, Egan, Ashley, Andrew, Katie, Coye) felt at home with our bad jokes and lack of personal boundaries. (Also : I hope I’ll be forgiven for making this portion of the blog a living document – it’s near impossible to think of everyone off the top of my head.)

I hope Cari seriously considers opening Wrap Car. We’re talkin’ big money here.

I hope that Lance and Lee understand how invaluable they are. Lance, a writer in his own right, very much just wants to help facilitate art. Lee, with his beard of fire, is, no kidding, the mob boss of Oshkosh. You need places to film? Some place with mud and manure? Some place dilapidated, maybe? Give Lee five minutes.

I hope Jake, Mark, and Matty aren’t as terrifying in real life (they’re not, but damn, their performances give me the heebie-jeebies).

I hope Seth knows how great it was to have him on set for most of the week. Stranded at some gas station in the middle of a blizzard? Fear not! Seth is here to wrangle some adorable plushy goodness from the claw-machine (be sure to look for Stand Guar the Possum when watching Dead Weight).

I hope Dan’s strict diet of coffee, beef jerky and bar grub remains enough to fuel his commitment to seeing this thing through to the end. Keep that camcorder rolling, buster.

I hope that both Travis and Mary M. can take a break from contorting their bodies into positions that even Russian gymnasts would be afraid to attempt. (We’ve got some beautiful shots and photos, but, man, their joints and backs probably hate us right now.)

I hope Lee-Spawn got his nap.

I hope Sam is throwing hatchets into trees somewhere (or at least teaching [or trying to teach] someone to juggle). I hope Jess is busy discovering more incredibly terrible/amazing movies to recommend to me (Undefeatable, anyone?). I hope A.C. knows that it is now my lifelong mission to be able to speak with the same power that he does (I’ll never say the words “barn” and “water” the same). I hope I can find the guts to someday tell Michelle how intimidating and rewarding it was to work alongside her (I was totally gonna try to tell her on the day she wrapped, but I thought for sure I’d barf and cry at the same time).

I hope Mary knows that her sincerity and disposition has not only brought her character to life, but has injected the film with a tenderness that will break your heart. Watch out, world.

I hope John and Adam know what they’ve given me by letting me be a part of this. I hope they know I love them.

And, perhaps most important, I hope that someone, someday, will be able to answer that age old question: Then why did you jump out of the goddamn bushes? (I mean, really. Why did you jump out of the goddamn bushes?)

Learn to let it go? Nah. I think I’ll hang on to this.

-Joe Belknap

Friday, April 22, 2011


On the set of Dead Weight this past week.

All photography by Mary Manchester.

Joe has beautiful eyes.

Monday, April 18, 2011


What a day. There's so much to say but so much to take care of before tomorrow (or should I say today?). We battled some harsh, harsh winds for six solid hours. We faced quite possibly the worst filming conditions we could ask for on the first day... and it didn't stop us on bit. Both cast and crew kicked some serious ass today. Hell, we even wrapped 18 minutes ahead of schedule. You will hear all about it, eventually though. Day two is on the horizon and there's plenty to do, so we will leave you with a few images. Enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Here I sit, about 40 hours until we get the cameras rolling... and it sucks. I hate waiting, knowing we are this close and we still have a day and a half, ugh.

Adam is on his way to Milwaukee to meet with our extremely talented director of photography, Travis Auclair, and pick up all our camera and lighting gear. Aaron Christensen (playing Thomas), Michelle Courvais (playing Meredith) and one of our producers, Dan Kiggins, will board their train from Chicago in 30 minutes, while Joe Belknap and Jess Ader (playing Drew) await their arrival in Milwaukee, and then the whole gang comes up to Oshkosh. Sam Lenz (playing Dustin) has a show with his band tonight, so he will be joining us Saturday morning. Tomorrow we start full rehearsals, and I will be prepping a location with a very talented and great friend, Ben Larson, who made us some really awesome corpses. And yet, here I am. Waiting.

It's been a long time coming, almost two years for us to get to this point. This next day and a half is going to be the longest part. I shouldn't even complain, I should feel lucky to have this time to get even more prepared... but I just want to film. Soon enough, soon enough.

Assembling the majority of the main cast tonight will be so exciting, and I know the laughs are going to start in right away. Be sure to keep posted for all sorts of updates, photos, videos and other goodies from production. We are in the thick of it, and it's about time.

When we were filming Better Off Undead, Dale DeVries (who played Chris) had this saying he would constantly call out, and I can't think of a better time than now to say it: Let's cut this fucker.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Adam and I will be the first to admit it: filming outside for five straight days in Wisconsin in the middle of April is an extremely dumb idea. But you know what, it's good to challenge yourselves. Okay, that's a crappy excuse and not true. In a way, we didn't have a choice. We want the aesthetic qualities of mid-April Wisconsin to be prevalent throughout Dead Weight... and we had to work around our lead's (Joe Belknap) schedule. If we didn't film April 17-23, we would have to wait until June, and there are multiple reasons why June wouldn't work out.

Here's the quick rundown of how and why Joe got involved in the project. The first time the three of us bonded was over a delicious pan of Adam's enchiladas before we, being huge X-Files nerds, went to see The X-Files: I Want To Believe on opening night. This probably goes without saying, but the enchiladas were without a doubt the highlight of the night, not to discredit Adam's cooking by any means. Anywho, in September of 2010, Adam and I spent two weekends with Joe, the first being at a cabin on a lake for our good friend's bachelor party, and then at the wedding itself. At the time, Adam and I were working together still (at an actual day job, not just on this or the Zombie Walk) and it was the Tuesday after the wedding. Out of nowhere, without any context, Adam goes, "So, Joe Belknap..." and immediately I yelled, "YES!"

We already had a good deal of the script written, and saw uncanny similarities between Joe and Charlie (the lead). One conference call later and Joe was interested. In fact, he got to read a good portion of the script before anyone else. By early October 2010, we had our lead cast and we cannot wait for the world to see Joe's performance. It's been a long road, as Joe has never acted before, but he has been so receptive and willing to dominate the role, and it shows. From the first reading to the most recent one (this past Friday), Joe has come a long way and has shaped up to be one damn fine actor.

Wait a minute, didn't I start talking about the weather? That we are complete and utter morons for trying to pull this shoot off when we could have snow, rain, thunder, lightning, heat, cold and everything in between. Why am I now rambling about Joe? Oh, that's right, because it's his fault. Well, without further adieu, you can blame this gentleman for our (potential) misery, Mr. Joe Belknap:

Joe models his character's boots, and swoons the hearts of millions with a look only a mother could love.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Talk about surreal. As mentioned in an earlier post, Adam photographed an alley in Downtown Neenah and sent it to me. This alley acted as a catalyst of sorts, sparking the origin of Dead Weight. In a way, we wrote the story around this alley. When the script was completed, we knew we had to get clearance to not only use this alley, but to (hopefully) shut down some of the surrounding area. Okay, sounds like a good idea, right? Yeah. But wait, how the hell do we go about doing so?

I sent out a very brief email to the city of Neenah, explaining what we wanted to talk with them about (using the alley and closing off some of the area) and nervously awaited a response. To be honest, I think it's safe to say both Adam and I figured this was a far-fetched idea, but figured it was worth trying. Within 12 hours I got a response from a gentlemen named Chris, who is involved in Community Development. He said this sounded like something we could work out and wanted to meet with us. The time and date were set, and next thing you know, Adam and I are sitting in a conference room in Neenah's City Hall meeting with Chris.

On a quick little side note, there was this AWESOME conference call phone that I really wanted to use... maybe someday.

Anyway, the meeting went over really well and Chris thought this idea would work. Keep in mind we did put a little pressure on him, considering he asked why that alley and we told him that we basically wrote the script around that alley. He asked for some additional info, and said we would have to meet with a few more people. A couple weeks later, I head to Neenah to meet with Chris, and now two other officials, Gerry and Justin. Again, we discuss the idea further, bounce ideas off each other, and make a few adjustments to the original plan. As the meeting is coming to an end, they say everything looks good... now it just has to be passed by the Public Services and Safety Committee, and then the Common Council.


On Tuesday, March 29, Adam and I went back to Neenah to sit in on the Public Services and Safety Committee meeting. Wanna know what was intimidating? This! We sat in a conference room, with about 8 city officials sitting around the table, while Adam and I (along with others) sat along the wall. Then they call to order the topic of Dead Weight filming in Downtown Neenah. As Adam began to sweat, I started to feel like I was about to puke. Imagine sitting in a room, where everyone is completely serious and formal in their discussions, and they are talking about you but you cannot respond unless addressed. They look over the proposed filming area, talk back and forth, ask a few questions and then one official called to vote on the subject. Oh no, make or break time. The topic was passed unanimously. Adam and I are told the topic will now be voted on by Common Council the following week and that we should be present for that meeting as well. We thank the committee, grab our things and walk out of the room. Leaving City Hall, we are both in disbelief of what just happened. Here we are, two guys with this idea a year and a half ago, and now our film is a topic being voted upon by a official committee. As Adam's dad is known for saying, un-fucking-real.

Alright, time for the final step. The Common Council meeting was held on Wednesday, April 6, and this meeting is now in a much bigger room, and there are many more officials, something like 12 altermans and the Mayor of Neenah. This is the real deal now. As Adam approached the microphone to thank the Council and answer a few questions, I couldn't help but get lost in the reality of the situation. Here we are, going in front of the city of Neenah, asking for permission to close off some of downtown so we can film. How did this even happen? Once again, everything went over terrifically and there we were, leaving City Hall after just being given the go ahead. I said it once before, and I will say it again, un-fucking-real.

Three days later, I receive the following certificate in the mail:

Exactly how all this happened is beyond us. However, let me just say that working with the city of Neenah on this idea has been nothing less than amazing, and we greatly appreciate their understanding, support, and permission. With that said, a huge thank you goes to Chris for being on our side from the start and making everything happen. Much thanks to Gerry, Justin and everyone else, as well.


We are now one week away from production. While there's no reason for me to go into the background of this project (as Adam did such a terrific job), I'd like to take this time to reflect on what this journey has been like for me.

Almost five years ago, my close friends and I spent a summer filming this little zombedy, which at the time, was titled Untitled Zombie Story Full of Stupid Dick Jokes. We had 700 bucks and just wanted to have fun, and at the same time, make something to be proud of. Skip forward to April 14, 2007, we premiered said film, now titled Better Off Undead, on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh campus, where over 500 people came out for 2 free screenings. Over the next year or so (actually more like two years), we took Better Off Undead around to horror and comic book conventions, had screenings all throughout the Midwest and received positive reviews from around this world.

During the beginning of 2008 I began writing my first full length script, Among The Dead. This script was not a sequel to Better Off Undead, however, another story that took place during the same outbreak. I spent a solid six months planning, and putting everything together, and we were ready to start filming in September. On July 4, 2008, we had a open call for zombies to start filming some filler shots (zombies infesting the city). 100+ people showed up and we had one hell of a time taking over the streets of Oshkosh. The excitement from the turnout and response got my blood flowing, I could not wait to get this film rolling. As 90% of the script took place inside one house, it took 4 months to find a house to rent and use as the location, but we locked one in nonetheless. On the day we were to receive the house keys, one week before we were to start to film, I received a call from the rental agency. They were backing out. The house was no longer ours. I begged, I pleaded, I did everything I could. Nothing changed, the rug was pulled out from under our feet and we were left behind.

We were devastated. It was such a challenge to get to the point of filming, and it was gone like that. Needless to say, I entered a huge state of depression. Over the next few years, I had the want and desire to film, but multiple things stood in the way. Then Adam approached me with this idea, and after some serious brainstorming, I could tell this was the one. This was the one I wanted to pursue, and this was the one we were going to make happen. I learned a lot from Among The Dead, and believe that is a key thing in independent filmmaking: always learn from everything you do, positive or negative.

And here we are now. This whole experience with Dead Weight has been more than Adam and I could have asked for. We are lucky enough to have so many outstanding individuals get involved in this project, and we couldn't do it without them. Over the years, I have met so many great people because of Better Off Undead. I have gained some of my dearest friends because of that movie, friends of which are now involved in Dead Weight. I have spent so many nights talking and laughing with people at conventions, screenings and everywhere else in between. As awkward as this is to say, there are fans of Better Off Undead, and amazing people who have supported me with that film, the ill-fated Among The Dead and now Dead Weight. When you create independent film, everything is against you and it becomes difficult to push through it all. Having support from those who believe in you makes it all that much easier.

I will never be able express how much everyone's support means to me. Adam and I are incredibly proud of our script for Dead Weight, and know there are people that really want to see what we can create. Believe me when I say we cannot wait to show you all Dead Weight. This has been said time and time again, and is probably cliche as hell to say, but I don't even care because I mean it. This film is for all of you that have supported me in anyway possible. It means the world to me that anyone would care about what two kids from Oshkosh, WI are doing. From the bottom of my heart, this one is for everyone who has made an impression on me which their undying support.

Oh, and one more thing: This is NOT a zombie movie, so get that idea out of your head.

Let's do this.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


In eight days we will begin filming what is, undoubtably, the single most exciting project I've ever been a part of. I'm more proud of DEAD WEIGHT than I have been of anything else creative I've done in my life. But it's been a long road getting to this point, many ups and downs, many long stressful nights, and many long exciting nights.

The original photo is long lost, but this was taken close to the same time.
Roughly two years ago I sent John a simple email including a single attachment. This alley.
We both kept this in the back of our minds, me a little bit more than him. As I sat working at a job I hated I would take time to jot down story ideas. One was a science fiction/horror type story called Weaver, which I plan to work on once Dead Weight is finished, and the other was for the story that would become Dead Weight. There really wasn't much to it aside from a few critical story points, the opening scene and the ending scene.

I shared these ideas, and the name of the film, with John later on in 2009 after I started working at his screen printing shop. He liked the barebones ideas I had, so we decided to flesh them out together and try to put together a more coherent story, fill in the holes within the original outline and try to create something interesting.

Every day we worked together we expounded more and more on our ideas for Dead Weight, until, at one point, we decided there had been enough talk, enough great ideas, and enough excitement over what we were coming up with... it was time to write a movie. 

The original timelines and notes.
We began formally outlining the script October 2009 on a car ride to Madison, WI to drop off an order of shirts we had printed for a customer. This proved to be an immensely fruitful trip, as we ended up ultimately getting a large amount of ideas on paper that ultimately made it into the final draft of the script. It was a very exciting time, but things were just getting started for us. And for this project, which has certainly taken on it's own living breathing existence.

Over the next couple of months we met weekly (or tried to) and slowly cranked out the logistics on how we wanted to handle the primary story telling devices. That was actually probably one of the harder aspects of the production, looking back. Really racking our brains on how to make all of our disjointed ideas work, and flow together to become a coherent and intelligible thing.

As the year progressed, our script did as well. The story changed very little fundamentally. We knew how we wanted to approach the story, the feel, look and overall aesthetic, and we were very happy with how things were going. As we moved into spring we need to start focusing on the Annual Oshkosh Zombie Walk, which John and I began producing in 2009 alongside our friend Seth. The Zombie Walk more or less took over our lives between May and September, and put a lot of Dead Weight on hold. We didn't want to be distracted during writing.

October hit. One month after the (very successful) Zombie Walk and one month to recover our lives a bit before diving into a far grander stage of the movie. We put our noses down and focused on meeting at least twice a week for writing sessions, and ultimately completed writing the first draft on November 12, 2010 at roughly 12:20 am, twenty minutes over our deadline. Not too shabby.

First draft completed. We were in disbelief.
The feeling of achievement at this point was unbelievably. I couldn't believe we actually did it, put together those complex ideas and scenes into something that worked! But there is never rest, ever. Rewrites.

For the next few months we revised, and revised... and revised. The script ultimately went through six drafts (seriously huge changes) before we decided we needed to call it final. We could've gone on drafting it until our fingers fell off. From here on out the changes are going to be relatively minor, and page by page instead of cutting or adding huge batches of story.

I guess that more or less covers the beginning of our journey with this film. We could both go on and on talking about all the different aspects that sort of happened or began along the way. In due time.

Writing sessions powered exclusively by Rishi Tea.