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.

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


  1. Brilliantly written, Joe. It was a pleasure working with you, and everyone else on set. Probably the next time I'll see you will be at the premiere screening, which will be amazingly exciting. 'Till then, man.


  2. WOW! I only spent a few hours with all of you and was so very impressed. John & Adam are tremendously gifted and I hope there is much more to come from them:) You chose incredible people to work with - each talented in different ways. Yup! Give Lee a job to do and he gets it done. I should know, I raised the hairy beast! And yup my little LeeSpawn got his nap...and was ready to do it all over again the next day. Thank you all for being so kind to him.
    I'm looking forward the movie debut!
    The LeeSpawn's Grandma

  3. Joe. I am... a puddle.
    I hadn't found a way to describe the experience yet, but maybe now I won't have to.

    Thank you for this, and for your immense bravery. You made us all proud, every day. You did it.