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, November 28, 2011


Oh, foley work… If you're not sure what foley is, it is, simply put, re-creating everyday (and not so everyday) sounds to use in a film. When filming, you concentrate on getting the best possible audio for the actor's dialogue. Doing so, there's a lot of additional sounds that you don't capture, so you need to replace them. 

Our foley list consisted of over 300 separate sounds. However, one entry on the list could have been, "Group Footsteps". Could have been?! Who am I kidding, that entry appeared multiple times. Most of the time, "Group Footsteps" implied four to five of our characters walking on different terrain; grass, concrete, leaves, hardwood floors, and/or snow. So one item on the list might have actually been five separate sounds to create one overall sound. Make sense?

Now, we didn't go out and actually walk around in the snow to get the right sound. In fact, the only sounds we recorded outside were the sounds of a car. Everything else was recorded in our recording studio, aka my bedroom. Here, we recorded everything from the sound of a hand going into a backpack, cocking a gun, walking in the snow, a roaring campfire, and gore sounds (just for example, there were tons more). 

How in the hell did we record snow and a campfire in my bedroom? Well, the fun of foley is figuring out what resources you need to get the sounds that you want. We're not going to give away all of our secrets, but walking in snow was recreated by placing rice and cornmeal in a leather pouch, and squeezing it for every step. The campfire consisted of potato chips and saran wrap, and fruits and veggies were used to make some gross gore sounds. 

Adam and I, along with our good friend Scott, spent three days, twelve hours a day, capturing these sounds. Then, I had to go through and place each sound in the film, being sure it fit with the video. At the moment I have about 75% (if not more) of the foley in the film, and have probably spent well over thirty hours doing so. Seems like a lot of tedious work, doesn't it? It is, no doubt about it. However, foley makes a film. Correction: sound makes a film. Audio is equally as important as your video, if not more. You could have the best looking film in the world, but if the audio sucks, no one will sit through it. 

To help better illustrate what we did, here's a nice little clip of the pros making foley. Adam was so inspired by the guy wearing ruby high-heels, he insisted on wearing them everyday we recorded foley… even if we didn't need footsteps. Okay, that may or may not be true. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


We just wanted to take a moment to give everyone a brief progress report on where we're at with the film. I realized that the blog gets a lot of long, elaborate posts, while we don't necessarily explain much about where we're actually at with the film. So here we are!

This is the to-do list, this is all we have left. That is weird!

- Color Correction
As detailed in John's great blog post!)

- Foley and ADR placement
We've recorded almost all of the foley and ADR, just a couple quick spots we need to hit and then it's all captured, just needs placing!

- Score
Nicholas Elert has about 15 days as of today, to finish this beastly score. We know he'll do it, and it will be awesome. More about Nick here.

- End Credits
We recently had a hiccup with the progress on getting the credits handled, but we're back on track. Not like it's going to take a lot of time, just a lot of typing and then proofreading.

- On screen graphics
Alongside the end credits, had a recent hiccup in progress. As of today we have Eric Arsnow, who has worked on Screaming in High Heels, Sleepless Nights, and Swamphead with our color correction wizard, Derrick Carey. Eric did the opening credit sequence for Swamphead, so if you've seen that then you know he does great work. Special note: THIS IS NOT CG. There is a single scene that requires some graphics, that's what he's handling.

- Audio mix and master
There will be a huge blog post on this guy in the future, you'll all have the chance to get to know an old friend of mine, Adam Tucker. Adam runs Signaturetone Recording in the Minneapolis area, and has handled mixing and mastering for many of the releases I've done on my record label.

- B-Roll
This is basically filler video, essential to the visuals of the film, but without dialogue or anything. We had to wait until the trees were bare so this footage would match our initial filming conditions back in April, so these past two weeks have been perfect. We were even able to send our still photographer, Mary Manchester, out with a DSLR to grab some 1080p video during that snow last week. Party time! Just a couple more we need after the snow falls again.

- Pick-Up Shot
A single segment we need to grab to accent a scene we already filmed. We have the pleasure of working with Milwaukee actor Joel Kopischke on this, who was suggested to us by Dead Weight actor Reva Fox. Great lead, Reva!! We will be filming this on Friday, once again enlisting the help of Mary Manchester.

That's all! Then on to bonus features! We can't believe we're almost there.

We're both glad the to-do list doesn't look like this anymore!


In my last blog, "The First Taste of the Big Screen", I mentioned the short film, Other, which screened after our trailer at Terror in the Aisles. Well, today was a big day for Other, as the official trailer was released, as did a great interview with director Danny DelPurgatorio, courtesy of Beth from Icons of Fright.

Be on the lookout for an interview of Adam and I on Icons of Fright, coming soon. Guess you don't really have to be on the lookout for it, as you know darn well we will post the links.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


There is one crucial aspect of a film that can make or break a viewing experience for me. Music. I’m sure you’ve been in the position where you’re taken entirely out of a scene because of some piss poor choice in music. I know it happens to me more than I care to think about. This is something we’ve been absolutely conscious of throughout the entire film, and one big reason we can’t wait to finish everything up. We know the music is going to play a huge roll in driving home the intensity and emotion that we wrote and the actors delivered. It’s going to round out the story and put that nice shine on the smooth parts, and dirt on the gritty parts.

We knew at once that Dead Weight would be a film that required a score, not unrelated licensed songs. Although there will be a couple scenes that feature songs by bands you may or may not know, the film really needs a dedicated, composed soundtrack to achieve the feel we are looking for. Throughout pre-production we reached out to a few different people I’ve met throughout my years working in music that may be able to contribute something, or score the film entirely. With one of them we were actually making some progress, but discussions sort of fell apart and it was obvious it wasn’t going to work out in the end. Right around that same period I received an email from Milwaukee musician Nick Elert.

Nick is someone I’ve come to know well after seeing his band, Northless, play a few shows and by eventually releasing one of their albums on my record label. Northless is a heavy band. Actually, heavy doesn’t even do them justice. Northless are the heaviest band I have ever seen, heard, or been sonically assaulted by. I’ve seen them play alongside some incredible bands, and they always steal the show. Nick plays guitar in Northless, and the scowl on his face while they execute the most intense misanthropic sludge metal I’ve ever heard, that scowl is something to behold. I knew Nick was a great guy and a great musician, but a great composer of soundtrack material? Well, it was worth a shot.

Little did I know that in addition to performing pummeling riffage, Nick focused on a lot of ambient & soundscape music. So, it turns out Nick is indeed a great composer… fantastic, even. But beyond the fact that he knows how to put together great sounds, he also truly grasps the themes and ideas of our film. He understands that the music needs to compliment those themes, cue the viewer and work side by side with the visuals to deliver the story. This is something neither John nor myself really understood how to explain, but Nick picked up on immediately. And that is key. Nick connects with us, sees the story the same way we do, and knows exactly how to tell that story with us. That’s what makes us endlessly happy to be working alongside him. We’ve really given Nick free reign to run with the soundtrack, because we trust him completely. There have been VERY few soundtrack demos that John and I have had to send back to Nick for changes once we all settled on the film’s musical aesthetic. He has been hitting the nail on the head scene after scene. When we can even hear a single demo for a scene and respond with an email where we tell him it’s “fucking perfect,” then we know we’ve found the guy for the job.

On top of all that music talent, Nick is also a nerd, and that’s a very important part of being involved in Dead Weight. So many of us are so dorky, especially John and I, so if you’re going to work that intimately with us, you need to be able to connect and communicate using our language, which Nick does. It’s pretty much safe to say we love him, and there’s very few people that could work with us on this level. We can’t wait for you to hear what he’s come up with. We couldn’t be happier to have Nick along for this storytelling adventure.

Nick has most recently begun work on the song for the end credits of the film. Which is something that John and I have been struggling with the idea of for months… perhaps a year? Nick sent us an email yesterday in which he tells us “it will be crushing,” and we know to have no worries, Nick will deliver.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Without a doubt, we were on a high after "Through A Still Lens". After all, it was the first time we did anything public with the film. For the previous two years, Dead Weight only truly existed in our heads, on paper, in our (the cast and crew) experiences, and in world of the internet. Taking the film, be it just production photos and the trailer, to the public was satisfying and mind-blowing beyond belief. What would happen if we took it out of state?! Gulp…

Towards the end of September, we were contacted about showing the trailer for Dead Weight at Terror in the Aisles 9. TITA is an ongoing mini film fest held at the gorgeous Portage Theater in Chicago, which features older and modern class horror films with special guests, vendors, and so much more. Since we aren't morons (well, most of the time), we said of course! Then we were told the trailer would be showing before Shaun of the Dead, with Dance of the Dead and Demons showing later. Then the last minute addition of An American Werewolf in London with star David Naughton in person was enough to cause a nerd overload for yours truly.  

Adam, his wife, Cari, (lead actor) Joe, Scott and I pile in Adam's tiny car and trek to the Portage, where we met up with actress Michelle Courvais, producer Dan Kiggins, crew member Coye Vega and many other close friends. We set up a table with the photo cards, buttons and t-shirts for sale, and were on hand to talk to interested ears about Dead Weight. The night was going just fine, then we got the heads up, "Trailer goes on in 20 minutes". Oh, boy. This is for real, isn't it? Premiering the trailer at the photo exhibit was definitely nerve racking, but going into a theater full of people we don't know, let alone in Chicago, was a little different. However, I was also quite excited because this would be completely pure and genuine feedback. Adam, Michelle and I sat towards the back of the theater, awaiting to see the Head Trauma Productions logo fill the screen, knowing what would follow for the next two minutes and six seconds. 

Then it happened. And I felt my stomach slightly climb up into my throat, then Michelle's grip tighten on my shoulder. However, twenty seconds in, all nervousness went away. Why? Well, to be honest, I was kind of in disbelief. First of all, the footage looked GORGEOUS on the screen, no joke. Not only that, but for the first time I was viewing the trailer not as something I cut together, not shots from a film I have seen just about everyday for the last six months, but as something foreign. I can't exactly explain the way it felt. But I almost felt removed from the project, it was hard to fathom that for every shot in the trailer, Adam and I stood right next to the camera. I could ramble about how odd it felt, but let's just say this: it felt amazing! In the row in front of us, one guy tapped his buddy on the shoulder and said, "This looks really good". When it ended, there was a loud applause. Adam, Michelle and I looked at each other, and without verbally saying it, our faces said it all. "Holy shit."

Adam and I went back to the table immediately after the trailer played, and got to talk with some really great people who were interested in the film. Shortly after, Joe, Michelle and Scott joined us, but not without saying how awesome the short that followed the trailer was. They said it was called Other, and was a really solid horror/sci-fi short. To be honest, Scott and Joe were somewhat freaking out about how good it was. They didn't want to say much, as they were hesitant about spoiling anything. So, really, all I knew was that Other was super rad and I should see it. 

Some time passes and another lad, Danny, steps up to the table and starts complimenting the trailer and asking more about the film. I oblige him, and probably talk longer than I needed to (surprise, surprise). In conversation, he mentioned he had a film show tonight, as well. I ask which, he says Other. "Oh, really?" I say, and proceed to inform him how Joe and Scott were nerding out like crazy about it. Now I start asking questions about the film, and am even more amped to see it. I ask the standard question if he's worked on anything else. His response starts with "Yeah, I did directed an animated film for Warner Bros. a few years back… It was for the Watchmen film, Tales of the Black Freighter." [record scratch sound effect here] I'm sorry… What?! Let it be known, that many of us involved in Dead Weight (Adam, Joe, composer Nick Elert, myself) are huge comic book fans. And the dude who directed The Black Freighter really liked the trailer for the film?! Um… Uh… I don't even know what to say.

Throughout the rest of the night, I talked a lot with Danny, about Other, Dead Weight, and plenty of other flicks, too. However, it was abundantly clear that he was a fan of the trailer and super pumped about the film. I don't mean to undermine the feedback we got from anyone else, not by any means, but this was totally surreal. After a stop at Pick Me Up Cafe, which involved me feasting on a big burrito, we hopped back in the car and left Chicago jazzed up beyond belief. Huge thanks to Rusty for asking us to be a part of the awesome event, and everyone who watched the trailer, liked it, said hi, expressed interested, and/or picked up a shirt!

Then came Saturday, and not just any other Saturday either, but the day of the second Oshkosh Horror Film Festival. The OHFF showcases 12 hours of Wisconsin made horror films,  and celebrates all that is horror in this beautiful state I call home. We got back from Chicago around 4am, and by 10am I was at the theater, where I remained for the next 15 hours. Needless to say, it was a long, yet incredibly fun and exciting day. The energy of running the fest kept my blood flowing (and me awake), and the TITA experience definitely helped out, too. Early on in the day, a few people asked if we were going to show the Dead Weight trailer. Now, the OHFF is an event I organize, and Adam runs the projection room. In short, we are the two main people behind it. Previously, we both agreed we did not want to show the trailer at the fest. We are not bashful about promoting the film by any means, but it's a little different when you are in charge of an event. We didn't want to give off the wrong impression. But, people kept asking, and we stood our ground for a while, and then finally gave in. Completely last minute, we showed the trailer before the last block of films. At this point, there was well over 200 attendees in the crowd. I had similar pre-trailer feelings as the night before, but once again, all was fine once the trailer was over. This night proved to be just like TITA, with a truly positive response. Many people had already seen the trailer, on their computer screens, not the big screen, though. And, there were those who saw it for the first time, and seemed to like what they saw. Which, this probably goes without saying, is such a satisfying feeling. 

The weekend of Oct. 21 and 22 will go down in the books as the weekend where Dead Weight ruled the world. Well, at least two theaters. Wait, no, at least in our heads. Yeah, that's it. Seriously, though. TITA and the OHFF delivered a realistic kick in the ass for us. So much of Dead Weight has been in my office, aka bedroom, as I work on the film day in and day out. Then we have two unbelievable and overwhelming positive public outings? This isn't being cocky or full of ourselves by any means, this is being honest: We know there are quite a few people who are excited to see the film. And, I've said this before, but trust me. After these two theater experiences, we are even more excited than we were before. Can't wait to sit in the theater with you all. 

Oh, and seriously, be sure to keep up with Other (they're on the facebook, too!). Vitamin Pictures is getting ready to premiere the finished film in December, and will be traveling with it throughout 2012. Granted, I haven't seen the film yet, but after talking with Danny during TITA and many times after, I can safely and confidentially vow for him and the film. Plus, let us not forget how uber gaga Joe and Scott were about it.

Adam, Joe, Dan, John, Scott, and Michelle at Terror in the Aisles 9.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Don't be deceived by the lack of activity on the blog, friends. That's all about to change. Part of the reason things have been quiet on our end is that we've been working like mad to finish up the film. Believe it or not (I know we can't), but the end is not only near, but in sight!

In fact, just last Friday (Nov. 4), we sent the film out for color correction. A few people have asked me just what that means; color correction. Well, quite frankly, it means just as it sounds. It's the process of getting all the scenes to look similar throughout the entire film. For example, our main cast of survivors wear the same clothes for the duration of their journey, and different lighting can make Dustin's grey jacket look a little more blue, or lighter, or darker. Color correction provides a consistency from scene to scene.

We are also using color correction as a strong, visual device in the film. Well, more so than usual. Some know this, some don't, so I am going to "spill the beans" now. There are two timelines in Dead Weight. We call these the present and flashback timelines. The present timeline is the post-outbreak time period, when the world has moved on. The flashbacks show the relationship of our two main characters, Charlie and Samantha, before the outbreak. Adam and I discussed early on that these two timelines needed to look completely different from each other. To achieve that, we did two things. First, we set a color palette for both. All wardrobe in the present timeline consisted of dull, earthy colors: greys, browns, darker greens and blues, etc. In the flashbacks, our characters wear brighter, livelier colors: reds, oranges, yellows, light greens, etc. As you'll see in the raw footage (the trailer contains NON-corrected shots), this worked successfully. However, there are aspects we can't fully control, and we wanted to push the feel even more so… enter color correction. The images in this entry contain a pairing of the same frame twice. The first is the original, raw colors, with the second being the graded frame from our DP, Travis, worked on to give our color correction guy a starting point. Hey, speaking of this magical color correction guy, who the hell is he?

It's my pleasure to introduce the most recent addition to the Dead Weight family, Mr. Derrick Carey. 

Derrick's another super talented cinephile from the Fox Valley, and when the thought of bringing someone on board for color correction, Derrick was the first person I thought of. Derrick's had a great year for film thus far in 2011. Just this summer, the documentary Derrick edited, Screaming In High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era, written and directed by Jason Paul Collum (another cinephile from Wisconsin), premiered at Flashback Weekend. Screaming showcases the career ups and downs of three fantastic (yet typically screaming and scantily clad) ladies; Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley and Brinke Stevens. If anyone picked up the badass Slumber Party Massacre box set that came out last year, Derrick also edited the documentary on there (another one Collum wrote/directed), Sleepless Nights. Also this year, right before Derrick started working on Dead Weight, his most recent endeavor was Oshkosh's very own Swamphead (released through his Rabid Child Films), one Derrick edited and produced. We premiered this one at the Oshkosh Horror Film Festival, and the packed house went nuts over it. If you like your horror to be dirty, sleazy, vulgar, and bloody, Swamphead is up your alley. Think early Hershel Gordon Lewis mixed with 80's Troma. 

Derrick's stepping right out of the swamp and into the cold, vast world of Dead Weight, and we couldn't be any happier to have him on board. Just yesterday I saw the corrected opening scene, and just when I thought the image couldn't look any prettier, Derrick proved me wrong. 

Oh, and I should point this out, too. The title of this entry, Needs More Beautiful Color!, is a little nod to my painting professor from college, Li Hu. Li was not only one of the kindest and most talented people I have ever gotten to know, he had one of the best taglines ever. "It's pretty good… but I think it needs more beautiful color!" Ask any of his students, he always said that. But, you know what? He was always right. So, Li, don't worry, we are giving the film more beautiful color! I promise. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


There is one thing that both John and I have come to terms with, independent of each other, but through a similar progression of thoughts and life decisions. We will never be rich. We will never be anything more than hard-working, lower-middle class kids from the Midwest. We’re just fine with that. Our minds work in a similar fashion, our motivations and desires are similar, and all of it coincides with a lifestyle that puts others before our selves in almost every aspect of our lives. This, of course, creates a problematic situation when it comes time to fund an independent film!

Despite our good fortune of having so many gracious friends to donate their time and energy, there is still a need for money to make art, particularly film. The goal of a filmmaker is to create a believable universe where their story exists. It is so much more complicated than just giving people words to read in front of a camera, you need to breathe life into the world in which these characters live. To do this, you need money. Bottom line, we needed money.

 I’m not going to give you a grocery list of expenses from our budget, determined in pre-production, but the total of that list was high (by our personal standards). For this we needed to turn to others in order to raise some cash. We debated doing the entire Kickstarter thing, and decided that their fund raising system wasn’t something we wanted to use for Dead Weight. It was important for us to raise the money independently. Pride? Maybe, but we're prideful assholes, at least we can admit it.

If you take a look at the list of executive producers on our newly approved IMDB page, you’ll see a whole list of names in the full list of cast and crew, some of those people are executive producers. These are a few of the people who have faith in our concept and believed in our ability to make it a reality, and a few of the people are in a financial situation that enables them to support us. All of these people are responsible for giving us the chance, and without them we wouldn’t be here, nearing completion on the film.  These folks are all individuals that have come into our lives in a variety of ways, and there is one in particular I want to focus on in this blog post, Nancy Cremer.
Jon Kitley wants you to join the Kryptic Army.

Our relationship with Nancy is a perfect example of how supportive the community of horror fans really is, and that is the primary reason I wanted to share the story of our history with her. Nancy has only known us for a very short time, but the way by which she has come to know us, as John has highlighted in his comments below, is a very common story in the history of Dead Weight. I've spent the last decade of my life working in the music industry, more specifically independent music. So when I first became exposed to the horror film community I was shocked by how positive and excited people were, how willing they were to bend over backwards to support independent artists. It really threw me for a loop, after my spirit was so broken by the music industry. I thought film would be worse, boy was I a fool. That's really the catalyst for my writing this blog post. There are some incredible people out there involved in the independent film/horror communities. Everyone involved in Dead Weight that John met over the past six years or so, and eventually introduced me to, they're the cream of that very group of people. I have the most sincere appreciation for many of them, and I feel honored to be involved in this project with them.

John and Nancy were first introduced by way of The KrypticArmy, which is sort of like a horror film viewing club run by Kitley’s Crypt, very fun times. In late 2010 They bonded over a discussion regarding Nancy’s first viewing of Carpenter’s The Thing. John and Nancy then met in person during a convention called HorrorHound in Indianapolis during March of 2011. John shared the story of Dead Weight with a lot of folks that weekend, Nancy amongst them. 

Pre-production on the film turned to production and Nancy came to know us both personally, witnessing our devotion to this project. Eventually she made the decision become one of the sources of financial support that we so desperately relied on to make our budget a reality.

This is one of the key things I personally love about the path we’ve taken with this film. Every dime we raised was due to the personal relationships and personal histories we have with our executive producers. I can’t imagine this sort of support coming from any other community. The horror community is something that continues to amaze and inspire me every step of the way. Without people like Nancy, Dan & Mel Lowin, Dan Kiggins, Aaron Christensen, and rest of those that John has connected with in the horror community over the last few years, we could never do this.

Dead Weight is fundamentally a child of the horror community. It will always be a horror film to us, despite how much it leans in the direction of drama and suspense most of the time. It was founded in horror, and brought into existence by the love for horror.

Dead Weight actor Aaron Christensen with executive producer to be, Nancy Cremer. HorrorHound 2011, a fateful weekend.