We came. We saw. We kicked it's ass. Congrats to Adam & John, and all those involved with Dead Weight. The progress in the last couple years has been nothing short of impressive. Beyond that, it's allowed each of us to get together at least a few times a year to pick up where we left off. My question is what comes next, and when can I sign up? I think it would be great to work with everyone again and put some more elbow grease into another project. As with all art, direction can only get better each time, and production can only become more fluid. "It's only a matter of time."
I've been trying to figure out why the premiere feels so far away. The closest conclusion I come to is that so much can (and has) happen in a year. I don't mean for the film (though it's been a busy year in that regard). I mean personal and professional life changes. In the past year, those involved with Dead Weight have gone on to new projects. Folks got engaged. Some changed professions or continued school. Some suffered great losses. Some made babies.
So maybe that's why the premiere feels like a million years ago? Maybe. It's the best I can do, in any case. Time is slippery, and for that, it's kind of a bastard.
This isn't to say that the weekend wasn't memorable. On the contrary, buster. The premiere weekend was a reunion packed full of memorable moments. I'll pepper a few here:
-Egan's prizewinning and stunningly photogenic handshake.
-Sam Lenz, who is a staggering 10 feet or so, dancing without concern at the after party. His limbs were flying everywhere.
-Mary Lindberg took the initiative to create a Dead Weight scrapbook for both Adam and John, the contents of which were letters, pieces of art, and photos submitted from the Dead Weight family and others that supported the creation of the film. Watching Mary gift these to both Adam and John, seeing them page through them, reading each submission, was a rare moment where the enormity of what these busters mean to the rest of us had become this tangible thing. Very cool.
-Returning to where we filmed the abandoned house and barn attack scene to see the work of an arsonist that had destroyed both buildings. The house was ashes, the barn only a charred frame. The Dead Weight family is a sappy bunch, so this was, you know, emotional and stuff.
-Adam and I hugging outside the remains of the barn, recreating a spontaneous moment that occurred during filming (See? Told you we're saps).
-Returning to the gas station where we took cover from the April blizzard that surprised us all. This time was a lot like the first - we just hung out, ate, and were happy to be together.
Of course, the fact that we were all surrounded by friends and family that had come out to support us made the whole weekend surreal. We spent a lot of time being grateful for them and each other. It was time well spent.
Happy anniversary, Dead Weight premiere weekend.
P.S. This wasn't during the premiere weekend, but I must mention the time when I was "recognized" as Charlie at - wait for it - the Mars Cheese Castle [in Kenosha, WI]. Life is weird and awesome.
-Joe Belknap, "Charlie Russell"
Now that DW has finally gotten into the hands of the masses, there is a whole other level of people in the mix - people who are not just fans of the people involved, but fans of the film proper. Reading reviews from unbiased critics, who have nothing to gain by liking the film or not, and realizing that our efforts have touched them...that's kind of incredible. Meeting people who knew "Thomas" before they knew me...that is equally incredible. Having people talk to me about what my character did and wondering about what happened before and after the onscreen events, telling me things about Thomas that hadn't even occurred to me while we were shooting, these are experiences that I will treasure forever. Even though I'm not a fan of sequels (and there's no way that DW would have one anyway), I understand viewers' desire to enjoy the further adventures of these characters. They want to see how their new "friends" would react in different situations - that's a very cool thing.
I love my Dead Weight family. Two years ago we lived and worked together for what seemed like much longer than a week. And I think it seemed longer for two reasons - we wanted it to be longer and the bond we forged was one that would normally take longer... but the combination of the right people, the belief in the project, the beautiful/quirky leadership combination of John & Adam, the absolute, 100% resolve to get the film shot and the instant gratitude and love we felt for each other has made us a forever family. When everything finally does turn shithouse in the world, I will look at AC and say that we need to get to Oshkosh. That's our Wausau. We'll get to Oshkosh and gather the family and survive on squirrel burritos and bad behavior.
One last thought- if I had my wits about me, I'd pitch all the sequel ideas that have come up over the last two years. There are so many. Or maybe DW was lightning in a bottle and we need to leave it alone, the amazing record of a time when we all dropped our regular life-commitments and focused on a common goal. Maybe that's what made it so powerful - all of us with the same goal and no real need to take a shower. No judgments, just everyone trying their hardest and supporting each other and loving every minute of it. I could write for days about Dead Weight. But instead, I'll just say thank you to the universe for seeing fit to throw this group of people together at the right time, and under the absolute right insane circumstances. And how wonderful that the family continues to grow. I love you all.
-Michelle Courvais, "Meredith"
-Lance Ford, Crew Member extraordinaire
My affection for Dead Weight- from my experiences working on the project to the individual people involved with it to the finished piece itself- is something that effortlessly resists wear, that makes me smile and swoon, that gives me perpetual hope for what’s possible when you simply dedicate yourself to something you want.
Though I helped out many different times in lots of different capacities throughout the making of Dead Weight, my fondest memory of Dead Weight is from the night we shot in the alley in Neenah for the final scene of the film after Charlie’s been kicked out of the complex. A friend and I stopped by the set just to say hello and see how things were going, and we were asked to be extras for the scene. Our “infected” makeup was applied, our clothes were drab and dull, we were ready to go. As we waited for lights to be positioned and for directors to collaborate with lead actors and cinematographers, a few of us “infected” extras loudly sang TV show theme songs and songs from The Simpsons. Singing loudly in the middle of a street in the middle of the night with no one else around but new and old friends alike pretending to be monsters as part of a friend’s “art project” made me feel like a kid again. It was dorky, a little surreal, and pretty absurd. It may have all been “for nothing” if the project was never finished or was poorly received, but none of that even occurred to us. We were just having fun and helping out, dedicating ourselves to Dead Weight for a few hours as others had for days, months, or years. It was a carefree and satiating feeling that I don’t get to experience nearly as much as I’d like to as an adult. I hope I never forget that night.
A very close second favorite memory is a general (and arguably inappropriate) one from the public premier one year ago when we unleashed the film to the public. All the men and women who’d worked on the film and whom I’d developed enormous crushes on over the previous months, even while they were made up to look homely, were all gussied up and looking mighty fine. Plus their attractive friends who were likewise all gussied up came out to see it. All these beautiful people in the same place at the same time… oh me, oh my. Arrhythmic palpitations, my friends. The silver medal to my libido’s overwhelming glory of the night was that my heart could hardly stand the joy and pride I felt for my friends- all that hard work and dedication had become something tangible, and people were supporting it in droves.
I have some of the greatest memories and best friends anyone could ever hope for through Dead Weight. I’m honored, proud, and beyond lucky to have had any part in it. There were many long days, challenges, and heartaches throughout the project, but there was also a solid trust between us, many triumphs, and a great sense of pride and mutual responsibility. This is what love is.
-Ashley Lamers, Crew Member
I've been on many, many shoots over the years and the most disastrous have typically been on small films, so I entered into this thing with some trepidation, in spite of recommendations from a few other actors. I had a tiny part, barely noticeable. [Adam and John] made me feel like my contribution was vital to the film and during the shoot welcomed my input. And they handled the shot professionally and efficiently. It was a joy to work with younger professionals and not feel like they were learning how to make a movie while I waited. I would gladly work with them again and recommend any actors to do so also if given the chance.
-Joel Kopischke, "Ted Rosen" (news anchor)
A huge benefit of my part-time job at House of Heroes Comics & Games is that I get to personally sell copies of Dead Weight. People have heard about the movie from friends or the internet. They're always very curious about it. The fact that it was mostly filmed in and around Oshkosh is by far the biggest selling point. People LOVE that.
Being a part of the Dead Weight Family has been a completely amazing experience. The best part is that it's not over.
-Lee Marohn, Producer
Wow, it’s been a year already? That makes 12 full months of telling strangers that have seen Dead Weight that, “I’m really not that guy.” It also marks 12 months of my friends telling me that we’re never going camping together. I do have one favorite moment from the first night of the public premiere, though. All of us that were in the cast or crew were asked to stand up and come to the stage after the film had finished. It was amazing to see all these people standing up, scattered about the theater. I remember thinking it was a pretty sizable group of people. Then I made my way to the stage with the rest of the DW family and when I turned around and looked up I thought, “Damn, now that’s a lot of people!” I’m told the number was somewhere near 400. They were cheering and applauding and I was just floored by the way the community supported what we did. I’ll always be thankful that I got to be a part of that.
-Jake Martin, "Roy"
On an interview for a national commercial, I had the producer (looking at my resume) go "WHOA you worked on that?" I thought he was going me a hard time for my love of indie projects but instead he said, "I wish I had the guts to play in that world...you got to love something hard to work on, something like that for that little money and have it come out THAT GOOD."
-Lyn Marie Neuenfeldt, Key Make-Up/Wardrobe Artist
Three and a half years ago, one of my closest friends and I began talking about a story. Where that story would go, we had no idea, but we carried forward, much like Charlie making his way to Wausau. As our journey continued, more and more people came into the mix. Some we knew, some we just met. All, however, came together for one reason: Dead Weight.
Making an independent film is hard, much harder than some people would believe. I sold my business to make and partially fund Dead Weight, which resulted in entering a financial hardship I still haven't gotten out of yet. I've strained relationships with friends and family from isolating myself in the monumental amount of work we faced, and still face. Sleep has been something slightly more than a memory, but never substantial, while stress has been a daily visitor. But you know what, we made this film with human beings who words can't describe, and I wouldn't change a damn thing.
This past year has been more than any of us would have imagined, especially Adam and myself. The amount of excitement and support we received from our community prior, during, and after the premiere is astonishing. We've traveled all over the States with the film (and are about to head overseas), and are always happy to return home. Through said travels, we have been met with open arms some of the nicest, funnest, and wackiest individuals. Just like while making the film, many relationships have been formed, and Dead Weight is to thank for that.
It's rather easy to stay in work mode, focus on the stress and what needs to get done. Basically, to have tunnel vision. Every now and then, I force myself to step back and look at what we've accomplished. We went against the odds. We went blow for blow with every obstacle, only to stand up bruised and more knowledgable than we were before. This experience is unlike anything I've been a part of before. Will it happen again? Who knows. If it doesn't, so be it, at least we have this one time.
Thank you to the entire family, I sincerely hope you all know how much you, and this project, means to me. Thank you to everyone who has supported us in any capacity, your enthusiasm is what keeps us going. Lastly, and while I'm slightly hesitant to say more importantly, thank you to Kurt Russell. Hugs and tugs to all of you.
-John Pata, co-writer/director
As far as any crazy stories… It's not crazy, crazy, but just something worth noting. I was wearing the Dead Weight shirt at Renn Faire [in Bristol, WI] last summer, and several passers-by gave me the thumbs up or said "cool shirt" but Brian Lemke, who has his own shop at the Faire [as well as Atomic Hair in Oshkosh], stopped me to ask about the t-shirt and how I knew about the movie. We chatted about my involvement with the film and he told me that he was friends with you all.
-Coye Vega, Crew Member
I had planned on being a part of John's first movie, Better Off Undead, but it just didn't work out. So when Dead Weight was in production I couldn't wait to be a part of it. Timing again didn't work out for me to help out on set.
I went to the private premiere of Dead Weight and was blown away. It was obvious to me that I had to be a part of it. I decided to sign on as an executive producer and was welcomed into the Dead Weight family with open arms. It's also obvious to me that John and Adam are wired to create. They pour their heart and soul into their projects - add some great friends and talent, stir - out pops a phenom like Dead Weight.
-Mike Veon, Executive Producer