Pictured: Drew Bolduc and Dan Nelson. Photo by Jessica Emilia Martin.
Drew Bolduc and Dan Nelson’s super low-budget gross-out spectacular The Taint has been taking film festivals by storm. In the film, a mysterious substance taints the water supply and causes any men who drink the water to instantly become rampaging killer misogynists with raging erections. Phil O’Ginny (played by co-director Drew Bolduc) manages to accidentally escape The Taint and teams up with badass Misandra (Colleen Walsh), and the two set off for an untainted well. The resulting adventure is a film that could only be made independently, a jaw-dropping callback to Troma at its best: completely ridiculous, gloriously offensive, and much smarter than it looks. The film just won Best Film at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival, and has already begun gathering a cult following. Here, Film Monthly speaks with co-directors Drew Bolduc and Dan Nelson about making The Taint.
What camera(s) did you use to film The Taint? What kind of editing rig do you use?
Drew (Bolduc, co-director/writer/composer/actor/producer/editor): (Panasonic) HVX200 with a Brevis 35mm adapter. We edited using Final Cut Pro.
How long did it take to shoot The Taint? What was the longest part of the film’s production?
Dan (Nelson, co-director/cinematographer/producer/editor/special effects): We started off shooting a whole lot within the first month, and ended up shooting most of the movie during the summer.
Drew: We began editing while still filming more segments and doing sound and music. The post-production period was longer, but we were still shooting some scenes for a good deal of it, so it’s hard to say where one part started and the other ended. The process was pretty loose.
Dan: We shot most of it during the summer of 2009, as far as how many days it took, we don’t exactly know. There were always constant changes in the schedule. We’d reschedule an entire week a couple days ahead of time because we were really persistent in keeping track of everyone’s schedule.
Pictured: Drew Bolduc (driving) and Dan Nelson (shooting). Photo by Jessica Emilia Martin.
Was it fairly easy to schedule additional shoots if needed? It seems like some of the interior scenes wouldn’t need a big crew, but there must have been a lot of planning required for the more effects-heavy scenes.
Drew: The initial schedule, which worked out the entire movie, was mind-numbingly complicated. I wrote it in a notebook and it had its like own code numbers and letters. It broke days down by set, location, props, time, actors, everything, because we were shooting everything out of chronological order to fit it to everyone’s schedule. Dan helped refine it later and put it into a readable form. Mine only could be read by me.
Dan: We concentrated on shooting all of the acting based scenes knowing we’d have to go back and fix up the effects later. We knew if we stopped to do effects work and ran out of time it would be harder to get the actors back than it would be to do the effects. During this main shooting period the only crew we had consisted of Jessi (Jessica Emilia Martin), Drew and I, and occasionally my roommate Ricky before he moved out of Richmond. I can’t stress how much Jessi helped us during this period of time. She really kept us on our toes. We also have tons of awesome on set pictures because of her and we can’t be more thankful for that. Once summer ended, we started concentrating more heavily on the effects. Originally the effects were going to be all practical, but I had some After Effects experience and during some initial editing I had the realization that a lot of the effects we had already done could be touched up using digital compositing. Together we would experiment with the practical effects in my backyard until we found something that seemed like it was the best we could do. During the 6 months following shooting I spent a lot of time doing the digital compositing while Drew worked on music and sound and we both worked on and off of editing. It was a process of reshooting and tweaking, which we did even after we first premiered the movie in April of 2010. The process was very open for us and we took advantage of it.
What are some of the advantages of shooting and working with digital video?
Drew: It’s cheaper and you can do basically everything yourself on your computer.
Speaking of doing everything on the computer: Drew, what did you use to make the soundtrack? It sounds great, and really adds to the movie’s atmosphere and sort of 1980’s feel.
Drew: I mainly used the program Reason, which is a pretty amazing synthesizer program. I’ve used it since High School. I also used Logic Pro to mix together some of the songs.
Pictured: Dan Nelson and Kailie Smith. Photo by Jessica Emilia Martin.
The effects in The Taint are shockingly good for such a low-budget film. Was the use of digital video helpful in pulling off some of the effects?
Dan: Digital video helped us because, for some of the compositing work, we were able to just shoot it around the house. We were able to shoot it, see if it worked, then reshoot it the same day to get it right.
So did you guys have a makeshift green screen room?
Dan: We actually didn’t use any green screen for the entire film. All the compositing was done with rotoscoping instead. I’ve never had a lot of luck with green screen. Bad green screen is really noticeable, and good green screen is hard to do, especially hard to fix after the fact. I feel it makes more sense to have the actors in the real locations with real lighting, so that’s what we did.
The Taint has played at some different film festivals, but have you had any problems in submitting the film anywhere? Have any fests been put off by the extreme content of the film?
Drew: It’s hard to say. Festivals either don’t email you back or they send you a nice email that says that there were so many amazing entries that they just didn’t have room for yours. We really never know if anybody is offended or not.
Dan: We did have some trouble getting the DVDs printed. The first printing house we went to refused to print the film because of the content. We had to hand-make our own copies for a screening we had in Richmond because we couldn’t get them in time.
Drew: I think they thought it may have been Porn.
You should use that as a marketing hook: “The Movie They Refused to Print!” Considering you can’t even show one erect penis in an R-rated movie, and The Taint shows literally dozens of erections, did you anticipate any of that kind of reaction while you were making the movie?
Drew: It crossed my mind, so when it happened I was like “oh well, that’s not really surprising.” I think the guy who was helping us get them made was more annoyed than I was. The only other controversy we’ve had so far is that we had our posters taken down at the theater where we were premiering the movie. They blatantly said “Kill Women” on them. I knew ahead of time that they would probably be removed, but we thought it would be more irresponsible to make the poster look like a normal movie. When the poster says “Kill Women”, it’s pretty clear what kind of movie it’s going to be and who should see it. Even if we offended some people, I don’t think we made the wrong decision.
Pictured: Phil O’Ginny (Drew Bolduc) and his gym teacher Houdini (Cody Crenshaw) talk about Phil’s performance in gym class.
Get The Taint on DVD (or limited edition VHS!), watch the trailer and clips, find out if the film is playing at a festival near you, and more at the film’s official web site.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org.
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