After sitting down to watch a screener for a fantastic comedy-horror film called The Taint, I couldn’t wait to interview co-directors Drew Bolduc and Dan Nelson. Along the way, I found that these two filmmakers loved some of the same films I love (anyone that mentions Tetsuo and Riki-Oh have to be pretty cool) and that The Taint was actually a well thought-out reaction to the Richmond, Virginia, indie horror scene.
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Cary Conley: Let’s start first with an obvious question: tell us a little bit about your background. How did you become interested in filmmaking? How did you two meet?
Drew Bolduc: I’ve been interested in movies since I was a kid, but I came into trying to do movies as a comedy writer. It seemed like a good medium to express the things I was writing and film allowed me to combine multiple interests like writing, music, and acting. I really chose film because I couldn’t decide on any one thing. I also, in a big way, really hate film. Film, for the most part, tends to be a very artless art form and I love embracing that aspect. We met at a party at Brock’s (who plays Ludas).
Dan Nelson: My parents bought my sister a camera in high school for some class she was taking at her advanced high school. After she was done with it I wanted to see if I could get it to hook up to my computer. I convinced my mom to buy me the first copy of iMovie and it took me a few days to figure it out. It was early enough in the home editing days that I could turn bad movies in as class projects and get straight A’s. I helped a lot of my friends pass classes that way. I did a lot of theatre, so my friends would all act in my movies. Most of them wound up playing characters in The Taint, including Brock (Kenneth Hall).
CC: It seems to me you both must love comedy and horror since The Taint is a mixture of these two genres. What are some of your favorite films? What directors have influenced you?
DB: For The Taint it was really John Waters, Peter Jackson, Evil Dead 2, and Troma that inspired it. Definitely filmmakers that made something out of nothing. Tetsuo: The Iron Man really inspired me, but in more of a "don’t limit yourself conceptually" kind of way.
DN: I was familiar with the genre of the movies Drew was referencing with the script, so I tried to keep those movies in mind when we were making the movie. I referenced Reanimator in my head a lot when we were doing those scientist scenes. My favorites of the era are probably American Werewolf in London, Dead Alive, Riki-O, (does Ghostbusters count?). Oh and I was really into Total Recall at the time. I don’t really like straight horror films, but I love campy horror.
CC: Drew, you’ve been involved in a couple of film shorts, first acting in MegaChiroptera, then directing The Godening. What lessons did you learn on these two films that you were able to apply when making The Taint?
DB: I basically learned everything not to do. Don’t act and be the cinematographer (stupid). I wrote The Godening as I went, so I learned how to change things and rewrite while I was working on something so I didn’t dig myself into a hole. I see so many people that won’t change from their script because "people" tell you not to, but they’re wrong. You just have to become comfortable with your voice and what your movie is really about. Forget the script, but at the same time have one. I think the key is to become very confident in yourself and your ideas. Other people can second guess you, but if you second guess yourself in a deep way and lose track of what you’re doing, you’re fucked.
CC: I’d like to hear how you came up with the idea for The Taint. How did you create the storyline for this film?
DB: I was hanging out at the river a lot so I wanted to make a movie involving the river. I also wanted to make a horror movie and I came up with the title and it all came out of that. I actually saw this award-winning short movie made in Richmond, Virginia, that ends with a guy crushing a girl’s head with a rock and that was the moment it all came together. I saw short films like that in Richmond all the time. I call them misogyny films. It was weird to me that no one saw the production of a plethora of misogynistic rape/murder-oriented pretentious dramatic films by the young male Richmond film community as an odd phenomena. I saw it as that there was this underlying subconscious thing that all these male film nerds–myself included–were trying to get off their chests. I wanted to make the ultimate filmic expression of that thing to the point where no one would have a reason to do it again. I don’t know if it worked.
CC: I felt like the film was one gigantic spoof on different genres as well as iconic movie scenes and characters. Were there any films in particular you had in mind while writing the script?
DB: It’s hard to remember specifics, but mostly bad 80’s action movies edited for cable.
CC: I thought the film was an absolute riot. I was entertained and amazed with every scene. You’ve got to have some terrific stories. Any favorites?
DB: The police came after we crushed a fake head in a car door and were wiping the blood off the side of the car, but they just let us go with no fuss after smelling the corn syrup.
DN: My landlord at the time walked up behind me when I had about 15 dildos on my picnic table. Luckily Jessi (Jessica Martin) was with me at the time so it wasn’t too weird? He said he just didn’t want to know….
CC: The Taint is quite violent, particularly in the department of sexualized violence. There are numerous scenes and comments that could easily offend the public. Were you at all worried about any controversy the film might create?
DB: Before we showed it publicly I was worried that a lot of people would never talk to me again, but most people I know understood it. The ones that didn’t probably haven’t said anything to me about it. As far as people I don’t know, I was pretty much just like "fuck it" the whole time. It was like channeling this giddy child-like destructive force.
DN: it’s surprising how little controversy the film created. I suppose it’s because Richmond has a huge art scene and a lot of freaks, ourselves included, so no one was that surprised by it. We got more flack for the posters touting "Kill Women" than the movie itself. It’s too light-hearted to take that seriously; people would laugh at you if you tried.
CC: I read somewhere that you actually filmed in the streets of downtown Richmond, Virginia. Considering the large number of actors running around with large rubber penises hanging out of their pants, how were you able to get away with this?
DB: We just did it really early on the weekend when no one was around, but there still had to be luck involved.
DN: We kept the dildos in a box until we had the scene framed up and had rehearsed the action once. Then I had the guys put them on and tuck them under their shirts until I called action. We were very wary, and very careful about it, and everyone knew we were taking a risk. Another thing I think we had going for us is that when you have that many people in one place no one seems to question it. They figure you can’t be doing something too terrible or weird, otherwise you wouldn’t have so many people. Also, like I said before, Richmond is full of art school freaks, and downtown is dead on the weekends.
CC: While I enjoyed The Taint immensely as an exploitation film, I also was impressed with the very smart underlying commentary poking fun at critics of film violence, particularly misogyny. Was this commentary always part of the plan, or did the film develop into something more as you wrote?
DB: It was always the main idea that the monsters were actually called misogynists. Part of it was to make fun of how obvious horror movies tend to be as social commentary. In horror and in comedy you also tend to have a greater leeway in terms of content. So I knew that we could get away with talking about certain subjects that you could never get away with in a normal movie.
CC: Many independent filmmakers find it difficult to reach any kind of a distribution deal, yet you were able to secure a deal with Troma for your very first feature. How did this come about? Do you have any advice for other filmmakers concerning finding distribution for their films?
DB: They came to us, but they also found out about it because we played at their Tromadance Festival. We had other offers as well. We distributed it on our own initially and I think that really helped us.
DN: We spent a lot of time thinking about the artwork for the film. It took us several generations before we came up with the final poster design and on some level I think that’s a big part of the movie’s success. Most movie posters are thrown together by some distribution company who are just trying to make a buck and it shows. It probably helps that the movie was also a genre film, and we got lots of comparisons to Troma before we even talked to them or played at the festival, because they were a big influence.
CC: Finally, can you tell Rogue readers about any future projects you may be working on? What’s on the horizon for Drew and Dan?
DB: I’m writing again, but I’m also doing music and soundtrack work for my friend’s short film.
DN: I’m working on a sci-fi action epic script with Brock (who played Ludas in The Taint). I’d like to dive deeper into doing low budget special effects.