Despite my natural inclination toward unnecessary linguistic antics, the news I have the pleasure of delivering today is of such incredible magnitude that I am compelled to forego that indulgence in favor of absolute clarity.Read More
Despite my natural inclination toward unnecessary linguistic antics, the news I have the pleasure of delivering today is of such incredible magnitude that I am compelled to forego that indulgence in favor of absolute clarity.Read More
While I am positive that “R”, “O”, and “T” are far from the most common letters being typed into Google after the word Chicago these days, we do have some rather meaty updates for those of you who arrived here due to some pre-existing interest in our film. And for those of you who simply evidenced a poor aptitude for spelling while searching for Cubs gear – welcome! Not all of us on the Rot crew are sportsing fans, but as Chicagoans and just generally as people, we all share a mutual appreciation for those rare moments in life when you are afforded the opportunity to bear witness to history being made. It was almost as amazing as Chicago Rot winning Best Thriller at the Nightmares Film Festival, which, by the way, happened roughly 5 hours prior to the Cubs winning the division and gaining entry to the somewhat questionably-named World Series. While I am not necessarily prepared to say that our win was a precursor to theirs, we will happily take credit for it if anyone decides to draw a causal connection.
In addition to the aforementioned appearance at the exceptional Nightmares Film Festival, Chicago Rot was also honored with a screening at the Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival in September, where a statistically significant portion of the uncannily kind Bay City populace showed up to watch our film in a Planetarium and prove what we already knew – that the Midwest does it best when it comes to hospitality towards the filmmakers, and respect for the work they have brought with them. I am confident that I can speak for our entire crew and all of our fellow attendees when I say that our undying gratitude goes to everyone who made Nightmares and HHM possible. They are festivals of the highest caliber, run by tireless, estimable cinephiles who understand that we kill ourselves to get our movies there, and are thus unsettlingly willing to reciprocate by killing themselves to make sure you have an experience that is respectful of that. It is an incredible thing to witness and be a part of, if you don’t mind the corpses that pile up as a result of all this altruism.
The festival experience has been an unequivocally thrilling one, and while we wish our run could go on much longer, it appears that ours is intent on finding its conclusion. We only have a handful of pending submissions left, and are currently not applying to any more festivals, because…
We have signed a distribution deal for Chicago Rot.
It would not be untoward to suggest that I may have buried the lead here, but rather than fling blame around, let’s just get into the details –
Most of the details are still being finalized.
It would not be untoward to suggest at this point that I may have jumped the gun on burying this lead, but what we do know is that the release will happen in 2017, and literally everything else is still being discussed and devised by our distributor and ourselves. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for timely updates, but know this – the deal has been signed. The film, along with all of the additional resources required for the marketing/releasing of our film, have been delivered to our distributor, and everything has passed their Quality Control checks. Yes, this is really happening.
As anyone with even a passing knowledge of our film knows, it has been a lengthy, arduous road we have travelled to get where we are, and while we likely still have a few more mountain peaks to plant the Rot flag upon before this whole journey concludes, this news definitively orients us upon the final range that we must conquer. It is perhaps the most daunting of them all, but everything we have endured has given us the confidence to confront it, and the wisdom to temper that confidence by reminding ourselves that we must proceed as though we are taking our first fumbling steps into a whole new breed of unknown. Luckily, that is exactly the type of environment where we fucking thrive.
Despite the obvious, and probably deserved, likelihood of drawing unkind comparisons to the cliché opener of just about every motivational speech ever given, I would like to begin with a question – of any place on earth, which one’s general population would you imagine constitutes the perfect blend of artistic perspicacity, deliciously playful dementia, and stone cold balls necessary to be the first to (rightly) decide that Chicago Rot needs to be given the attention afforded by a festival exhibition?
The obvious guess, based on the criteria given, is Japan.
The answer, it turns out… is Utah.
I know – we were shocked as well. Not that we have the empirical evidence necessary to draw any sweeping generalizations about Utahites (that, like most sweeping generalizations, would probably be grossly inaccurate anyway), but… experientially bereft as I may be, I am prepared to say that Utahites are generally not the “stab your way through the city” types. And I mean that in the best possible way, Utah.
Regardless of their feelings on stabbing and its relationship to urban momentum though, the fine folks of Salt Lake City have invited us to have our OFFICIAL WORLD PREMIERE OF CHICAGO ROT AT FILMQUEST! You can see our gorgeous, Lovecraftian laurels up above – works of art in their own right while also being an aesthetically sound addition to our existing palette – that I would argue are proof positive that we are in league with men and women of demonstrable quality. The festival takes place from June 17th – 25th, and while the competition looks formidable, I think we have a damn good chance of coming home with enough three pound Cthulhu trophies to make mincemeat of the maximum load on even the most absurdly named trophy case that IKEA sells. Next week brings the announcement of the award nominations, so stay tuned to see how thorough our domination of this festival has the potential to be.
And in all seriousness, we are extraordinarily proud to be a part of this young-but-ambitious festival, which has made nothing short of miraculous strides in terms of growth and influence in its first two years of operation. It is our sincere belief that the inclusion of Chicago Rot in the 3rd edition of FilmQuest will serve to continue that improbable trend. They have been an extraordinary pleasure to work with so far, and with this level of willing, engaged collaboration coming from both parties, our screening being an enormous success seems like a foregone conclusion.
We have many, many more submissions that are still in consideration for fests throughout the year, so expect this to be only the first in a long line of announcements that will take us from Chicago, to Salt Lake City, to the rest of the country, the rest of the world, and eventually land us on the sandy beaches of a distribution deal. No matter where this leg of the Rot journey carves its path, this festival marks the first brick in that road, and it is about as fine a brick as any person could hope for.
While some in the British Invasion community have notably registered complaints regarding their inability to receive such a thing, on October 23rd, 2015, the Rot team and just over 900 fans discovered that squirmy, elusive sensation that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards could only dream of. Having experienced it, we can say that its pursuit has proven itself, unequivocally, to be worth writing a song about. Cruder people than ourselves might take advantage of the many comparisons to sex that could be accurately extrapolated from this climactic event, but we prefer to focus on the main differences and true advantages that the satisfaction of finishing a long-term creative endeavor has over carnal knowledge – you don’t have to feed the final product, and we’re breaking no moral or legal boundary by selling it. Hell, it’s encouraged.
And while that is entirely our intent, to sell our sex and/or film (call Jeremy for a good time and/or a great time), we would be remiss if we did so without saying something long overdue and vitally important to a truly breathtaking, altruistic group of people -
By “you”, we mean every single one of you that is reading this, thinking about reading this, skimming this and deciding it is too damn long to read, not reading this at all because they have never even been to this page but have told someone else to check us out, and frankly, every single person who has ever heard the words Chicago Rot and spoken them again. Hell, we even mean that reporter who saw one of our stickers and thought we were making some kind of trenchant social commentary on the state of the CTA. We weren’t, but someone really should, because that shit’s got some issues.
Without this amorphous but invaluable “you”, this dream would have been nothing more than that – a series of sounds, images, and ideas etched in our subconscious, lacking any manner of corporeal expression. The minds that created them cursed to also function as the prisons from which they could never escape. But due to your support, in all of its forms, they have you to thank as their liberators, granting clemency to these recalcitrant ideas and allowing them to become something expressed in the real world that people can witness and judge and celebrate or condemn. But the one thing that no one can do is censor or incarcerate them. It is too late for that – they are alive now, and even those of us who birthed them cannot control the trajectory of their lives. Nor would we want to. Once manifested, ideas, like everything, should be granted the opportunity to dictate their own fates.
But despite this ideological prison break finding its successful conclusion, our work is far from over. As many of you are no doubt thinking, “If this thing is so damn emancipated, then why the hell haven’t I seen it yet?” It is an excellent question, and remedying that disconnect between fact and experience is precisely the focus of our current efforts. Both domestic and international distribution deals are our endgame goals, and we are pursuing them through every route imaginable. Being a completely independent film, we had no distribution deal in place when we started this film, but the strength of it is such that we have already attracted some suitors. Many festival screenings and meetings with people who might rightfully be compared to predatory animals surely stand between now and that eventuality, and all we can say for certain is that we are doing everything in our power to expedite that process. It could be a very short road or a very long journey, but hopefully soon we will be debating whether China will know our film as Putrefaction in American Wind Town or Windy City: Unclean or Milwaukee Fresh. Depending on how saucy our distributor is, we may even go for the shameless unauthorized name recognition grab and just call it Kill Bill Origins: Pulp Fiction 2 And Also Avatar So Buy This.
But those kinds of decisions are our burden to bear, and harrowing though they may be, we will shoulder them with resolve and quiet reverence for the noble end that they serve. In the meantime, if you have seen the film and want a stylish way to show your support, or simply have a desire to experience your aesthetic preference being misinterpreted as a clever way of casting aspersions on Chicago’s public transportation, then keep an eye out for the Rot merchandise that will be available through this very website in the next few days! What better way to spread some holiday cheer than by dispersing apparel that, to the uninitiated, designates its wearer as a putrid creature?
Shame on Us.
As many of you are probably aware, we made a promise back in January to be more dutiful in our updating of you, our infinitely patient, exceedingly attractive fans. And as you may have noticed, shortly after making that promise we promptly ignored it, opting instead for the old, familiar comfort found in our natural state as recluses, drunk with seclusion, hopelessly under the influence of romanticized notions about being practitioners of some secret, abstruse art. The objective truth of the matter is that we’re actually just squalid assholes with computers and an odd outlet for our obsessions, but we work in a world of creating fantasies for others to enjoy, and it only seems fair that we should be afforded the chance to entertain some of our own. Why should you guys get to have all of the fun?
But it is not our intention, miraculously supple fans, to harangue, or to laboriously detail the finer points of fiction-indulgence. One can reasonably assume that you are here specifically because you possess that particular capacity and are eager for something to sate your discerning appetite. Either that, or you are here because you possess a very geographical- and putrefaction-specific fetish, in which case, while I applaud the specificity of your derangement, I feel obligated to inform you that the excitement you felt when you first saw the words “Chicago Rot” is about to diminish significantly.
To everyone else, meaning our fans (each one of you worth a thousand thousand Ti West fans in terms of every metric yet devised except “shittiness”), we have some fabulous news to share – we are close. Uncomfortably close. If our proximity to completion of the film could be measured in socially disreputable invasions of private space, Rot would definitely be asking us to stop looking down its shirt. It might even have a kubotan at the ready in case we try to get fresh, which is likely a prescient preemption, because we’re stronger than this film and Brant is pretty good with knots. It is a skill that has proven its worth in a truly surprising number of filmmaker-ing situations, so to any young(-er than us) aspiring(-er than us) filmmakers out there, I suggest you put down the collection of Bazin essays you’re not reading (even though you should) and pick up a boy scout manual.
We are not yet at a point where we have exact completion or screening details, however, the temporal vernacular of our conversations is that of days and weeks, not months and years. But do not despair, (insert further flattery of our fans), for the conclusion of our audacious cinematic endeavor is imminent, and as inexorable as the phases of the moon or Tarantino’s autumnal “Suckling of Unfamiliar Toes”. And when the aforementioned exhibition details reveal themselves to us, you can be certain that however you found this update will be precisely how you find that information, so do not bother watching the skies for our signature carrier pigeons. Unless that’s how you got this update, in which case, yeah, keep an eye out.
And since we’re as excited as a Tarantino in autumn about the progress, we are going to scour the far edges of our nostalgia for this whole process by going through our vast archives of behind the scenes photos (including many by the incomparable James Richards, a.k.a. Sweet James, a.k.a. Sweet Jimmy Dicks) and videos (including many by no one of note) to bring you all a comprehensive overview of the past five years in the short weeks we have left of this indelible creative experience. This retrospective will endeavor to showcase our many hardships and victories in a tone ranging from solemnity to irreverence, and above all, will feature the many, many unsung heroes of the Rot adventure. It is an oft-lamented fact that so many people’s hard work bringing a film to life goes more or less unrecognized, even though their contributions are as vital as anyone else’s. So we will be bringing this memorial reverie to you through the eyes of these invisible stalwarts of the film industry who beatifically throw themselves into arduous obscurity with startling alacrity. Without them, Rot would not exist. Or it would suck.
But it does not suck, because these people are real and they brought some serious talent to our shabby-but-ambitious table. And because it does not suck, it’s time to start getting fucking excited for this movie again. Rot is real. Rot is the new flesh. And Rot is almost ready to motherfuck your life.
Hello wonderfully patient Rot community!
It appears that some time has passed since the last proper update on our progress with Chicago Rot, and for that, we owe all of you an apology. Work on this film has been such an all-consuming endeavor for so long that we’ve found ourselves victims of some sort of time perception vacuum, whereby our film, which takes place over the course of one day, has come to dominate our shared reality, thus enforcing some kind of Groundhog Day-type cycle upon our circadian rhythms. It is all very surreal and intoxicating, but one of us came up for a breath a few days ago and realized, shit, we should probably let everyone know what’s going on. A call went out, forcing the rest of us emerge from our respective work-caves, and after adjusting our eyes to that weird ball of fire in the sky, we came to realize that we should probably be more transparent about the process of finishing Chicago Rot.
So – where are we at? Grammatically, we still have not learned that it is a mistake to end questions with a preposition (proof positive of our Chicago credentials), but as far as the movie is concerned, we are very deep into our post-production process, and from an editorial standpoint, the film is picture locked! This means that the process of editing our shots into a sequence of images that comprise the film visually has been completed. Picture Lock actually happened several months ago, and all of work since then has been in the areas of sound design, music, color correction, and visual effects (VFX). Essentially, everything we shot has been put together into a whole that we are extremely proud of, so now we are augmenting those images, polishing them up, and adding the sonic elements that are going to imbue our movie, and its world, with all of the beautiful and repulsive characteristics possessed by anything with a beating heart. And Chicago Rot is nothing if not alive.
Clearly this is a critical stage of the post-production process, and we are moving as quickly as our very limited resources and unpredictable circumstances will allow; however, that said, we also absolutely refuse to compromise the high standards that we hold ourselves, and film as a medium, up to. We know everyone wants to hear a release date, but all we can honestly say for certain is that however long it takes for Chicago Rot to get completed, well… that’s just how long it takes. This is not to say that we are artificially inflating the time spent on getting the film done or that any sort of stagnancy has arisen in our camp – working on this movie is all we do, and believe me, we want it finished more than anyone (because we know how fucking good it is). But if something simply is not living up to the impossibly high caliber of work we know we are capable of, we are not going to accept it. And neither should you.
Making this film is a privilege, both in the sense that it is something very special bestowed upon a select few, and also in that it is something that has been earned. We have earned the opportunity to make this movie, and that’s not said to be self-aggrandizing, but to point out that with such an opportunity comes a responsibility to deliver something to all of you that is worth your time, your money, and your belief in us. All of us here on Rot want nothing more from life than to continue making films for as long as we are able, but we also acknowledge that filmmaking should never be a right. It must always be earned. And in order to earn the next one, Chicago Rot has to live up to every one of our ambitions, and every one of your expectations – without compromise.
We know you were hoping for something more concrete, but the simple truth of the matter is that because we lack the proper financial backing for a project of this scale, the cost of our ambition is paid in time. And the ambition is huge – much larger than we have let on. You will just have to wait a little longer to be edified as to the extent of it. But it is reasonable to expect that in the next few months you will be hearing those words that you have all been longing to hear, and that we have been working like hell in order to say with supreme confidence – Chicago Premiere.
Welcome to the year of Rot.
Chicago Rot began with a black and white morality at its core. Put simply, it was originally envisioned as the story of a good man, wronged by a bad man, who sets out to right things. Justice is served, we have plenty of fun along the way, and everybody gets to share a self-righteous sense of satisfaction. The end.
However, as Brant and I refined the script, the confinements brought on by our employment of shopworn concepts of good and evil began to put a stranglehold on a far more evocative scenario that was revealing itself to us. A scenario that was not concerned with the objective purity of facts or absolutes, but rather, found its storytelling anchors sunk deep in the much murkier waters of perception. Despite the pressures this exerted on the structure we had already erected for our film, we pursued it, and found ourselves asking some thrilling questions about our protagonist, Les, and his quest for revenge – if you never achieve the peace you claim to be fighting for, never arrive at that end, what does that make you? Does the intended end justify the means, or condemn them further? And most importantly, according to who?
We kept writing. The walls and supports we had built began to bow. The floor boards cracked and folded out on themselves like interlocking fingers, splintered and useless. We stood back, watching it slowly explode, admiring the respectable magnitude of the forces at play. Then we did the only sane thing left to do. We tore the fucking thing down.
What spilled out, the force that had been banging at the walls of our preconceptions, was the color of smoke and ash. Gray. A wide, shifting gradient that, at its extremes, would approach black and approach white, but never quite became a pure manifestation of either end. Black and white were merely ideals – absolutes that could be striven for but never reached. One can never fully shake the influence of the other. This reminded us that as much pain and misery has resulted from those who set out to do harm as from those wielding good intentions, and that as much change has come to the world through despots as through saints. This became our new moral center. The gray. And it continued to expand.
Chicago was always going to be our playground, and after this conceptual big bang, we finally had a world and a story ambitious enough to take proper advantage of the city’s scope, and more importantly, its true hues. Making Chicago a centerpiece location in a film is nothing new in and of itself, but Brant and I wanted to take our film outside of the iconic, tourism board-approved areas of the city and get into the shit that we all like to pretend doesn’t exist. The festering spaces in between, where those who live in the dark fight tooth and nail for the scraps of illumination that bleed off of the closest host-light. Places where the ghosts of our city’s rich past still linger, feeding off of the racing pulse of life that only flows through veins of desperation, hollowed out by high stakes. The smoke and ash settled nicely into these fissures, and the script took its final form.
In the end, what we wrote was the story of Les, a man who may be a victimized saint that suffered a great tragedy and fought back, or who may be an opportunistic murderer that was handed a noble flag with which to rally others to his sadistic cause.
What I directed is a film that does not answer this question, but rather, recreates the subjective experiences of the characters that suffer the consequences, and that asks viewers to form their opinions based on those perceptions.
Fuck the facts. Their colors are too well defined to be of any use in this, a story of gray.
Poster by Hannah Fischer