Brant McCrea: Co-writer, Composer, Production Designer
Brant McCrea is the creator of Chicago Rot and a founding partner of Rot Studios. He is a multimedia artist who has been living in Chicago for the last 25 years, beginning his career as any true artist would by being kicked out of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for poor grades and lack of attendance. 20 of his 25 years in Chicago have been spent as an employee of “Metro/Smartbar”, the world famous live music hall and dance club. Brant’s time in the nightclub industry from age 21 until now has been one of his biggest influences in life; it is there that he was exposed to the wealth of different artists and musicians that infected him with the need to write and perform music.
In the daytime, Brant has also spent the last 15 years as a commercial fabricator. Working for companies like The Chicago Children’s Museum, SVI, and as a permit carpenter/painter for the Local #476 Chicago Filmmakers Union, he was able to hone in his skills as a carpenter, sculptor, and scenic painter, as every job that came in was a one-of-a-kind fabrication. This also led to Brant’s interest in acting – a chance call for extras while working on Prison Break made him aware of this heretofore unknown desire, which he has pursued for a brief but noteworthy time. While his feature film debut as the star of Chicago Rot was still in post-production, Brant starred in a mid-length horror film called Restoration that garnered him a Best Actor nomination at the 2015 edition of FilmQuest. He was nominated once again at the 2016 edition for his turn in Chicago Rot.
Brant is currently working with the internationally recognized doll maker/drag performer Jo Jo Baby and Chicago television pioneer Ben Hollis on two new show concepts that celebrate their mutual love of both Chicago and the bizarre.
Dorian Weinzimmer: Co-writer, Director
Dorian Weinzimmer’s directorial career showed signs of nascence when, during his second semester as a student at Tribeca Flashpoint College in Chicago, he came in second place in a viral video contest held by McDonald’s for his Evil Dead 2 meets Quarter Pounder pastiche, Evil Bread 2. Thankfully, through his continued education, diverse freelance work, and insatiable self-motivation, the quality of both Dorian’s work and his titling ideas have improved considerably since those auspicious beginnings.
This early taste of encouragement only spurred the ineluctable, genetic predisposition towards filmmaking he could already feel gaining momentum. The singular focus born from this intertwining of passion and purpose was quickly recognized, and Dorian was soon tapped for a myriad of projects, including interviews with former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and culinary icon Charlie Trotter, a series of wildlife videos displayed at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, as well as videos for the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) and Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture (CCULC). Shooting and editing most of these projects himself elucidated for Dorian how to quickly identify solutions, envision how they will need to be shot and cut, and then execute with limited time and a restrictive budget without compromising the original intent.
However, this breadth of experiences, while enormously edifying, was merely background to Dorian’s true pursuits as a writer and director. Understanding how to quickly and effectively problem solve on set became invaluable when Dorian left behind any semblance of gainful employment to throw himself completely into Chicago Rot - his first feature-length effort as director/co-writer, and, with five and a half years spent meticulously bringing every element of the ambitious script to life, the epitome of a passion project. Chicago Rot had its world premiere at FilmQuest on June 24th, 2016, where it was nominated for 8 awards, including Best Feature, Best Director, and Acting nods for all three of the film’s central characters.
Dorian’s core motivation - the dream of contributing as much innovative, uncompromising cinema as he can to the world - has currently found him working as a director for the Grammy Award-nominated musician Pretty Lights in a truly unique collaboration that will, by virtue of a very intimidating NDA, continue to remain a secret. For now.
Kelly Kerr: Executive Producer
Billed as Dakini Productions, Kelly’s artistic mission is to serve indie writers and filmmakers, “overseeing the creative process as visions are born into the world of forms.” A writer with deep affection for the macabre and a preternatural love of rock music, Kelly was infected with Rot the moment she read the first version of this film in 2010. She is stoked to contribute to the evolution of Chicago’s film community by providing logistics and resources for burgeoning Midwestern talent. Kelly is a founding partner of Rot Studios.
Steven Nanberg: Executive Producer
Steven’s first introduction to the entertainment industry was his innovative product for drummers, the Jinglemute. Sold in 45 countries, the instrument can be heard daily in the live performances and recordings of the White Stripes, Ray LaMontagne, John Mayer, and is endorsed by hundreds of famous drummers.
Chicago Rot is Steven’s first feature film project, and he has since become involved as EP and EC on a docu-reality series titled The Cornermen, about professional super middleweight boxer Mike “Hollywood” Jimenez – currently 19-1 – and his crazy bunch of best friends. Since shooting the sizzle reel, Steven has been engaged in the process of choosing a developer, as his production has received immediate interest from several LA developers. Chicago Rot and The Cornermen constitute a unique pairing that are being recognized by very different sectors of the industry, representing the diversity of Steven’s eye for talent and keeping his momentum on the rise.
Jeremy Vranich: Producer
Jeremy Vranich is a producer, writer, director, and actor whose entire life has been consumed by film and entertainment. Jeremy begun his career at the esteemed Chicago Academy for the Arts (CAA), a private interdisciplinary school recognized by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His acceptance and eventual graduation from this school landed him in a humbling lineage of past graduates that includes critically acclaimed film composer Alex Wurman and writer/director Adam Rifkin.
Before, during and after producing Chicago Rot, Jeremy has continued to work tirelessly to make his own name. This pursuit has led him to the high desert plateaus of New Mexico working with Native American musician, filmmaker, painter and Sundance Institute/IAIA finalist Gabriel Abeyta, through the stormy waters of Commercial post-production during a stint at Cerise Films in Chicago, and all the way to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro filming a documentary for an international water organization.
Through this unwavering charge, Jeremy has been honored to work with some of the most accomplished minds in the “suit & tie” world as well, as he is currently assisting in designing a national marketing plan for a start-up in the financial sector as well as the launch of their mobile application this fall. It is Jeremy’s belief that through hard work, gracious networking, and a fearless exploration of the uncharted, dreams can be accomplished. And if not? Well, at least you made a name for yourself.
Brian Sternstein: Associate Producer
Brian is an entrepreneur who is willing to take a challenging risk with a vision of success. Chicago Rot is Brian’s first film project.
Shira Barber: Associate Producer
Born on January 9, 1980, in Florida, Shira Barber was in the U.S. for only a few years before moving with her mother to the tiny Portuguese colony of Macau, in Southeast Asia. While growing up there, she did some modeling and the odd commercial acting job to earn extra money. In 1998 she moved back to the U.S., stopping briefly in Florida before moving to Chicago, where she found her place in the eclectic, vibrant force of the city. Still pursuing acting and the occasional modeling job, she worked part time at the live music venue The Metro. There, she met fellow actor Brant McCrea and director Dorian Weinzimmer, and was brought into the production of Chicago Rot.
Ryan Berena: Director of Photography
While Ryan’s origins as a Cinematographer trace their roots to shooting skate videos and covering live shows for the likes of Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, and Autograf, his approach has always been one of pure cinema. Rather than treat these seemingly disparate passions as mutually exclusive, Ryan has instead worked to find the meaningful intersections between them and let technique be dictated by the moment, not the rulebook.
This intense dedication to every aspect of his images manifests itself in various ways, even inspiring Ryan to work as a Colorist for a television show simply so he could further dial in his eye. Being behind the camera is his true habitat though, and the eclectic mix of styles he commands is evidenced clearly in his bravura, daredevil camerawork as DP of Chicago Rot. The polar opposite, documentary-realism approach he took when shooting the internationally award-winning short film Democracy in the Driver’s Seat illustrates his greatest strength by comparison - Ryan’s fearless commitment lies solely in the story being told, and how his images can tell it best.
Sam Fell: Location Audio, Lead Sound Designer
Sam Fell has been an artist and producer in a variety of sonic and visual mediums since the days of grade school movies and willfully making a fool of himself in high school shows. These exploratory early days allowed him to isolate and focus in on his true passion - sound, in all of its forms. Sam launched into his career as an Audio Engineer by studying at Tribeca Flashpoint College, where he graduated in 2010. Since then, he has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro while filming a documentary for a non-profit organization, been a part of the Rot Crew since its inception, and has continued to hone his own abilities as a sonic artist, all while climbing the ladder from Intern to Senior Staff Engineer at the legendary Gravity Studios in Chicago, IL, where he currently works. His time there has been spent under the direct tutelage of Doug McBride, who is an institution in the Chicago music scene and has worked with a variety of artists from Veruca Salt to Smashing Pumpkins.
Chicago Rot has been Sam’s most robust project, as well as the most characteristic of those youthful desires to release his artistry through many mediums and explorations, no matter the size or challenge. On Rot, he led (and learned with) a team of hand-picked audio engineers, on all sound aspects to the film, while also recording/mixing the entirety of the soundtrack and working closely on the music with both the composer and the performers. Sam is responsible for the complete aural experience, from pre-production to post, and damn proud of it.
Cirque FX: Special Effects
Cirque FX is a Chicago based makeup effects shop hosting a team of talented artists. Founded in 2006, Rebekah Lieto and Crystal Portillo are Columbia College Chicago alumni with backgrounds in painting, makeup design, sculpting and other fine arts. Together they lead a team that specializes in creature and character design, casualty simulation, prosthetic and prop fabrication, and have a love for anything macabre.
Since completing Chicago Rot, Cirque FX has gone on to ascend the ranks of projects with monosyllabic names preceded by the word Chicago and become the special makeup effects team for the Dick Wolf-produced Chicago Med, currently filming its second season.
Ryan Oliver: Special Effects
Ryan Oliver is an independent, genre filmmaker living and working in Chicago. He is the author of several feature length scripts and a large collection of shorts. Operating under his organization, Deathblow Productions, Oliver has directed music videos, experimental shorts, and two mid-length films; "Air Conditions" (2012) and "Restoration" (2014). Ryan has a strong background in practical special fx and can often be found at a workbench in the 'Rot Shop' cooking up something nasty.
Roberto E. Navia: 1st Assistant Director
Roberto Navia (Bobby) is a writer, director and first AD in Chicago. An alumnus of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, he graduated in 2009. While not working on short and feature projects locally, he is focused on short and feature film writing.
Catherine Lynch: Casting Director, Acting Coach
Catherine Lynch works as an independent casting director in Chicago. She teaches improv, scene study and story theatre at The Piven Theatre Workshop. Having worked with producers in the advertising world she has now found her niche on the other side of the table through her love of exposing the great talent Chicago has to offer.