Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Drew Bolduc & Dan Nelson (The Taint)

Once in a while, a film comes along that stirs the soul and changes our lives, sweeping up Academy Awards and late night phone calls from George Clooney in the process. The Taint is not that film. It is, however, one of the best independent horror films of this year, and probably of all time. Made on a budget that cost slightly higher than my used 2002 Mitsubishi Galant, The Taint manages to combine beautiful cinematography, exceptional editing, and some extremely spectacular violence on an awfully low budget.

As soon as I finished my first viewing of The Taint, I knew that I wanted the film's creators and directors Drew Bolduc and Dan Nelson (both of whom also provided the film's soundtrack, special effects, cinematography, and more) to be the first interview for this website, as their humor, style, and success in DIY filmmaking are exactly what encapsulates Take My Life, Please in the first place. I created this site as a "humorously serious" haven for independent and underground genre films and both their creators and fans, and I could think of nobody more suited to start off my interview section than these fine, delightfully twisted gentlemen. Continue on for the interview!

Drew Bolduc (left) with Dan Nelson on the set of The Taint

TMLP: How and when did you guys first become interested in filmmaking?

Drew: I watched a lot of bad edited for cable 80’s movies when I was a kid. I really started getting serious about trying to make a real movie when I was twenty and I dropped out of college. I got super intense about it and was young enough to not even consider any of the consequences. You have to make that leap when you stop thinking of your movies as just a stupid hobby and start thinking of them as real movies. Even now I have to tell myself that I guess I’m actually a filmmaker now.

Dan: I used to put on puppet shows and skits when I was a kid. My sister took some video class and my mom bought her a camera for it. I took the camera when she was done and got hooked. I must've spent 8 hours trying to get the original iMovie to talk to that stupid thing. Movies got me through high school. I was the only kid making them at the time so it was always easy A’s.

TMLP: How was The Taint originally conceptualized and what were your influences going into it? 

Drew: Well, I wanted to use misogyny as a theme. I wanted to make a joke misogynistic film for awhile. I saw this Richmond movie actually: The scene at the end with the head crushing was really what set it off. The fact that The Taint is a Horror film really comes from Horror’s history of using misogyny. Horror movies are usually subconsciously about sex anyway, so the sex part was really important too. Movies like Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive were the type of horror comedy we were going for.

TMLP: The film seems to be coated with subversion (amongst other things). I often find that subversive elements are in my work, but I hardly notice until I'm finished or someone points it out. Could you explain the satire and social commentary on the male ego layered throughout the film, or are fans just reading too much into it? Was it something that just happened along the way or was it planned all along? 

Drew: Yeah. The Taint isn’t really about gender relations, it’s more about the way men view women and express sexual frustrations in strange ways (like making films about killing women). The older I get the harder it is to believe that anything is definite or true and the analytical approaches to writing just bore the shit out of me. You can’t approach art like you’re writing an essay. I mean you can, but I feel that that kind of writing doesn’t usually age too well. I think the subconscious stuff that comes through is always the most interesting, but I was pretty sure of what I was writing and what I wanted to say. I think it was important for the movie to ultimately be somewhat meaningless. Any message or answer I could have tried to give the film could only come across as trite bullshit, which is part of the joke.
TMLP: The film looks great for a low-budget picture. What was the actual budget for the film?

Drew: $6,000

Dan: We've spent about twice that much if you include the self-distribution costs.

TMLP: On a shoestring budget, many films fail to bring violence and special effects to their full potential, generally relying on poorly rendered CGI to get the work done. The Taint is the opposite, bringing some brutal kills that leave the viewer jaw-dropped. What sort of special effects were utilized in the film? I thought I spotted some CGI, but it's nearly impossible to tell at times because the kills come so swiftly. Did editing play a large role in bringing these gritty kills to life?

Dan: The special effects were just done using compositing, which is essentially photoshopping video. We would film the shot of the actors first with a hand held shot, and then follow up by doing a shot of the practical effect. Originally we were going to do all the special effects practically, so we went back and filmed shots with actors to composite them into the effect. I would usually motion track the shot with the actor and then motion match the effect shot to it. I would combine the two shots together frame by frame with the motion matching as a guide. It was a very time consuming process, which I did while Drew was writing a lot of the music for the movie. You can see some of how we did it here:

TMLP: This seems like a tough film to cast due to its graphic nature. Was it difficult explaining the film's concept to the actors who auditioned, especially for females with nude scenes or violent deaths? Were you worried this would be an issue when scripting the film? 

Drew: Well, a good example of how we got my friend to be in the final torture sequence at the end of the movie was to show her images from “It's a Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps”, which is an incredible book. It showed the historical context of what we were going for and that we’re not actually trying to get off on this shit. Those images are really an American art form that really get at the ideas The Taint was trying to express. I think there is something honest and somehow intelligent about male sexuality in that art. Ultimately, you just have to be honest with the actors.

Dan: Everyone knew the film was a big joke so no one really took it too seriously on set. I think the film was so over the top that it didn't really need any explanation for most people. They either got it, or they didn't.

TMLP: Looking through the production stills, it's almost shocking seeing you guys without your wigs. There are a TON of wigs in The Taint. Aside from the character of Phil, was this just a fun visual gag or was there a story behind it?

Drew: Phil, as a character, really came out of that wig. We used a lot of wigs on the actresses originally because it made it easier to crush their heads. It was easier to match the fake head with the real head. It also made it easier for people to play multiple roles.  It’s a style, but it’s a style that came from a practical place because we had no money.

Dan: For one of the big scenes we didn't really have the deaths planned out so we made all the girls wear wigs so we could kill any of them at any given time.

TMLP: I know you're probably sick of hearing comparisons to Troma, but what's impressive about this film is that Troma had nothing to do with it. Did the infamous low-budget horror company ever come into play with the film in any form or was there ever a plan to try and involve them? Also, how was the film received at Tromadance?

Drew: I was really a big fan of Troma. I always thought of it sort of as being a Troma film.

Dan: This was really the first big film either of us had really done production wise, so we had literally no connections to anyone when we were making it. Tromadance was a lot of fun.

Drew: People really liked it there.

TMLP: The reception from fans and critics alike has been extremely positive. For a film as ludicrously violent and sexually depraved as The Taint, what do you think it is about the movie that has people so excited and begging for more?

Drew: I don’t really know anymore. If you look at a movie like The Room, there’s something true and honest and really sad there, but the movie is shit... You have to remove yourself a bit from it and think about it in a different way. The Taint may just be ironic hipster bullshit, but I do hope people take some kind of meaning there through the crap and all.

Dan: We really lucked out to have great people to work with and that we were able to pull off what we did.

TMLP: Speaking of begging for more, you released a fake picture that hinted at a sequel as an April Fool's Day joke. With such excitement following the fake announcement, are there actually any plans to bring fans another serving of The Taint in the future?

Drew: Not now, but I actually have a plot for a sequel planned out for some reason.

TMLP: What sort of future projects do you have planned? Do you want to continue working in the horror genre or expand into other territory? Would you like to work with larger budgets, or are you happy taking the DIY approach which is just as welcomed by die-hard fans these days?

Drew: I would like more money, of course. Probably won’t be a horror film either. I feel that The Taint isn’t exactly a horror film anyway. I really have to think long and hard before making another movie... making movies kinda sucks.

Dan: It would be great to have a larger budget to work with. But I imagine we'll still keep the crew size small.

TMLP: What I really enjoyed about The Taint was that as ridiculous as it was at times, it also seemed to take itself seriously in other parts. The ending of the film seems so mesmerizingly depressing, that I can't help but ask: what message would like the viewer to leave the film with?

Drew: I used to try to write in a style that South Park uses a lot, where you have your theme and then you have a well rounded middle of the road message that makes sense of all the madness on either side of an issue. I suck at that. I can’t do it. I just have to let myself go down whatever fucked up mental path I feel is right at the time.

Dan: Some parts of the film ended up being way more serious then intended. When we watch the film now, those tend to be the scenes we enjoy more so I wouldn't be surprised if we go more in that direction.

TMLP: Drew, I know that you composed most of the score yourself, which is like an 8-bit/chiptune coke binge in a threesome with the 80s and artists like M83. What were the influences that led to such an addictive soundtrack?

Drew: I really love the Blade Runner soundtrack, which actually doesn’t work too well on it’s own, but listening to it in context of the film is really good. M83’s Digital Shades Vol. 1 is one of my favorite records, also maybe the most depressing music ever. Also some Japanese guy named Plamo is some of the best 8-bit music I’ve heard.

TMLP: Finally, one of my favorite questions...What did your parents think about the film?

Drew: They’re into it actually.

Dan: I'm not sure that their eyes were open for most of it.

TMLP: I'd like to thank Drew and Dan for this interview, as I'm sure the fans out there will find it as insightful as I did, and I truly hope to see more of you guys in the near future. Is there anything else you'd like to say for the fans reading?

Drew: Don’t try to make good movies. 

Craving more? Check out The Taint's website for more behind the scenes galleries, soundtrack streams, and all the fun merch you can handle.


  1. Good interview. "You can't approach art like you're writing an essay." Good advice!

  2. Very much so! Stay tuned as my interview with Drew Rosas, the director of Blood Junkie, will be up very soon as well!

    If you haven't seen it, I would HIGHLY recommend it. I have a review on the site here and would easily recommend this to fans of The Taint as they both have the same vibe, though they're totally different in terms of plot.