Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Build an Authentic Evil Dead Chainsaw for Under $200

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
My Chainsaw
As a fan who's purchased three copies of The Evil Dead, five copies of Evil Dead 2, and three copies of Army of Darkness (thanks to Anchor Bay's multiple double dip releases) I'm ecstatic about the resurgence of this franchises popularity. For years I perused sites such as Deadites.net and EvilDeadNews.com looking for any nugget of information about the potential of a new movie. I purchased a PS1 just to play Hail to the King, I mainlined games such as A Fistful of Boomstick and Regeneration. Hell, I even re-edited all three movies (with game audio) into a very well received four hour edit that was covered by Yahoo Movies. Now that Ash vs Evil Dead is out, one would assume that my thirst for the franchise should be quenched. Well, I suppose it has not.

Ash vs evil dead chainsawFor the last few years I've been collecting screengrabs, lists of materials, and scouring the internet for any information I could find about how to build my own screen accurate chainsaw. About two weeks ago, I pulled the trigger. Building it from start to finish took me about five, eight hour days and about $200 in parts. In this article I'll take you from start to finish through the process of building your own version of one of the most iconic movie props of all time. Be sure to read through the entire article and get a feel for the process before spending the money and time as this is not the easiest of ordeals. Below is a list of materials and tools needed to complete this project.

Tools Required: 
Grinder (with cutting wheel, grinding wheel, and wire wheel), Dremmel (with cutting & sanding wheels), drill, handsaw, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, trigger clamps, normal clamp, vice grips, a vice, toothbrush, & safety glasses.

Homelite XL Chainsaw, 3D printed grille, 20 inch chainsaw blade and chain, 3 1/2 inch T-Bolt Clamp, 3 1/2 inch metal door kickplate, a 1 inch wide aluminum flat bar, a 1 inch diameter oak rod, two 90 degree metal brackets, three 2 inch metal brackets, Bondo, sandpaper, JB Weld, wood filler, two 1/4 inch carriage bolts one inch in length w/nuts, two 1/4 inch bolts 1/2 inch in length w/nuts, two 1/4 inch Phillips head bolts 2 inch long w/nuts, five 1/4 inch bolts 1 inch in length w/nuts, one wood screw.

Rust-Oleum Satin Paprika Paint+Primer, flat black primer, red acrylic, silver model acrylic, and ebony stain.

The Body:
Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Chainsaw Before
The base object in this build is obviously the chainsaw itself, which is a Homelite XL Chainsaw*. I suggest searching on eBay. Since you only truly need the materials, feel free to purchase a dirty, non-working model. I got mine for $53 after shipping.

*If you have industrial tools, time, and wish to make a version of this that is metal instead of the screen accurate plastic version, you could purchase the Homelite Super XL 2 Chainsaw. Yes, it results in a much sturdier product, but from all accounts it is a nightmare to work on, and is so heavy you will not want to wear it.

The first thing you want to do is take it apart and clean it up as these have a tendency to be caked in oil and grease both inside and out. Remove the sawblade with an adjustable wrench, and take out all external screws holding it together. Be sure to place all of your nuts, bolts, and screws into a magnetic catch tray as this will assure you don't lose them when reconstructing it.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
The Wife Hated Me for This
After, you'll notice that the engine is now floating inside the body. Take off the exhaust (one long screw) and set it aside for later. Remove the spark plug and throw it away. This will free the engine to be released. Take it aside and place it in the bucket as it is likely disgusting with years of built-up grease. Now it's time for the least fun step: cleaning. You could use some type of industrial degreaser, but many of these tend to harm the plastic body, so I heavily advise against using them, Get yourself a high-quality dish soap and prepare to wash it a dozen times with the toothbrush. If necessary, take a flat head screwdriver and scrape the grime off. Repeat this process until clean.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Cut Guide
Now it’s time to actually get to work. To the right of this are the lines of which you want to use to cut along, but if you pay attention to the natural seam of the body, it's quite self-explanatory. Use the Dremmel cutting discs to do this. Be quite careful as you do and wear safety glasses as this will produce liquid plastic as you cut (I got hit in the eye doing this, don't be like me). Cut slowly and don't rush as you have one chance at this. Once you're through, take the sandpaper (or a sanding Dremmel bit) and knock down the rough edges that you've created. Up next is attaching the kickplate, which will act as the top of the chainsaw.

Top of Chainsaw
This is one of the harder aspects of creating the chainsaw. You could just attach a metal plate and call it a day and that would indeed be a screen accurate version of the first chainsaw seen in Evil Dead 2 (as he assembles it) but I don't like the look. Furthermore, that's not the chainsaw seen in the rest of Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, or Ash vs Evil Dead, so it wasn't an option for me. Also, I wanted to construct as much of this as possible, but if you'd like, you can purchase this piece pre-built for $75 from Evil Dead Workshed, but that's not the way I wanted to go.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Kickplate Position
The kickplate ($11 at hardware store) will have two pre-drilled holes which are perfectly placed to attach it to the front of the chainsaw. If the lip of the front of the chainsaw doesn't let it sit perfectly, just grind it down with the Dremmel. Place the plate where you intend to mount it, mark your holes and drill them. Attach them with the two 1/2 inch length bolts w/nuts you've purchased. Once mounted, this is where your eyes need to take over in lieu of directions. You'll want to bend this metal by hand to resemble the arc of the original, you can see in my picture the arc I settled on. When you're content with the design, bend the end to meet the natural bend of the saw where your hand will eventually be. Cut the metal there and you can use a clamp to keep it in place for now. Make yourself a little piece of JB Weld (mixing a piece of the epoxy substance) and place it between the saw and the metal where your clamp rests, this will help temporarily hold it in place.

Now that we have the plate in place, we need to take the on/off switch we previously removed from the saw and drill a hole from it on top of the saw where you feel it should be. Throughout the course of the movies and the episodes, many chainsaws are used and the placement on this switch varies (sometimes shot to shot). Watch some of the franchise and decide where you want to place your switch, drill a hole for it and mount it because once we do the next step, it would be a pain to add it afterwards.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Pour Walls
Filling in the top is where growing up working in car bodyshops came in handy for me. It was there where I first learned to work with Bondo (fiberglass filler). You will need to create walls to pour against, and bondo will stick to nearly every surface, but, it will NOT stick to wax paper. Cut yourself two pieces of cardboard that roughly match the walls of what you want to pour and trim them to match the natural contour of the chainsaw top. Next, wrap them in wax paper and tape it to itself, these will act as the walls you pour against. You can hold the walls in place as I have in the picture with several clamps.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
While Filling
Mix yourself some Bondo. If you've never worked with the substance before, I suggest you make a small amount of it and play with it. See how long it takes to dry, when it becomes too solid to use. Get comfortable with it before attempting this. Hold the saw upside down, and pour the Bondo into the makeshift mold. Some will come out the sides and the top will not look pretty. All of this is fine and we will deal with it shortly. If you're worried about making too much or it starts to harden, don't worry, throw away what you've made, make more and pour over top as it will attach to the existing Bondo as it hardens. Note: The drying chemical process will become extremely hot as it's a lot of Bondo on metal, do not burn yourself and have an area prepared to be able to sit the object safely down.

Once throughout dried, remove the false walls. It won't be pretty, don't worry, it's not supposed to be. Sand down the sides with 80 grit sandpaper until the sides are smooth. Some pores and holes will remain, simply make yourself a small amount of Bondo and use a plastic scraper to fill it in. Let it dry, sand it back down and repeat this process until you are happy with the look. Use this time to also fill in any remaining screwholes on the plate. Congrats, you've made the bulk of your saw.

Optional Step
Ash vs evil dead chainsawI chose to primer my chainsaw, sand it back down and primer a few more times. This allows you to fill in tiny holes, knicks, and issues with the body and make it look a little prettier. Simply use the flat black primer, spray, sand with 220 paper, and repeat until happy.

Oil and Gas Chambers
This part is easy, simply clean them and cut the tops off of the chambers. Afterwards epoxy them back into place and you're ready to go. Just be sure to tape them off before you're ready to spray paint them.

The Wood Handle:
Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Top Handle
This is where the vice comes in handy, however it can be done by using the hard edge of a table. This is pretty self-explanatory, but I will go into as much detail as possible. From studying miscellaneous images of the screen used saws, it seems that most of them stand about two and a half inches above the saw itself and the top of it is 7 3/4 inch in length. Again, if you're feeling lazy, this finished part is available on Evil Dead Workshed for $30.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Top Handle Diagram
The 1 inch aluminum bar cost me $7 at a hardware store. First is the bend that attaches itself to the top of the chainsaw, which is one inch. So measure one inch from the beginning of the aluminum plate and bend it at a 90 degree angle. The next bend will be the actual handle, so two and a half inches up, bend again at 90 degrees. From that bend, measure over 7 3/4 inchs, and bend again at 90 degrees. Place this on top of the chainsaw where you will mount it and see where it naturally falls to the edge of the chainsaw where you place your hand into. Mark the metal at the lip of it, and that's where you cut it off.

Once you're happy with the shape of the metal, grind off the edge of the handle where it mounts to the chainsaw as on screen it's not a square, it's an oval edge. Drill a 1/4in hole into the center of the mount. You now have the metal section of the handle.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Sanding Handle
For the wood (the rod was $3), the length of it should be 7 1/4, but in case you haven't nailed it 100%, simply measure the handle you've made and make adjustments if need be. Cut the wood accordingly. Next, you'll need to split the wood in half. Be sure to measure and mark very precisely as the smoother this is, the better it will look in the final product. The cutting of this can be accomplished by either placing the wood in a vice or cutting it by hand, or by using the cutting disc of the Dremmel. Once cut in half, you'll want to either cut off the corners at a 45 degree angle, or this can be accomplished by sanding.

Once finished, sand with 80 grit sandpaper until smooth and then final sand with 220 paper afterwards. When you're happy with the handle, mark in on inch from the sides of each piece and drill a 1/4in hole. Place them on the metal handle and mark the whole marks with a sharpie on the metal where you will mount it. Afterwards, drill 1/4in holes into the top of the metal as well.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Carriage Bolt Diagram
To mount the wood to the metal you will use the one inch carriage bolts you've bought. This requires drilling half inch holes halfway into the top of the wood. Note, these holes DO NOT go the whole way through, they simply allow you to "sink" the head and nut of the carriage bolt into the wood. Do this process incredibly slowly and allow the drill to eat into the wood, DO NOT force it. If you force it, you could possibly make the drill catch too much hold and it will crack the wood in half. I went through two of these making mine. Next, align the wood to metal, place the bolts in and tighten. Congrats, you have the handle*.

*If you're not happy with the smoothness of the metal to wood contact, or if you have chipped the wood, simply apply wood-filler and sand back down until smooth, the wood-filler will accept stain and look fine.

Stain the handle with ebony stain by rubbing on a small amount over the entirety of the wood (and filler) and wiping it off. Repeat this process until the desired color is obtained.

The Metal Side Handle
Ash vs evil dead chainsawThe longer piece of the handle needs cut. What is handy about this is it is incredibly easy to measure, simply make both overhanging sections the same size. In essence, cut off the longer end to be 1/2 inch longer than the end that is inserted into the chainsaw. Now, you'll want to fill in the cut off piece to be screen accurate. Simply mix some Bondo (or JB Weld), and stick it down the neck of the metal stem to create a cork about an inch in. Allow that to dry and repeat the process, but this time form an overhanging ball on the top of it. All you need to do is sand it down afterwards and paint it with black primer.

The Motor/Exhaust Mount
Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
This is arguably the most difficult section of the process and requires a lot of patience. First, use the brake cleaner on the engine and get most of the grime off. Next, you're going to want to slowly, carefully, and safely cut off 3/4 of the engine. What you will leave is where the blade attaches to the motor, and where the exhaust attaches as well. To accomplish this, use the grinder with both the grinding and cutting wheels. Cut accurately according to the picture I have provided and you will be fine, but be sure to not remove the hole for the bolt that mounts the motor into the body.

The center spindle which spins the motor will have to be cut which will cause the blade mount to fall off. Simply cut the rod to fit and glue it to the motor in the correct place with JB Weld. When finished, paint with black primer. Use this opportunity to primer the exhaust pieces as well.

Make Room
Since you're almost ready to paint, we need to make sure we're done sanding/cutting the body and have room for your hand. Temporarily bolt the engine in, and the body back together. Does your hand fit in? Probably not. In order to make it, we're going to take the sanding attachment for the Dremmel and slowly eat away at the exposed hole until you can easily insert your hand. Simply work in circles around the opening of the hole (while not grinding away any of the screw mounts) until you can comfortably insert your hand.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Painted Body
Take the body back apart and spray the pieces separately. If you've never spray painted, practice on another object first. Once you feel comfortable, we'll be using the Rust-Oleum Satin Paprika Paint+Primer spray paint, which is the closest to screen accurate pre-made spray paint that exists. If you want to get 100% accurate paint, take the handle you cut off to the local automotive paint store and have them computer match it. The problem is that will require you to have both a paint-gun and an air compressor.

The best advice I can offer when painting is to get a complete coat on the entirety of both pieces. This is best accomplished by screwing the removed bolts from the chainsaw body, reattaching them while leaving half of the bolt exposed, and hanging them in suspension by the bolt. This will allow you to get total coverage on the pieces.

The Saw Blade
Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Once again, throughout the franchise many blades were used, but the one that resembles most all of them is the 20 inch chainsaw blade from Oregon (Got mine for $32 on Ebay). The only thing really to do here is to remove the paint. For this, I personally grinded it off, then polished it with the wire-wheel attachment. However, any way you get the paint off is fine. Other options include airline paint remover (nasty stuff, use heavy duty gloves), sanding, or perhaps you've bought a blade that doesn't have any paint. Additionally, use the grinder on each razor tooth of the chain in order to dull it to touch.

Optional step
I personally don't care for the blade to look shiny. We'll get to aging the saw towards the end of the article, but if you want to age the blade, the time is now. I tried several means of this, but I landed success after heavily priming the blade in black, and then using the wire-wheel attachment on it afterwards to make it look used.

Install Internal Handle
Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Internal Handle
First, bolt the motor back into place through the bottom of the body and put it in its permanent place. Next up is installing the internal handle which you will hold on to while wearing the chainsaw. To do so, simply measure inside the saw from the bottom to the Bondo top and cut a section of the oak rod to fit. Mark on the bottom of the body where that will go and run a woodscrew through the body and into the bottom of the wood. To secure it, press together a good chunk of JB Weld and form it around the top of the rod and the bottom of the body, essentially creating a base around the top and bottom of the internal handle. Allow this to dry for about 20 minutes.

Install Aluminum Handle
Ash vs evil dead chainsawNext up, place the top handle where you wish to mount it and mark the hole in the bottom of the aluminum handle with where the hole will be drilled into the top of the body. Since you'll be drilling through both metal and Bondo we need to take sever precautions. We don't want the bondo and the steel on the top to separate due to the force, so use the trigger clamps to hold the piece solid while we drill. To accomplish this, you'll want to drill a series of guideholes, working up to the 1/4 inch hole you need in the end. Then, install the two inch Phillips head bolt through the top and loosely secure it with the nut on bottom.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Mount Diagram
For the loose side of the handle, you'll be using the two 90 degree brackets, one to attach the handle to the body, the other to attach both to the arm-cuff coming up soon. The bracket that attaches to the body will need to be bent in order to fit, so squeeze it with the vice grips until it's the appropriate size. Once it fits, use a marker to mark where you'll drill the hole on the body as well as where you'll drill into the aluminum handle. Once marked, take the handle back off the body.

Once removed, drill into the body the same way as you drilled the previous hole, using a series of guideholes and using clamps to assure the bondo doesn't separate from the metal. After, drill a 1/4in hole into the back of the handle so that you can place a bolt adjoining all threel. Install the bent bracket as well as the 90 degree bracket onto the handle, then reattach the entire piece to the body (you may need to mess with the order of placing in the bolts due to space). Tighten the handle onto the top of the body, if excess bolt remains inside, simply use a grinder or the Dremmel to remove it.

Add the Grille and Pull Start
Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
From Thingiverse
First, you can either purchase the 3D grille for $20 online, from Thingiverse or download the blueprints for free and print it yourself. The grill is cake to paint, just order it in black and paint the outside with either the silver model paint, or a chrome Sharpee marker. Mix a small amount of glue epoxy and glue it on, the 3D model provided is the exact perfect size. Allow to dry for 15-25 minutes.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Pull Start
While that is drying, take the remaining oak rod and cut a three inch section from it. Drill a 1/4in hole through it, and then, much as you did the handle, drill a 1/2in hole through half of it, this is so once the cord is fed through it, you can tie and it will rest in it. Again, do this slowly as you risk the pull start cracking and chipping. When finished, stain just as you did the handle. Feed the cord through the wood, tie one end, and pull tight. Feed it through the hole in the body and glue it to the inside.

Once both are dry, bolt the entire body and black metal handle back together using the original bolts. We're in the homestretch now!

The Armcuff
Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
Armcuff Closeup
Take your 2 inch metal brackets and grind the corners off, one of each of these will be attached to the existing screw hole of the body of the chainsaw, so make sure you take an adequate amount off. This is most easily done using the grinder while either holding the piece with the vice-grips or in the vice. Next up is a tough one, drilling the holes into the T-bolt clamp.

Your clamp should have the adjustable end placed directly upwards to the right of the back of the saw (see picture). First we will drill the hole for the 90 degree bracket, so place it in place and mark the clamp with a marker where the hole should go. It is important to remember while drilling that this is hardened metal and is not easy to drill. Therefore, hold the clamp in the vice, and drill a series of guide holes. I suggest again drilling guide-holes, starting with a 3/32 bit, a 1/8th bit, 3/16 bit and finally the 1/4in bit. Once finished, loosely bold the cuff to the 90 degree bracket with a 1/4in bolt one inch in length.

Now, unscrew the two bolts in the back of the body of the saw and install the two inch brackets. Use your vice-grips to bend them into roughly the place they line up on the T-Bolt Clamp and mark the hole with a marker. Take the cuff off, and using the previously described means, drill the holes necessary for install and bolt them using the other 1 inch long bolts.

Optional Step:
Many people make two more brackets and install them at the bottom of the chainsaw to the cuff, however I couldn't find sign of them actually existing in the movies so I did not. The three bolts in mine are far more than enough for it to be bolted securely, but to each their own.

Final Touches
Non-aged Chainsaw
Bolt the chainsaw blade back on and reattach your chain. Additionally, reattach your exhaust to the motor. If you need to touch up any red paint, spray it into jar and use a brush. Also, take your silver model paint and apply over any bolts that you've painted red.

Well, mostly. Yes, you're finished, but it doesn't look that cool if it's clean. Feel free to keep it that way if you wish, but wouldn't it look way cooler with some blood and grime?

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
My Chainsaw
Aging is a process that's half delicate work, and half pure slop. Arguably, the best ever done video on the subject was done by Adam Savage from Mythbusters and should be considered required viewing on the subject. The process I used was taking black enamel and dry brushing (YouTube tutorials on the subject) the corners where the saw would throw dirt, and miscellaneously around the body. I also took the silver model paint and "weathered" the corners. This is accomplished by using a small brush and aggressively using small strokes on the edges to simulate chipped paint. Repeat this process until you are happy.

Ash vs evil dead chainsaw
After Blood Effect
I researched and tested many various forms of blood before I came upon what I used. Most of what people suggested resulted in sticky, dark substances that I did not want near my hard work. What I ended up using is an epoxy. Take your clear drying, two part epoxy and cut the handle so that they can be pushed separately. Empty one tube into a dish. Next, add red enamel paint until you reach your desired color. Then add the second tube of the epoxy and stir quickly.

This will set fast, but the thing to keep in mind is that the sooner you apply it, the more liquidy it will be. So the longer you let it dry before applying, the more coagulated it will appear. Place your chainsaw on newspaper, dip a dry stiff bristled brush in the red substance, and then fling it at the chainsaw from a few feet away. Concentrate on the blade, but don't shy away from the saw itself. Attack both sides of the chainsaw equally and if you do it in stages, the blood will build on itself in layers. This should dry to touch in 25 minutes (longer than normal due to the additional enamel).

In Conclusion
Final Product
Congratulations, you're the proud owner of a screen accurate Evil Dead chainsaw! Yes, you could purchase one online for $350, but doesn't it make your fanboy pride swell that you've accomplished the task all by yourself? There are several variations you can place on this as the chainsaw is ever evolving in the franchise (for instance, the wood handle now has electric tape on it in the show). Customize it, make it your own. If a part doesn't fit? Hack away on it and make it, just do it slowly. There are not rules in this process and this article is only a guide to the way I constructed mine. Have fun, make it your own, and long live Ashy Slashy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Our New Animated Short, Other Fish!

Two weeks ago we completed work on our newest project, Other Fish. The 4:39 movie was animated/co-directed by Josh Stifter, produced by my wife Olivia Roush, and features sounds by Mike Hallenbeck. It follows a recently divorced woman who attempts to swim a channel of shark infested water in order to prove to herself that she is now truly independent. We were incredibly fortunate to score an amazing cast for this project including Michael Parks, Harley Quinn Smith, and Jacqui Duncan. Since the movie is now stuck in film fest submission hell (the process of submitting to film festivals means that you must sit on your hands for the better part of 6-9 months before you can release it) I wanted to take a little time to talk about what the project is, who was involved, and the lengthy process of bringing an animated project into fruition.

Deleted scene in Tusk
I first heard of Josh Stifter while working on the set of Tusk. Kevin Smith is a one in a million filmmaker who is such a work-hard nutcase on set that his rough cut of a project is typically assembled before principal photography is even over. One day about 3/4 into production in North Carolina, Kevin put Mewes and I in charge of assembling a TV and sound system in order to screen the rough edit of Tusk to the cast and crew during lunch. There is something truly magical about watching a crew actually see a version of the art that they are currently working on. It was this cut that included a few select animated sequences, one of which included the backstory of Michael Parks' character Howard Howe done by Josh Stifter. I was taken aback by the visceral animated visuals on screen. I'm not sure whether he or I reached out to one-another first, but ultimately less than a year later we were looking for a project to collaborate on together.

In February 2015 my Mother-in-law was about to swim a race that actually took place in shark-infested water. This lead to my wife waking me out of sleep one night, telling me about a nightmare of her mother actually getting attacked while in the water. The next morning I wrote a 7 page script inspired by the story she told me. However, I wanted to tell something bigger, something with a moral, a very twisted moral. One about the dangers of following your dreams.

James Gunn once wrote a blog about the dangers of following your dreams in Hollywood. It is a genius and thought-provoking article that should be considered mandated reading to anyone wishing to become a master in any career. The fact of the matter is that it is extremely irresponsible for people that have "made it" to blindly regurgitate the phrase "follow your dreams" when talking to those contemplating attempting to make art for a living. 

The film, TV, and music industries are extremely over-crowded by people who are attempting to break into it thinking they are special. If you are in fact one of the people truly dedicated to making it, you have to be so absorbed and obsessed with your craft that there is nothing else that matters. In many cases, this leads not only to the breaking of hearts, but the decline of relationships, finances, and even your own health. My point is that if you are so hell-bent that you are willing to sacrifice everything in pursuit of your dream, there are deep, horrible ramifications that may come along as a result. I'm only using my own experience here as an example. I'm sure if you ask a painter, sculptor, carpenter, luthier, or those that have mastered any other trade, the same applies to some degree. This film is my little fable about the dangers of following your dreams.

Parks and I
Once I had the script finalized and sent it off to Stifter, we were off and rolling. We floated around some casting ideas but I knew exactly who I wanted. Though I traveled to North Carolina for Tusk as a behind the scenes videographer, Kevin immediately assigned me to Michael Parks as his assistant. During that time I'd drive him to set, go out to lunch, and the things one typically does in the role. However, the time I'll always value is sitting on the steps of his trailer with him in the doorway as we both shared cigarettes and he regaled me of tales of his days hanging with Elvis, Lenny Bruce, Johnny Cash, Richard Pryor, Miles Davis, etc. While talking about his music career, Parks would even occasionally break into song. So of course, when it came time to approach someone to play Grandpa in Other Fish, he was my natural choice and just like the class act he is, he immediately said yes.

HQ as Sandy
After we wrapped on Tusk I went back to my humdrum life at Sony (working 20 hour days and sleeping under my desk for the other 4... but that's another story). One night, out of the blue I got a call from Jen Schwalbach who invited me to come work for her family as a driver/bodyguard of sorts. That one call saved me from my cubical bound life and I will always be indebted for it. For the next year and a half I drove around the youngest of the Smith clan. I'd drive Harley and her friends to malls, parties, the movies, all sorts of teenage girl stuff. This allowed me ample downtime while waiting on them to concentrate on my writing and allowed me the flexibility to complete my movie Rodney Redbottom, write, shoot, and edit The Mission, as well as finish my first full screenplay (an adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story). One day while driving the family to the set of Yoga Hosers, I approached Jen about asking Harley to star in Other Fish and she was incredibly supportive. I recorded Harley Quinn the next week and she of course knocked it out of the park.

Jacqui on TV
That only leaved the role of the mother to be cast. We mulled over many options, but it was Liv who mentioned her good friend Jacqui Duncan. She had met the aspiring actress in Sydney while working for a wine dispensary and the two moved to Los Angeles at damn near the same time. I of course was offish about an Australian playing such a dominant role in an American, animated movie, but Liv was confident she could handle it. After reviewing several productions Jacqui had been involved in, I was sold as well and we recorded the following week. She is one of the most professional actresses I've ever witnessed.* While recording sounds of being attacked, she almost hyperventilated three times due to giving it all she had. Looking back there is no one that I would have rather had in the role. It saddens me that our friend has returned to Australia, but she's now on to bigger and better roles for doing so.

*Side note: She played all three witches voices in Kevin's short Hallow-Ian, his contribution to the movie Holidays.

Josh Stifter,
Self Portrait
Having the voices in the can, Stifter took the next few months nailing down the look of the animation. This was a trying time, after all, this wasn't your typical comical cartoon, this was a dark, dramatic animation. The style he eventually settled on is an amazing take on the look of the 1990's Liquid Television while adding incredibly refined texture, colors, and shading. This project is unlike any cartoon I've ever seen and I genuinely say Stifter's name in the same sentence with the greats like Bill Plympton, Don Hertzfeldt, and Mike Judge. As he started delivering me these gorgeous scenes, we began the talk about who was to do sound.

Mike Hallenbeck

As with all of the projects I've done thus far, I am a control freak. Normally I am actively involved with every single aspect of every project I do. So when Stifter suggested that Mike Hallenbeck, not I, do not only the sound-design, but the actual score to the movie, I freaked out. Being the insane asshole that I am, the concept of not having an active role in a movie after I have wrote and directed the actors is not something I'm comfortable with. However, Stifter assured me of Mike's work and I eventually relented.

I'm happy to say that Mike Hallenbeck turned in an auditory experience that I couldn't come close to approximating on my best damn day. The dude is an absolute genius with sound. Listen to the trailer. Hear the waves, the splashing, the dog, the grumbles, the little nuances in just that trailer alone are perfect. You're going to have your mind blown by what he did with the actual score, it's pure perfection.

Olivia Roush
But that's not the only people that helped make this project what it is. Much of the tension derived from the movie is largely thanks to the editing work of Jeremy Wanek. The score wouldn't be nearly the same without the lap-steel guitar of Ben Connelly and the electric guitar of Ben Glaros. Even our good friend Matt Rowbottom kicked ass as co-producer in the final stages of this project. However, as always, the biggest reason that this was made is due to the support of my amazing wife and partner Olivia Roush. If it wasn't for her, none of the projects I make from the podcast, to the shorts, to the writing, to the scripts would ever be possible.

So until film festival submission-hell ends, this is as much as I can show/tell you about our new little project. Check out the trailer below, check out Stifter's work at FlushStudios.com, hear Mike's auditory asskickery at JuniorBirdman.com, and watch AntiCurrent.com for all things me.

Monday, July 25, 2016

An Open Birthday Card to my Cousin

My cousin's and I
I remember a cute, diapered little girl who would isolate herself in a room of photographs, just staring at pictures of her family. Anytime we would come in to talk to you, your fiendish little hands would grab ours, and escort us back out the door. Sharlene, Granny, and I would hide around the corner and marvel at the weird little psychopath who was enamored with the pictures of all of her family, yet wouldn’t walk into the next room to see them. It was pretty obvious from an early age you were either destined for great things, or would end up atop a watchtower with a rifle, wailing about the numerous sins of man. Although the winds are currently blowing the direction of the former, I still keep a wary eye for signs of mental degradation. After all, we can sense our own.

My Mother and I were so smitten by what a strange creature you were that we flew down to Florida just to hang with you. We didn’t go to Disney, Universal, or Sea World, we sat in front of your TV with you and watched Arthur for hours at a time. When we packed up to drive to Key West, we stopped after two hours and decided we didn’t want to continue unless your mother and you came with, so we parked at a strange attraction called Monkey Jungle as we waited for your Father to drop you off. We sat there for four hours in the dark, listening to the horrific sounds of monkeys either mating or killing one another until 2am just to spend an extra few days with you. When the vacation was over, we would still watch Arthur and talk about returning.

Angry from a
young age
As the years went by you slowly became more fun. You and I first smoked weed when people your age were playing with Barbie dolls. At thirteen years old, you and I were attending theatrical screenings of literary documentaries while your friends were likely watching (lame) cartoons. I vividly remember you choking on my Jack and Coke at your parents’ house in Florida when they went out on a date and if I’m not mistaken, I believe we even snuck you into your first bar at 17 years old. I won’t even go into your exploits atop the trailers in Hicksville as you ran wild with the local lesbian population while I was forced to tune out the shrieks and get some writing done. It’s been a wild, weird road we’ve shared.

Thanks to your parents I’ve had the opportunity to travel the US with you. We’ve spent time in Ohio, Florida, Washington, California, and more. Hell, after spending two weeks with each other in Hawaii, we decided that wasn’t enough and you came back to Los Angeles with me for two more. As if at that point it still wasn’t enough, I then boarded a plane with you and hung out at your house in Florida for another week. Even when you were a child I was in awe of your mind. You’ve always demonstrated an uncanny ability to cut through adult’s bullshit and have since maintained a precise radar for avoiding the idiots of this world.
Hicksville 2015

We come from hearty stock. We’ve got Ireland coursing through our hearts and brains. We’re fighters, and the only enemy that can come between us and any task in the goddamn world is ourselves. I won’t be around to see the great mark you leave upon the Earth by the time your body gives out, but I’m sure the path to it will be decorated with the mutilated corpses of your enemies. You’re destined for greatness, and if anyone speaks to the contrary, send them directly to me for a violent and speedy indoctrination.

My sister.
It’s good that you live so far away, I truly worry that if we were to live in the same city we may attempt a Coup d'├ętat and institute a sympathy-free marshal law. You’re my family. You’re my cousin, but I feel like that isn’t a precious enough word for it. You’re my sister. I’ll always be here to bail you out. I’ll always be here to hurt boys. I’ll always be here to dig holes in the desert if hurting boys isn’t enough. You’re an old-soul who takes no prisoners. You’re a badass and even though you get really fucking annoying on occasion, I’m lucky to have you around.

Thank god I can finally stop making you fake ID's. Happy 21st birthday.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

AntiCurrent.com Archives Vol 14: Piss N' Blood- Treason EP

This is the fourteenth edition of the "AntiCurrent.com Archives", a collection of rare or bootleg-albums I'm releasing through this blog. Click here to view all past AntiCurrent.com Archive Albums.

punk rock, josh roush
Live at the Anarchy Library
I moved to California in 2005 under the guise of attending college, while in reality, all my ambitions were pointed towards starting a Punk band. Throughout the next few years, I auditioned or even briefly joined bands such as Terezodu, The Clampdown, and too many others to count. Sometimes we didn't jive, sometimes I hated their manager, and sometimes they were apeshit crazy, but ultimately, it never worked out. Around mid-2008 I responded to a Craigslist ad from two guys named Cam Mosavian and Ron Anger. They seemed to know their stuff and had just recently acquired a drummer, Brad Hicks. I auditioned on bass for Piss N' Blood* and they loved me, so I joined. What I didn't know at that moment was that by doing so, Brad and Cam's group of friends would ultimately become my family.

*The name came from Cam and Ron watching a war documentary. A soldier said something to the tune of, "We were laying there, covered only in piss and blood."
We practiced about 2-3 times a week for months before we played our first gig at The Anarchy Library on February 21st, 2009 in Downey, CA. We must have not fucked it up too badly because we were immediately asked to play a nine show residency there from April to December. We didn't just keep to Downey though, during that time we also played places such as Chain Reaction, The Palmer Room, and Alex's Bar in Long Beach. We even played the local Hot Topic for our record release show. We were having such a good time at these shows that when we were asked to play The Double Down Saloon in Las Vegas, we said yes immediately.

anarchy library, chain reaction, double down saloon, palmer room, hot topic
Flyer Collection
If you've never been to The Double Down, it is a perfect shit-hole. No barricade, no stage, and a house drink made up of the last night's leavings entitled "Assjuice". When we arrived, drunk of course, we were greeted by the bouncer who, at 7pm was already smashing bottles against the door and screaming about something of which we eventually deemed to be racially derogatory.

We opened up for a a buddy of mine's band, Wake The Dead. When we went on and the place erupted. Not only were our friends raising hell in the pit, but for the first time so was everyone else in the venue. Brad and I, being complete deviants, were having a blast while the more professional duo of Ron and Cam were upset about getting elbowed by dozens of people during our performance. The night culminated with my jumping into the pit with my bass, still connected to my dual 4x12 cabinets, and having drinks poured down my throat. It was a moment of pure beauty I will likely never experience again.

josh roush, punk
Front cover art by Ray
About the time that we got back from Vegas was just about the time everything started to fall apart. As with every band that has ever existed, factions began to form and friendships broke down. Out of respect for my friends and former bandmates I'm not going to publicly give a play by play as to what happened. Eventually I was told the band was disbanded and about a month later I was told they got back together without inviting Brad and I. Cam and Ron continued the band for another few years, eventually releasing a full album on a label and even playing Punk Rock Bowling. One hell of an accomplishment. Cam even went on to write/record the entire score for our film The Mission (which is available as a free download here).

My time in the band was everything Punk Rock was meant to be: Fast, angry, and really fucking loud. Even at it's worst, it was one of the best experiences I've had.

About The Recording:
josh roush, punk
Back Cover
In January 2009, we entered Tru-One Studios in Anaheim, CA on a Friday and by Sunday we left not only having recorded the Treason EP, but mastered it as well. That's the charm of this recording, it was recorded fast and dirty with no time for polish. We recorded it in one take as a band and then each had about 3-4 takes to get our overdub correct for the final version. Listen to the second bass note on the song Treason. It's about a 1/4 second late. That one note is totally indicative of how fast paced this entire process was. This EP consists of two songs that Ron had written previous to the band's inception, one that he had written with Cam, and one that we came up with at practice.

Right-click, download here:
Treason-MP3 ZIP File
Treason FLAC ZIP File

The Tracklist is:
01: 24 Hour Machine
02: Rebel Radio
03: Treason
04: Old Boring Rebel
05: Piss N' Blood (Demo)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Rodney Redbottom

josh roushRodney Redbottom is the first in a series of short movies I'm writing/directing titled the Benefits of a Small Town series. Believe it or not, this first chapter is based off of a very true story: Back in the day my good friend Brando inherited his Grandpa's car when he passed away. One day while driving said car he had a flat tire and as you do, he went into the trunk to pull out the spare. What he instead discovered wasn't a wheel, but tons of BDSM paraphernalia addressed to what turned out to be his Grandpa's pseudonym, Rodney Redbottom. After he begrudgingly confronted his Grandmother about the subject of Rodney, she enlightened him as to his Grandpa's more *ahem* interesting side.

It was Brando's constant drunken regaling of this story to me that struck a chord. What a wholly original and weird tale it is to discover such a thing about a patriarchal figure. Sometimes truth is indeed stranger than fiction. So with his permission I wrote up a treatment of the project and we both sat down and wrote the script. After a few months of planning I enlisted my wife Olivia Roush to produce it, my buddy J.C. Reifenberg to shoot it, and we got to work on preproduction. We shot the movie in May 2014 over the course of a few weeks on a Canon 5Dm3 DSLR shooting RAW. My uncle William S. Abramson financed the project with the majority of the money buying me the laptop that I've used to make all of my content for the past three years.

Dylan and I at the Premiere
To star in the project we recruited a friend of mine who was collaborating with John Roecker on their debut album (which just got released) to play the young version of Charlie Thomas*. We grabbed Joe Karam to play the older version of Charlie, the ever-amazing Elaine Rinehart to play Grandma, and William Gary Penn to play Grandpa. To fill out the cast of the "play parties" we recruited all of my friends to dress in bondage and smack each other around for an afternoon. I am truly lucky to have such stupidly loyal friends. My personal favorite cast decision though is my buddy Brandon playing the younger version of his own Grandpa.

*Charlie Thomas will be the name of my first son (if I have one) due to me promising a man on his death bed I would name my first son after him at thirteen years old.

Never one to shy away from researching the actual topic that we
were committing to screen, we talked to several individuals in the BDSM community and my wife and I even visited a "play party" in an industrial section of Los Angeles. Eventually we found an amazing lady named Trea Wallis-Taylor who amazingly came out and helped us add an air of realism to the portrayal of bondage in the film. During the timelapse section of said BDSM scene we even had a buddy of mine who works at NASA come out and design a motor to move the camera in a way in which we could create a seamless shot over four decades. Yes, you read that correctly, we had a NASA engineer design a bondage shot in our short movie.

I love and am proud of this weird, strange little flick we made and I look forward to continuing this universe in other shorts, the next of which you'll see is The Mission which we're currently screening in festivals. At the end of this year we'll also be shooting the third chapter of the Benefits of a Small Town series titled Dick Burrito followed by several more in 2017.

Thank you to all my friends that helped make this happen.
Hope you enjoy.