“I was immediately attracted to the grittiness of the story and the plight of Benji”, says filmmaker Julian Grant. “I knew people like Benji growing up. Hell, I was a lot like him.” Knowing that a picture this gritty and true-to-life would barely be of interest to traditional distribution, Grant rounded up some of his collaborators from a recent film he had been shooting (“Roundabout American”) and asked them to come on board for a free-for-all Fall shoot. “I wanted to shoot FLOST like I had “Fall Away” by shooting on weekends and as our schedules allowed. I pulled from cast and crew and had a script that just adapted as we went. Micro-filmmaking means you adapt or die when working and we had to shift a couple of locations and adapt to weather – but everyone pulled in the same direction.”
Star Graham Jenkins (“The Defiled”) had worked for Grant before on his micro-budget horror film, “The Defiled” and Grant knew he had his Benji. “Graham is ferocious – a champion – serious as a friggin’ heart attack – and it was this energy that truly made Benji a living, breathing sad sack of shit. You feel for Benji – and despite the horrible things he does – you end up in tears for him at the end of the picture. He’s just such a classic fuckup.” Joining Jenkins on the ride were independent leading man Louie Lawless (“Fall Away” ), ingénue Hannah Phelps and Brian Shaw, also from , “The Defiled”. “I surrounded myself with team players and solid actors and we went at it full bore.”
Production started on Nov. 5, 2011 and shot for twenty days on weekends only in the Chicagoland and Blue Island area. Taking advantage of local haunts that were already well known to Grant and his team, FLOST was able to film at bars, rock joints, garages and under the subway tracks of Chicago. “This town is visually stunning,” says Grant, “and the ability to film at Reggies, Exit Chicago and other great locales adds the level of verisimilitude that helps ground a picture like this.” Favorites for the production were the alleyways in the downtown Chicago core, “However, during the Benji beating scene, the Chicago PD rolled up on us hard, and we almost all spent a night in the pokey – or worse.” It’s an old joke – but a true one: You’re not making an independent film unless you almost get arrested.
Grant credits his wife, Executive Producer Julie Grant, for her continued behind-the-scenes support and financial acumen while making FLOST. “I thought I was good at budgeting before – but Julie really took us into a new level. Her background in business development was instrumental in helping me pioneer my micro-cinema model and keeping us on track. Like me, she would do anything to make the picture a reality and would be up early making sure we had everything we needed for the day’s filming. Her insights on character, script and the evolving edit made sure that every opportunity was examined – and expanded upon if needed. She really pushed me to tell the real Benji story – regardless of how brutal it might be.”
From L – R: Graham Jenkins (Benji) working with Julian Grant (Writer/ Director/ Camera)
The climactic beating of Benji and his final walk of shame were filmed outside of Chicago and Grant credits long-time collaborator Dan DeFore as his location manager and on-set gaffer. “Dan knows so many people and he just opened doors for us everywhere.” Producer Carla Englof allowed production inside her home to film and throughout the filming process rode herd on cast, food and all of the essentials for the micro-shoot.
At the end of the day, Grant, production designer and makeup maestro Jessi T Walsh, Assistant director Andy Papke and Dan Defore comprised the full crew. “There were four of us making this film and we did everything and anything we had to in getting it finished,” says Grant. It is this DIY OR DIE philosophy that allowed FLOST to wrap on December 23, 2011 with all scenes completed.
Post production was supervised by Jason Robert Becker (who had cut Grant’s “Roundabout American”) earlier in the year and his Visual Effects skills and graphic design mastery allowed Grant to maximize the final edit of the film. “We knew early on that we would be mixing color tones and palettes and using split screen to tell the story. What Jason brings to the table is complete genius.”, says Grant.
Completing the film by June 6,2012, FLOST had an advance screening in Chicago to an invited group of literary guests and Jedidiah Ayres. “This started as a short story and I wanted the Thug-Lit writing community to see what I did. They’re a great bunch of guys and they were genuinely happy with the treatment.” The neo-noir tone of the completed film was a real crowd pleaser at this premiere event and now the picture is ready for the world to see.
“Neo-Noir is a great genre. It reaches around for a healthy tug on the classics and a cinematic hand job like FLOST is a nice, fast and satisfying release. Forget about the bloated excess of Studio City. FLOST is here to give you a nice, vicious way to spend ninety minutes or so. No filler. All fighting. All singing. There ain’t anything else like it.”
Interview with Julian Grant on FLOST