I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Director Andy Signore about his new film 'The Janitor' a gory horror comedy that has been going down a storm at screenings in America. In the first of 3 interviews with key crew members about the film, Andy talks about the project from the initial idea, to the present day, and about the huge task of Co-Directing and playing the films titular villain.
You first became interested in film-making as a kid. When did you decide to do it as a career?
Unfortunately for me, it still isn't a "career". I can't make a living directing movies because nobody's paid me yet. I won't consider it a career until somebody decides to pay me to direct something. But if you're asking how long I've been directing movies, that's been since I was 13 with my first video project "Satanic Callings". Maybe if I want to be super pretentious, I'll include it on my first DVD like fellow Philly native M. Night Shyamalan. Hey, I can't knock the guy, I imagine sudden fame like that must be quite a feeling.
How did you go about getting started?
I started at a Video Camp that my high school ran. That's where I made Satanic Callings, and that's' where I learned to love making movies. My first official try at a real short film came a few years later as a Sophomore in high school, a stupid ten minute piece called "Omnibus", about a broke down school bus, and the slice of life story aboard it. Looking back at that project I truly admire that I made it, but I have trouble watching it without laughing inappropriately.
What about education?
I learned video under the tutelage of Dainis Roman at my high school Germantown Academy. He taught as much as I allowed him to in the day. I'm a pretty cocky / stubborn adult, but I was a very cocky stubborn kid. But looking back on it all, he stuck with me through it all and ended up teaching me a lot.
So, how did the idea for The Janitor come about?
TJ, I and our friend Ahren Boulanger heard about this place that was holding a Twenty Four Hour film festival. The format was, you call in at 6pm, get the theme and then have 24 hours to make a film, and at 7pm the following day, they showcase all of the films made the day before. TJ and I liked the idea of a crazy Janitor who walks in on a couple having late night sex in their office complex. The project was called "The Office is Closed… but her Legs are Open…" and it was a complete success at the festival. TJ and I then thought there could be more to tell in this tale of The Janitor, and that's where it was born.
Are you a fan of the horror genre, or did you simply realize that it's still the best way to break into the filmmaking industry?
I am a fan of the horror genre, but I'm not a super-fan like TJ and many other people I've come to meet. I'm a super-fan of comedy; Airplane! and the Zucker brothers, Monty Python, Christopher Guest, The Simpsons, etc… For me, The Janitor is truly a comedy at heart. As for horror being an easy way in, I don't think there is an "easy way of breaking into the film industry". Not everyone who makes a cheesy horror flick is given a ton of more offers. We haven't been given any offers yet. I've had some meetings and so far all they want to know is "what's next?". Nobody's throwing scripts at me. I may have made a fun horror flick, but I still have a lot to prove about myself to "the industry", and I intend on doing so.
How long did it take to write the script and did you have to do many re-writes?
It took a couple months to finally finish a draft of the script that was about 60 pages. I knew I needed to go back and rewrite/add more because our goal was 80 pages. After a few more weeks I ended up expanding it to a little over 90 pages. We cut a lot out of it because none of us wanted the film to overstay its welcome. But there were constant re-writes even through filming. I cut a sub-plot of Lionel over-hearing Mary taking Hillary for a night out of no flirting at their local gay bar. Lionel shows up in uniform and gets bombarded with gay males wanting his number. Ultimately I didn't want any possible "anti-gay" misinterpretation and all of us just wanted less talk and more blood, so the spray paint blood orgy scene was written.
Can you tell us a bit about the plot?
Lionel is a custodian that works at the Generico Corporation along with fellow custodian and mentor Mr. Growbo. The two deal with constant disrespect from the office workers, so Lionel decides to start brutally murdering anybody who rubs him the wrong way. But Lionel wants more than just revenge, he wants respect, and that finally seems to show itself in the guise of a group of beautiful sorority girls, who inform Lionel that they're looking for a custodian to clean up their sorority house. Could Lionel's dream finally be within his grasp? You'll have to see to find out.
Andy with the gutbusted victim.
Is it mainly a comedy/mainly a horror film or a bit of both?
It's a gory, bloody, gruesome comedy. I wouldn't call the film scary, but it will make many cover their eyes.
Can we expect plenty gore and TNA?
There is tons of gore and tons of breasts.
Did you have a lengthy pre-production period?
Yes, we have been re-shooting, adding inserts and editing the sound for months now. The only thing left is finalizing the original musical score. Once that's finished, the film is ready to start shipping out to distributors.
How did you find your cast?
We used a lot of websites, trade papers, and asked around for friends of friends. We held TONS of auditions and call-backs. We wanted to make sure that the selected cast was not only okay with the content, but that they were going to show up day after day of rehearsals and most importantly, the shooting days. The lengthy process really helped us weed out the actors who weren't really interested in the project.
The nudity was brought up to the actors from day one, and many actresses who had agreed to the terms of the nudity, ultimately changed their mind quite close to the shooting day. We made sure to shoot the nude scenes first, so the actresses couldn't change their mind about it once we had already shot all of their big dialogue scenes. Luckily our cast turned out amazingly. They all showed up on time, stayed there as long as we needed them to, and all were complete pleasures to work with. We had a fantastic cast.
How long did the shoot take?
The main shoot took about 14 solid days in June and July. We then shot many more random days to fix/add stuff.
How difficult was the project for you, considering you wrote, directed, edited, produced and starred in the film?
The project was a blast. Was it difficult at times? Absolutely! Did I turn into a complete ass on set sometimes? Oh yeah. But I love the pressures of making a movie and being on set making the movie, is my favorite part of filmmaking. Seeing the vision finally take shape is an amazing high.
As for how the production worked, TJ was there to co-direct with me, and John was there to light and frame up all the shots. Having two dear friends there that I trusted was great for me as an actor because they would let me know if my acting sucked in a particular shot or not. As for the overall directing, I worked more with the actors while TJ worked more with John lining up the shots. Co-directing was both great and challenging. I'm super anal, and at times can be quite a bossy fellow ha-ha. TJ's much more reserved but also super paranoid. We are almost opposites to some extent, which I think at times helped the movie, and other times caused some minor conflicts. I think overall he'd let me do a lot of the talking, and when he didn't agree with something that was happening he'd speak up, we'd address it and we'd fix it. We did a lot of takes and lines two different ways, just to have both of our ideas on tape. I was very glad to have worked with TJ, he was by far the bigger horror fan and I truly valued his concern of "will the true horror fans" like this. Most of the time I was just thinking, "will a non-horror fan like this?". So it was a good mixture of directing to try and please both the true fans, and the masses.
What was the hardest aspect of the shoot that you had to overcome?
There were several challenging moments through-out the film. But probably the craziest was the sorority house shoot. In the second half of the film we introduce the sorority girls. The script then required a sorority house, which was the hardest location to score, by far. We needed a house that we could shoot inside and outside of and where we could dump buckets of blood all over. We found a place in Long Beach through a friend of a friend.
Now we could only schedule TWO back-to-back days to shoot all of the scenes that take place inside of the house. If you haven't seen the film yet, there were TONS of important moments we needed to shoot in the house. We had lots of vital dialogue, a huge gun drawn climax, an epic pillow fight with ten partially nude college co-eds, an elaborately choreographed kung-fu show-down, and our huge blood-bath finale that included countless gruesome death scenes including the death of TWO major cast-members.
So we had a MASSIVE shot list of serious scenes, 30 complete strangers who showed up to play murdered extras, gallons of blood dripping everywhere, and we were in a friend of a friend's house. So trying to organize that schedule to fit everything in, not to mention keep the house in safe / clean shape, as well as make everything run smoothly for all actors was by far the most insane two days of shooting, and most definitely my favorite.
Andy has his own directorial methods.
Were you happy with the shoot, and the finished film?
The shoot was fantastic. Without a doubt the best learning experience I've ever had concerning moviemaking. You can go to as many classes as you like, you can read as much as you want… but nothing teaches you filmmaking better than actually making films. I've seen this movie over a 100 times now, so part of me hates its guts, but the other part of me thinks it's pretty damn funny. I crack up every time I hear John's squirrel monologue as Willis, I love Skip's little nuances to Agent Page and Bruce's intensity as Mr. Growbo. Overall we accomplished the tone I had envisioned all along, so I'm quite happy with the final result. More so, I'm just psyched to have finished a feature length movie, and I can't wait to go out and make more.
Would you like to go back and change anything if you had the chance?
Of course! I'm a perfectionist and I'm never fully happy with the result, for me, there's always more direction you think of when you're watching the edited piece, I should have said this, we should have done this… As for specifics, I would have probably given us another day to shoot our big bloody finale.
You have so far held two screenings of the movie. How was it received by the audiences?
The feedback has been amazing. People really seem to be enjoying the movie. Horror fans are telling us how brutal and hilarious it is and non-horror fans come up and say "I must admit, even though I hate horror movies, that was damn funny" so yeah, of course the compliments make me feel great. It seems to be the type of movie that if you just go in expecting a funny, gory, boob filled movie, you won't come out disappointed.
What are the release plans?
We're finalizing the score, after that we send it out to interested distributors. Our goal all along was to get the film on DVD and have it be readily available. We've also sent out a rough cut of the film to some festivals, so we hope to hit some of them this fall. We also want to have a couple more LA screenings if we can muster the funding.
So what is next? A sequel perhaps?
A Janitor sequel is not out of the realm of possibilities. We have some great ideas for a sequel and I'm working on a first draft. But I'm also working with John on a twisted romantic screenplay that we hope to finish up in the next few months, which ultimately I'd direct and he'd shoot. While I appreciate the horror genre quite a great deal, I'd like to branch out and try something new next time around. I imagine most of my work will continue to have the same twisted comedic feel of THE JANITOR, but I'd like to try and fit the next one into an R rating.
"Thank you for taking part in this interview Andy.
We wish you the very best of luck in the future."
You can visit 'The Janitor' official web site right here: http://www.janitormovie.com/