The Family Tie
A very bloody featurette by Matthew Glasson
 

about / history / mug's two cents

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

The “revenge film” is a familiar premise for any casual moviegoer. From DEATHWISH to ROBOCOP to KILL BILL, it’s a premise that continues to be made and remade for new generations. While many great stories have been written in this vein, filmmaker Matthew Glasson and fellow film fanatic Scott Greene wanted to take the formula, grab it by the horns and throttle it a bit. And so was born THE FAMILY TIE, a short featurette about a young man – a “boy with no name” - who witnesses the destruction of his family at the hands of John, a psychotic business partner of his father’s. Swearing vengeance, the boy seeks out to destroy John and will stop at nothing to mete out justice, even at the cost of his own sanity.

While THE FAMILY TIE was working with a limited budget and a fairly inexperienced crew, the enthusiasm and grass-roots style of the production is reminiscent of the comic excess in Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD series and the brilliant ROBOCOP as well as some of the stylized violence of Italian splatter cinema of the '70s (Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento). If you're a fan of exciting and inventive cinema, where the onscreen action translates into a visceral audience experience, then you will want to try putting this FAMILY TIE on for size.

DEEP INSIDE THE FAMILY TIE: A "Family history"

Sharing writing and producing duties, Glasson and Greene based the script on a short video they made while attending school together. Glasson had come across the never-finished short some years later, hitting upon the idea of expanding it into a feature. "It wasn't great a great piece by itself, but it had potential," he said. "Scott’s performance as the maniacal villain was certainly inspired, so I knew we could build on the characters we had sketched out and develop a compelling story out of it.”

As they wrote, the two longtime friends incorporated ideas and half-jokes they had bounced back and forth over the years. Glasson had developed a fascination with Asian cyberpunk cinema and Italian splatter movies, seeking out films that portrayed violence in a far more graphic manner than most mainstream American films dared. Greene: "He would come up with these really horrible, third-generation dubs of zombie movies and serial killer flicks, usually by directors like Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento. A lot of it was hard to stomach, but I've always found Matt's writing to be very funny, so I figured it was worth getting involved in. We were going for laughs, so the idea was to try for an EVIL DEAD-type over the top-ness."

Assuming the role of director, Glasson kept expenses low by shooting in the homes and workplaces of both friends and family, and casting many of these same people in various roles. For the leads, Glasson selected Phil Anzelmo, a co-worker from his day job to portray the vengeance-fueled teen and Greene reprised his role as the villain from the original short. Principal photography took place over several long weekends in ‘97/’98, but several ambitious FX shots could not be completed before Glasson's move from Chicago to New York.

Both pursued their own projects in the years that followed, but in 2004, Glasson and Greene finally resumed work on the film. With Greene sending Glasson script notes and narration ideas via e-mail while Glasson took on the editing on his Powerbook laptop. “The editing style of FAMILY TIE was something that I knew required a computer to execute, so unfortunately that meant playing the waiting game,” Glasson says. “It goes without saying that it’s an exciting time for young filmmakers everywhere as the technology to do these things has become more affordable, but I had to wait about 6 years for that ‘affordability’ to come around for me.” After shooting those crucial FX shots and several months of obsessively editing down the 14-plus hours shot into a finished form, Glasson completed the featurette in April of 2007.

The “featurette” is an unusual running time as it doesn’t fit in the traditional time slot that a television show or a feature-length film provides. It is a short burst of energy and spectacle, stirring up whoever tries watching it and giving them a good ride along the way. But finding a balance between caustic satire and over-the-top splatter requires a delicate balance of extreme worlds, and THE FAMILY TIE manages to be a sharp, merciless comedy while also maintaining a hyperkinetic energy to its violent camp.

THE FAMILY TIE is an ode to grass-roots gore shot within The Windy City and its northwestern suburbs. "Frankly, I wasn't sure it'd ever be done," Greene commented, "but now that it is, I know it was worth it. It's a real joy to hear people gasp and howl during the screenings." Glasson also expresses pleasure with the end result. "This took a ridiculously long time to finish and put to bed. There are a lot of excuses I could make about why it took so long, but the overriding fact is that we set the bar pretty high for ourselves. And when you’re trying to make an epic film on a shoestring budget, things take a bit longer then you would if you had a paid crew and producers to help move things along. Even so, seeing my baby finally come to life makes it all worthwhile."

MUG'S TWO CENTS

I came up with the idea for THE FAMILY TIE in the spring of 1997, mainly as a frustrated creative backlash. I was living in the suburbs, working a depressing corporate job at an ink manufacturer and had just come off the heels of a film collaboration that had crashed and burned. I wanted to shoot something quick and easy, something that could be shot on video for little money but could compensate by packing an unapologetically wicked punch. Little did I know that this "quick and easy" idea had such a long and sinuous road ahead.

In high school, I had done hordes of short videos with my film buddy, Scott Greene. One day while re-watching a short we had done in high school called "Just Vengeance”, I was wickedly delighted by the villainous role of Scott Greene’s performance. Scott Greene's acting in "Just Vengeance" had a hilarious manic energy - one that was very calculated in its choreography but completely broad in execution. Immediately, my mind started spinning with ideas to bring his character back and to push the original short's story to the next level. Thus was born "The Family Tie" with Scott Greene and myself co-writing and co-producing the endeavor.

At my painfully boring office job (I was a “contract administrator” which is even more dull than it sounds), I had a friend in co-worker Phil Anzelmo, whose twisted sense of humor and love of ‘70s/’80s exploitation cinema could keep up with my own. Even though Phil had had no real acting experience, he possessed the right sort of energy I wanted for the protagonist in "the boy." The role called for a certain youthful naivety, but also a wild and untamed energy that the character evolves into as the story progresses. I knew he could tap into these moments of hilarious craziness when we would joke around together on the job and elsewhere. With Phil and Scott in place, we had our two leads, and that was enough for us to get started.

We shot the bulk of FAMILY TIE on weekends and holidays from July of '97 to August of '98 in Chicago and some of its northwestern suburbs. As any low budget filmmaker can likely attest: when you're not paying your actors or whatever crew you can muster up (i.e., friends), you have to work with a flexible and accommodating production schedule. This often means that a "simple" production schedule tends to drag on as there are last minute cancellations, drop-outs and other acts of god that make filmmaking so much fun.

We wrapped principal photography in summer of 1998, and within months I was moving out to NYC to start a rock band (this wasn't as impulsive as it sounds here, but is a story for another website). Knowing the complicated editing job ahead, it was necessary for me to cut the film digitally. But, this being the year 1998, editing digitally was still something reserved for post houses and TV stations. And so with The Family Tie "in the can" (minus a few 2nd unit pick-ups and FX shots) and with my new focus being on starting up this band, the film was put to bed for a long winter's nap. An eight-year winter's nap, to be exact.

With the release of Final Cut Pro on the Mac, it was finally becoming affordable for the common people to edit video on their computers. Armed with a Powerbook, I began the enjoyably arduous task of whittling down 15 hours of footage into a 40-minute whiz bang joy ride. After a year of editing and tweaking, THE FAMILY TIE was finally ready for general consumption. I hope that you are able to enjoy this ride it as much as I did in constructing (and de-constructing) it.

Cheers!