When I get a chance to talk with filmmakers from my home state of Maryland, I most always jump at the chance to chat with them. Zachary Reed and Joseph Frank, both from Cheverly, MD, had their film, Sweaty Betty, debut at this years SXSW and by all accounts, it was a hit, garnering a ton of positive reviews.
The film is set in a Maryland neighborhood and features two stories about big dreamers. The first has Floyd and his dream of turning his pig, Miss Charlotte, into the Redskins team mascot. the second deals with Rico and Scooby, two single fathers who try and scheme their way into a better life for themselves and their families.
Directed on a shoestring budget and taking a year and a half to complete, the directing duo prove that with determination and will, you can do anything. I talked to Reed and Frank at SXSW and they gave me the low down on filming, coming up with the story and what it’s like to direct a pig.
Zachary Reed: It’s just everyday life around our neighborhood. Things we see every day, we kind of wanted to put on film and that’s how that’s how everything came about. We’ve seen some interesting things and we’re like, “We gotta put this on film.”
Joseph Frank: Especially the pig in the neighborhood.
Zachary Reed: No way you see a pig in our neighborhood. We’re nowhere near a farm. We’re nowhere near a pasture. So to see a pig in our neighborhood…
Joseph Frank: Well, that’s an unusual story. But then the Rico and Scooby story about them trying to sell a dog is just taking a very simple thing that could happen and creating a story with a lot of emotions out of just the simplest story. And that was our main thing, to show them as to who they really are… which is just two great people.
Had you guys ever directed anything before?
Joseph Frank: No. This the first time we’ve ever picked up a camera.
Zachary Reed: I mean, we talked about shorts before but we think shorts are kind of pointless.
Joseph Frank: We don’t think there’s any reason to do a short.
Zachary Reed: It’s great to create maybe a buzz first before you actually do a film but we’re just trying to go for the gusto. “Let’s just go.” That was the mindset.
Did you come up with a script or an outline of the story first?
Joseph Frank: Outline, yeah. There is no script.
Zachary Reed: There is no script. We improved a lot, yeah. We re-directed and we said, “This is what we like. This is what we want to see” and just let them lead themselves.
Joseph Frank: Use their own words but we put them in the situations.
I’ve worked a lot of pigs but of the human kind. How do you work with an actual pig?
Zachary Reed: Pigs actually have a mind of their own. They’re very communicative. They’re very smart and intelligent animals. They kind of get a bad rap because they’re big and look lazy. But she’s smart. She goes swimming.
Joseph Reed: She has free range in the neighborhood. You’ll see her hanging out by the fast food restaurant trying to get some burgers.
So from the time you guys are sitting around saying, “Let’s make a movie” to the time you actually started, how long was that?
Zachary Reed: It took some time. We both work.
Joseph Frank: We have full-time jobs.
Like a lot of shooting on the weekends?
Joseph Frank: That was the hardest part. It took us 1 ½ years to do this movie but we only shot for six days.
Zachary Reed: Getting other people’s schedules to match with our schedules…
Joseph Frank: It was tough, man. It was tough. You go months without shooting and then you have to pick up right where you left off.
Zachary Reed: Then we had an unfortunate incident with Scooby where he was in a car accident. That stopped it literally for about another six months.
Wow. How bad?
Zachary Reed: He was in a coma for a week. His child’s mother and her sister passed, so this was a very traumatic event for him. We’re just glad he pulled through.
Joseph Frank: Yeah, he was out for a month. He had severe brain damage. He was in a coma for a week. He got out and he wasn’t himself. And the movie was on hold. We didn’t even think we’d be able to finish it. He finally came up to me and said, “When we can finish the movie?”
What did you guys shoot on?
Joseph Frank: It was called the Nikon D5100. It’s a $500 camera from Best Buy.
I’ve talked to a couple people who went to Best Buy to buy a camera like that. They shoot for a whole week, return it and just pay the restocking fee.
Joseph Frank: Damn. We should’ve done that. Unless we can return it after two years.
Zachary Reed: Yeah we needed longer than that.
Joseph Frank: I think what we’re going to do for next movie though is, because were getting attention for this film, we’re going to get a producer, we’re going to hire a professional cameraman, get good equipment, a sound guy and just be the ideas behind it. Because were not very technically adept.
Zachary Reed: Yeah, being our first movie, it turned out great but we were kinda winging it.
Like you said, you guys are here getting all this attention. Are you going to have to go back to your day jobs?
Zachary Reed: Oh yeah, no question.
Joseph Frank: I got to go back to doing taxes, man.
Zachary Reed: We kind of both like our jobs though.
So Joseph, you’re an accountant, Zachary what do you do?
Zachary Reed: I’m a meat processor for Sam’s Club. I enjoy my job. It’s good, it’s good.
How are your friends and family reacting to this? You been working on this for a year and a half and you actually did it. They’ve got to be so proud of you guys.
Zachary Reed: They’re so happy. Posting things on social media and things like that.
Joseph Frank: I think that’s the thing that makes us most happy about this movie. Giving our folks something to be proud of.