Written and Directed by
Nicholas Zorro Iway
Produced and story by
Nicholas Zorro Iway & John Lauterbach
Barry Gardner & Dianne Sanders Marrow, Chusy & Andy O’Neil
Nicholas Zorro Iway, John Lauterbach, Phill Koch
Traci Gardner, Tab Merkel, Miles Rice
Running Time: 1:41:38:02
7 Patriot’s Drive
I have always been fascinated by the effect objective pressure can have upon one’s character. It interests me that a person, myself included, can lay claim to any sort of qualities so much as to advertise themselves through speech or action as a man or woman of, for example; strength, compassion, kindness, generosity, love… any of the normal qualities that a man or woman might strive to embody or live by, and then show, under whatever pressure, that they are composed of entirely different stuff.
The most powerful example of pressure that I have personally witnessed and experienced is loss. Loss, and the inevitable grief that follows do more than encourage us to change or grow, they insists upon it. A common method of dealing with the crisis of loosing an objective entity, quality or idea with which we strongly identify, is to jump suddenly to the opposite polarity of that identity. Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard holds himself up as the beacon of the Christian right until he is accused of having a homosexual relationship with a man he also purchased crystal meth from. Fiona Anderson wrote on her children in green ink how much she loved them, before drowning them in a bathtub.
Ever since the evolution of consciousness the most poignant example of identity can be found in the qualities of addiction. In todays world addiction to drugs or dangerous behaviors run rampant. Even the soberest, healthiest and safest among us is addicted to something, be it a facet of their lifestyle, a habitual behavior or very often something as simple as the everyday interaction they have with another person. Even the very thought of safety and security can be addictive, as we commonly enjoy in America, however; more people than not around the globe do not have any sort of identification with these ideas. They live either without opportunity, political, social or economic confidence, or the safety of an enforceable system of fair law. The topic of addiction is one of the most informative studies today, I think, of the human condition itself because it breaks us all down to a common objective denominator – need.
Androgynym is a story about the addictive aspect of that which we depend upon for meaning in our lives. The story as a whole is written as a metaphor for the transformation I went through in my life after loosing my wife, Cela Cie DeHart Iway, to cancer in 2010. After her death I came to understand how dependent I was on her not only for my own personal happiness but also for meaning and purpose – I was addicted to her. Over the course of a few months after her death the “me” that I was died as well and an undefined potential was left living and breathing which eventually developed into the Nick Iway that you can meet today. The film is a depiction of what happened to me as the old Nick faded away.
Nym is a young man who works for a criminal organization. He moves packages and collects money as part of his responsibilities and he also hurts or threatens people who get into trouble with the business. One of the perks of his position is access to prostitutes, for which Nym indulges every evening. After one of his jobs goes wrong, leaving the younger brother of a rival crime boss named Carlos dead, Nym’s boss, Lou, is assassinated and Nym is forced to flee town and go into hiding. Once in this new town, Asheville NC, Nym is forced to deal with his sex addiction. Unable to make the human connection necessary to engage in the sexual intercourse that he needs compounded with his new life crisis, Nym cuts his penis off and dresses himself up as the very object of his desire – a woman.
Nym decides to kill himself until a chance encounter with a young man, John, diverts his interest. As Nym and John grow closer and closer, Carlos and his men close in on him until his old life comes crashing into his new world and Nym is forced to see and deal with the consequences of the man he once was.
The Making of Androgynym
John and I have been friends since we were teenagers. We were in a band together called Lice for about two years from 1998 to 2000 and after that we made several low budget films of all kinds together, one of which, The Ball Player, won Best Special Effects at a local 48 Hour Film Competition in 2009. Our talents as well as our tastes are entirely complimentary. John enjoys the horror genre; blood, guts, and films that don’t necessarily have great stories or characters but leave him feeling disturbed. I enjoy heroic and emotional films with great stories and interesting characters that follow mythological patterns which leave me feeling inspired. When we come up with stories together, as we did with Androgynym, I’ll start by saying “I want to write a story about two people who want to be together but can’t for whatever reason” and John will say something like “Okay cool, but shouldn’t one or both of them be cut in half or eviscerated at some point?”. Where we end up coming together in our storytelling is where we get the best of both worlds; exploitation and character.
It took us almost three years to make Androgynym. In 2011 I was living in LA, working in the film industry as a PA as well as whatever art department positions I could get. John came out from Asheville NC for a month that summer to work with me on whatever jobs I could get him in that time and we ended up working with Steakhause Productions on a season of Black Box TV, both of us in the Art Department, three weeks in Idllwyld CA on a grueling low budget schedule. It was a great experience for both of us and John’s first professional film gig. In LA completely by myself until John came to visit, only a year after my wife Cela had died, I was lonelier than I had been in my entire life. The stress of living in a huge city like LA for the first time and working insane hours and having no friends to hang out with for hundreds of miles was a serious stress for me. I’ve lived in small towns all my life and the pace and stress of LA I found intolerable. This, combined with the isolation I was experiencing found me, even though I was making huge strides in my career, quite miserable, and I was having suicidal visions and overwhelming sexual impulses on a regular basis. One of the visions that repeated itself in my head whenever I had time to think was of me jumping off of a building, the other was of me cutting my penis off. In the couple of free days John and I had after Black Box TV, before he went back home, John and I made a broad outline of the images I was experiencing that we thought would make a cool film that we could film ourselves when I came back to Asheville at the end of my lease a few months later. I had amassed some money in my constant working and we decided to do everything ourselves with John’s 7D and some makeshift lights at friend’s houses and at the restaurant that we had both worked at, Frank’s Roman Pizza, where the owner, Barry Gardner had given us permission long ago to use the store as we saw fit after hours. I committed $2000 to the film, which we knew wouldn’t look great, because neither of us were very good at camera or lighting. Our hope was that the power of the story would come through and, if we hired a sound guy and the thing sounded good, people would watch and like it on the merits of the story alone. Then John went home and I stayed in LA for another 6 months.
When I finally moved back to Asheville I started writing the actual script. I would write large sections of it and then get called back to LA for a film, get some local film work with a local company I had discovered, Plan A Films with Chusy and Andy O’Neil, with whom I met our future DP, Matthias Saunders, or get on some other film work that kept me from being able to concentrate on finishing the script. In between jobs I would write and by the winter of 2012, the shooting draft was done and we began shooting immediately. We shot 12 pages in 2 days before I had to go back to LA for 8 weeks to work on James Roday’s Gravy followed by Jean Claud Van Dam’s Swelter. I came back to Asheville and immediately started working on Leigh Janick’s Honeymoon which was filming 45 minutes away from Asheville. The 1st AD, TK Shom got me on the shoot after we worked together on Gravy and I got John on as a PA. During that shoot we met a local PA, Paul Lewis Anderson, who was also a freelance videographer who could take a hell of a picture. He agreed to be our DP for a fair price and we continued shooting into the fall with him on several scenes, a day at a time as we were all available. Paul’s footage looked so good that we decided to finish the movie at whatever the cost, as long as it was doable to actually finish it at the same level of quality that Paul brought to the film. By that time I had been extremely fortunate in my work not only with Plan A but also with Bill Viola Productions who had me out for a month long shoot in which I was promoted to the Special Effects Department under the supervision of Giuliano Fiumani and paid a higher wage than I had ever received in my life. After securing the rights to the song The Dance from Charlotte Martin, all the vital elements were in place to complete the film as we wanted to.
Upon returning from Bill Viola I was setting us up to finish shooting the film on an actual film schedule. I was going to use the 10K I had saved up to get us through a 12 day shoot which would put all the live action in the can and leave only the animation sequences for John and I to shoot by ourselves later. Even though what we had shot so far looked amazing and was done for a miraculously low cost, that 10K was still considerably short for what we would need to get us through post production. So, I took out an $18,000 credit card loan which gave us what I thought would be more than enough to complete the film.
We resumed shooting in November of 2013 and for reasons I won’t go into, after 3 shooting days, Paul had to be let go. We were sitting on a fully developed schedule, Barry and his girlfriend Dianne Sanders Marrow had given us an entire rental house to decorate and use as we needed, the film was cast, locations secured, the city of Asheville with the help of John Fillman had promised us all the support we would need and everything was ready to go, but now we needed a new DP.
I had been working with Matthias Saunders through Plan A films on several commercials for almost a year and during our shoots and travels to Seattle and Anchorage we had become good friends. I had during that time pitched him the film and told him all about it and he loved the idea so, I asked him if he would shoot out the film and he said that he would love to. Not only did he take a criminally low rate for a DP with his skill level and experience, he also rented us a Canon C-100 out of his own pocket to improve the look of the film even more. He also convinced me to ask Chusy if we could use Plan A’s production supplies and lenses, which he happily allowed, and all of the sudden, we were back and ready to go. We set new dates and began shooting principal photography on January 1st 2014 and shot until Matthias had to go shoot another Plan A gig on January 13th. We found our amazing 1 man sound team Scott Brown on Craigslist. He came up from Atlanta and not only shot with us the whole time but also did final sound mix, mastering and sound effects as well as some of the music you hear in the film. A friend of ours Cori Gross acted as Production Manager, doing what I couldn’t, production wise, when I was too busy and Miles Rice, who was also an actor in the film committed to being our Key Grip, or, our main crew position, and donated his expertise in fight choreography and stunt supervision. John had been learning the practical effects trade this entire time, learning to make molds and paint convincing injury make-up, and the shoot went off beautifully.
I paid everyone on the crew pretty close to a low budget film rate the entire time they were on. I fed everyone well and by the end of the shoot, I was broke. I took another job locally on a Purina 1 campaign directly after the shoot and spent my days off and nights editing the film until I had a first draft a month later. After getting the draft done it was clear that we needed a day or two of reshoots so, I took all the money I made with Purina and did two days of reshoots with the whole crew. After that we still needed to shoot almost 20 pages of animation which, Lisa Nance had already created for us all the pieces necessary to shoot, but I was broke and John and I were exhausted so, I went to LA for another 6 months and worked non stop to save up the money to finish the film.
After a grueling 6 months of working on some great projects I was not a whole lot closer financially to being able to finish the film. With the high expense of living in LA and the huge credit card payment I had to make every month, I was barely able to save at all. I moved back to Asheville in August of 2014 and had to resume working at Frank’s Pizza as a delivery driver and dish washer as well as working construction in the day time. This supported me through the next 3 months where John and I filmed the remaining animation in his garage. I finished editing the first complete draft in November 2014 and we had a test screening for close friends and crew. The screening was great except that it was brought to our attention that the beginning was a little slow. So, John took a turn at the editing table and cut 20 minutes out of the original beginning of the film, which made it much quicker and concise. We then did 1 more shoot day to polish John’s new cut, this time, with no money to bring either Matthias or Scott up from Atlanta. John shot this day on his 7D, just like we started.
After that the film was ready to be shown to the full cast and crew, which we did at a local theater in December, right before Christmas, without a color pass or any of Scott’s post production sound. The film was received extremely well and few notes were given for improvement. John and I both worked many extra hours at low paying jobs over the next few months to pay Scott to finish sound for the film. John did the color grading in the last week of April, 2015.
In the early drafts of the layout John’s character was shown through live action, mostly at his job at the pizzeria – boring. We always knew that John needed to be making an art project of some sort that would serve the story purpose of showing John’s inner character while at the same time supporting the films overall themes, that he and Nym could work on together. We didn’t decide what that would look like until after the script was written. I wanted to do stop motion. I went as far as to make a few test puppets and John went so far as to build a huge and beautiful set with his girlfriend Emily while I was away on a job. After making the most rudimentary set with the most rudimentary puppet in my basement I decided that stop motion was too much work. I didn’t even attempt a test shoot. In the end my thoughts went to what was doable and cheap, because no matter how cool it would be, if we couldn’t pay for it and actually get it shot, it would be for nothing. I also knew that I was too busy with the live action portion of this film to be able to effectively run the animation unit at the same time so, I approached my long time friend Grayson Morris to hear her thoughts. Grayson had been supporting herself as a puppeteer and comedian for a few months at the time and I thought she might have some ideas.
I can draw, and by the end, I did draw many of the characters and sets that you see in the animation, but the bulk of what you see was designed and drawn by Lisa Nance. Lisa is an amazing artist who lives in Asheville and works at a local book store. After meeting with Grayson about a possible puppet play type performance of the animation plot, we came to realize that even that was too complicated and costly. In the end we decided that the cheapest and most versatile medium was paper; you could draw whatever you can imagine on paper and as long as you don’t get too crazy with the detail and color, anything is reasonably doable. Grayson was very excited to be a part of the film but, after deciding our paradigm we came to our first problem; Grayson was not a sketch artist. She could draw well enough but, she didn’t feel like she was the right person to draw and design the amount of content necessary for the script. However, she did know somebody…
I knew Lisa was the perfect artist for us when I saw her first concept designs. We had a meeting shortly after Grayson’s recommendation where I pitched her the story and described what I saw in my head and whatever details of the world I thought would be cool. Lisa said very little. She took notes and asked a few questions before the end when we agreed to meet again in a few days to look at her sketches. When we met again, I was blown away. She had sketched so many versions of different aspects of the script like; the Gilesens, Cetana and Jivana both as humans and as aliens, alien landscapes, scenes of Earth, all kinds of stuff and it was not only to the detail of what we had talked about, but rich with her own imagination and additions. Even if I did have time to do these drawings, I wouldn’t have been able to do them a tenth as well as Lisa – I had found someone I could afford who understood my vision and could deliver it better than I ever could. Grayson and Lisa began creating content immediately.
We tried to squeeze in a few animation shoots when we had Matthias around, but the live action portion of the film demanded the entirety of our attention. In the end John and I shot the vast majority of the animation, just he and I with the occasional help of a friend when we just didn’t have enough hands, in his garage in the Fall of 2014. Everything we shot in those 15 shooting days was lit and shot by John while I animated the actual puppets. We set aside every Saturday between September 2014 and the 1st week of November 2014 for both of us to take off of work and shoot. If we felt like it we would also shoot on Sunday but most of the time we didn’t because we were both exhausted from working our regular jobs. Grayson and Lisa had delivered the drawings to completion months before this and to be honest, I hadn’t even looked at them until John and I started shooting again because I was so busy. As we went along with the shooting, more and more pieces came up that we wanted to make this or that work better and, Lisa ended up making us many additional drawings on the fly and like I said earlier, to save time, I even designed and drew many of the pieces because when they became necessary while John and I were shooting, I could just drop down and make what we needed. With Lisa we had to stop what we were doing, I had to go meet with her to tell her what we needed and then wait usually a week for her to deliver, and we were flying with the animation after a couple of weeks trying to finish the film before the end of the year and I wanted to expedite the process as much as possible.
The most fun part of shooting the animation was figuring out how to make the shots look as cool as possible in that paradigm. We incorporated; smoke, glitter, confetti, compressed air, fire, and what was the most fun – blood gags! After we finished shooting we realized that John had a bubble maker in the next room that we failed to use but by then it was too late. John and I had so much fun shooting this portion of the film that we are planning on shooting at least one more animation project in the immediate future using this same technique.
The Gore Gags
John’s interest in special effects, particularly gore gags and blood effects is long running. Beginning with his first film El Tequila Muerto(2010) John has made movies for one reason and one reason only; to splatter blood and viscera into as many frames as possible. Before ever I pitched Androgynym to John I knew that I was interested in telling a story with a mood and a feeling that I thought I could share with my audience and that was enough to keep me interested and make it worth the sustained effort and expense necessary to see this project to the end, however, I also knew that if I was going to have any chance of completing the film, I knew I would need John’s dedication. In order to hold his interest, the film had to have something in it for him…
The castration scene was always a part of the plot, so I had that going for me. In order to sell John I had to give him more to do, more gags. “And then we shoot Phil in the head, chop him up and put him through the cheese grater at Frank’s?” I pitched to him back in LA. Those two gags alone sold him. The rest of the gun shots and injury make-ups and the other gags were bonus.
Although John had been slinging blood and guts all over short films for years, he had to learn a few things before he could meet the needs of our film. One of those things was mold making and the other was injury make-up application, which included a 6 inch scar that John had to apply to himself on every shot of him without his shirt on (which was a lot of shots). So, John studied. He watched tutorials and experimented in his garage turned studio for the entire year it took us to get into production. The first mold he ever made was of the penis that you see in the film, and it only took him two tries to cast the likeness of Phil that was used in the film.
Nicholas Zorro Iway – (Producer, writer, Director, editor, Production Designer)
Nick dropped out of high school in the 10th grade and joined the work force at age 16. In 2006 he got into film through the Santa Cruz Public Access Station and has been an entrepreneur ever since making over 20 hours of productions for the Public Access Stations in both Santa Cruz CA and Asheville NC. He was the Member Elect Board Representative for the Asheville Public Access Station as well as a Kids Summer Video Camp instructor for 3 years. Nick moved to LA to peruse his professional career in film in 2011, starting as a PA on an AT&T commercial and working up to Production Designer of James Roday’s TV pilot Shoot the Moon starring Javier Bardem and Mandy Moore. His regular gig is as an On-Set Dresser for the Art Department for which he has done 6 films.
John Lauterbach – (Producer, Special Effects, DP of the Animation Unit, Additional Photography, Co-Story Writer)
John graduated from UNC Asheville with a degree in Mass Communications in 2010. He has been making his own films and working on and off as a film industry professional ever since beginning school. John recently worked on the films Masterminds and The Fun House Massacre in the Grip Department.
Matthias Saunders – (Director of Photography, Associate Producer)
Matthias Saunders is a highly skilled and dynamic filmmaker with over 20 years of professional experience. Considered by many to be one of the top up-and-coming cinematographers in his generation, Matthias is also recognized as an innovative film producer and teacher as well. As a young veteran of 37 independent feature films, numerous national commercials, and over 10 top ten award-winning music videos, he brings “real world” experience to the table. Often referred to as “The Notorious D.O.P.”, his reputation for excellence, knowledge, and work ethic are unmatched. Matthias graduated from the Main Media Workshop in 1994 and has taught courses periodically at the school ever since. In 2007 he also taught at the Institution of Production Recording in Minneapolis.
Scott Brown – (Sound)
Scott graduated from The Savanna College of Art and Design in 2010. He works as a freelance audio engineer out of his home in Atlanta Georgia where he works on corporate gigs and indy projects in or around the southeast. Androgynym is his first feature film.
Miles Rice – (Key Grip, Stunt Supervisor, Fight Choreographer)
Miles’ primary gig is as an actor (see below). Between acting gigs Miles fills in and works as a PA or grip on various productions around the southeast.
Cori Gross – (Production Manager)
Cori Gross is a firm believer in magical storytelling and imperfect decisions. She completed her B.A. in Mass Communications/Video Production from UNC Asheville in 2010, and at present, sallies forth to tell stories of her own documentary style, across the nation and the globe.
Lisa Nance – (Animation Artist)
Lisa graduated from UNC Asheville in 2006 with a BFA in print making and painting. She intended to teach after college but found out after a short time that she hates children. Although Lisa’s talents are varied, she considers herself a painter. She does periodic exhibitions of her paintings in and around the southeast. She recently completed a mural funded in part by the Asheville Arts Council in Asheville NC and she is currently preparing for an exhibition of her paintings to be displayed in the Loft Building in Asheville, which will open in May of this year.
Grayson Morris – (Animation Unit Manager)
Grayson Morris is a stand-up comedian, storyteller, and puppeteer from Asheville, North Carolina, currently based in Los Angeles. She has performed nationwide and just produced her first one woman show, Am I a Grownup Yet? which debuted in Asheville and will travel to Hollywood, Kansas City, Chicago, and British Colombia this summer. She co-founded Asheville’s giant puppet collective, Street Creature in 2012, which teaches people how to build their own giant puppets for parades and festivals. She has helped puppeteer for two music videos by The Avett Brothers and has recently gotten into stop motion animation and prop making. And clowning.
Barry Gardner – (Associate Producer)
Barry graduated from Enka High School in 1986 and went to work for Frank’s Roman Pizza directly. He has worked there ever since, buying the place from Frank in 2001.
Dianne Sanders Marrow – (Associate Producer)
Dianna graduated from Robertson High School in 1984. She spent several years living and working in California before returning to Asheville NC to raise her children. Dianna works as a waitress at Frank’s Roman Pizza with her long time boy friend Barry Gardner and she is an insurance agent for Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Chusy – (Associate Producer)
Born in Caracas Venesuela, Chusy moved to The US in his 20s to peruse a career in film. He graduated from the American Film Institute in 1994. His film Anywhere USA premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. He currently produces and directs commercials with his company Plan A Films. Other feature film credits include; A Ride With George (2009), Shrink Wrap (2012), and Brad Lamm Just 10 (2011). He is currently working on a yet untitled Feature.
Andy O’neil – (Associate Producer)
Andy started working with Chusy right out of college on Anywhere USA as co-producer and has been working with Chusy and Plan A Films ever since as a Producer.
Nicholas Zorro Iway – (Nym)
Nick first appeared on screen with his wife Cela in a self produced short documentary about the animal rescue organization the two ran together called Hands for Feet, in Santa Cruz CA. The short, in which Nick caught wild pigeons and sea gulls with his bare hands and with Cela’s help removes fishing line wrapped around their feet, ran on the Santa Cruz Public Access Channel for over 2 years. His first narrative appearance was in another self produced show, this time for the Asheville NC Public Access station URTV, called Unrelenting Entertainment, in which he played a variety of roles. Nick has been featured in feature films that he has worked on in the Art Department as a stand in or a background actor such as Paul Leyden’s Come Back to Me(2014) where Nick stands in for Nathan Keyes in a few shots. Sarah Colangelo’s Little Accidents (2014) where Nick plays a background miner in a scene with Josh Lucas and Boyd Hollbrook.
John Lauterbach – (John)
John has been acting in his own and Nick’s productions for the past 10 years. “I got into acting out of necessity; when I would make a film I could always count on myself to show up – and I worked for free,” John was quoted in a recent issue of Lice Magazine. Through his professional work he found himself on the big screen last year in Leigh Janick’s Honeymoon(2014) as a “Dark Figure.”
Traci Gardner – (Carrie)
After graduating from Longwood University with a degree in biology, Traci realized that her true passion was acting. She has been featured as an extra on HBO’s Sex and the City as well as various films including Roland Emerich’s Independence Day. She is currently preparing for a roll in an original play at the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater.
Phill Koch – (Phil)
Phill became interested in acting through theater events which he participated in throughout high school. Besides several of Nick and John’s productions which he has acted in, Phill has been an extra in the Showtime’s Homeland and a short film he was in, Split Decision, won Best Film and Audience Choice award that year at the Asheville 48 Hour Film Festival. He served in the US Marines from 2007 until 2015.
Tab Merkel – (Carlos)
Tab joined the US Army in 2002 and saw action in Iraq during and around the elections, serving as a communications specialist with an infantry company. He was honorably discharged in 2008. He is currently studying to complete his BA in Drama from UNC Asheville. Tab has appeared as an extra on ABC’s Revolution and BET’s Being Mary Jane. He also produces theatrical retreats for Creative Crossroads.
Miles Rice – (Chris)
Miles Rice got his start in the entertainment world his junior year of high school. But it wasn’t until he got a best actor award in the 2007 48 Hour Film Festival and a full ride scholarship to Greensboro College for theater, that he really started taking it seriously. While at Greensboro College he focused his energy towards performance, voice and stage combat. Since 2007, Miles has worked at numerous theaters and on countless film projects. Currently, he is working on getting a featurette into production alongside a few other independent projects, as well as auditioning for many projects throughout the southeast.
Kai Schmoll – (Announcer)
Originally from Asheville, NC, Kai has been seen in several television productions including; Las Vegas, The Playbook, Chuck, Eleventh Hour, Life, House, and Drop Dead Diva. He has also been in two films; Kill The Messenger, A Walk In The Woods. He is the only actor in Androgynym with a SAG-AFTRA card.
Daniel Lefkowitz – (Singer)
Songwriter Daniel Lefkowitz has been writing and performing music for over 10 years. He had his start playing in punk bands and promoting shows as a teenager. His current band, Futur Primitif, is a collaborative project, using different artists as studio bands. The latest record Selfie will be released sometime in 2015.