On Halloween, it was announced that married writer/director team Micheline Pitt and R.H. Norman would be combining forces, along with legendary creature effects artist Kevin Yagher, to bring a short film and book project, titled GRUMMY, to life.
GRUMMY is a heartbreaking tale of abuse seen through the eyes of a young girl and her stuffed creature, Grummy, who opens her eyes to a whole new, beautiful world. The short is inspired by the abuse that Micheline Pitt endured during her own childhood and the multiple ways in which she used her imagination to escape the horrors that she faced.
With a little less than 2 weeks left in their Kickstarter, I had the chance to speak with both Micheline and R.H. where we discussed the importance of GRUMMY, working together as a team, and how monsters can save lives.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What was the “ah ha” moment that turned into GRUMMY? Is he named after someone?
Micheline Pitt: It really just happened. As my husband, R.H., and I were working through the script he said the monster should grumble, and I remember saying, that's it. We should call him Grummy, which sounds like a name a small child would give their toy, and feels appropriate for who he is.
Nightmarish Conjurings: You have some huge, and amazing, names involved in GRUMMY. Were there any challenges to getting them involved?
MP: We met Kevin Yagher a little over a year ago thanks to one of our dearest friends, Rob Imbriani, who is also a massive fan and collector of Kevin's work. When we met Kevin we all just hit it off. Kevin and his lovely wife, Catherine Hicks, quickly became friends of ours. They attended a screening of my husband's film, Hajji, and Kevin was impressed enough to offer to work with him on his next project. As our producer and effects designer, Kevin is the heart of the film. He's a genuine legend and it's an honor to have him create his first original creature in years for our project. Our other producer, Gary Deocampo, is also a dear friend of ours and is bringing some of the greatest artists and crew in the industry to our project. We owe so much of our talent to him and his network of fantastically talented friends. One of our lead actors, Tom Degnan, happens to be married to one of my best friends, the brilliant actress Erin Cummings. Tom auditioned with R.H. for a different project but it didn't work out due to scheduling. Tom was so fantastic during that audition that he was our first and only choice for GRUMMY. When it comes to getting people involved, it all came down to the script moving them. Thankfully, we've received a "yes" from everyone we've approached. Hopefully that will continue to be the case!
Nightmarish Conjurings: You’re telling your story with GRUMMY, but the truth is, you’re telling the story of a lot of us. When I first watched the video for Kickstarter I heard you describe my early years, it hit me pretty hard. How important is it for you to make this happen?
MP: The amount of people who relate to the subject matter adds so much pressure and importance to the project. That's the most heartbreaking thought in all of this: if we don't reach our goal, I feel we'll be failing everyone who has poured their hearts out to me in private messages over the last few weeks. For me, this project is about catharsis and expressing my childhood as I experienced it. But I also want this project to be a beacon of light in the dark for people still suffering, or possibly others know that they are not alone, and in turn will find help.
Nightmarish Conjurings: GRUMMY isn’t your first project together. How was the experience of working together on a project this personal; did it help or hinder the process?
MP: I have produced two of my husband's past projects, Hajji and Gusano, but neither of those stories was based on our personal experiences. With GRUMMY, he decided to involve me as a co-director and writer given how personal the story was to me. Working with significant others always poses its own special challenges, but the intimacy of our relationship also provides a truly liberating and safe working working environment. He knows more about my past and inner life than anyone else, which makes the subject matter less of a challenge to address as a collaborative work. This intimacy helped us to process these difficult moments and hopefully create a story that is as beautiful as it is horrific.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Micheline, you’ve laid yourself bare this past year, first with your work with RAINN, and now GRUMMY; I’m sure it’s taken a toll on every aspect of your life. Will you continue to branch out with more projects like GRUMMY?
MP: It is a delicate balance when one lays oneself out bare, almost naked. It's nothing short of terrifying in some ways. I've had some really rough days after launching the RAINN campaign for Vixen. As is often the case in our online world, people from my past chose to take it as an opportunity to attack me and mock my abuse in public, leading others to pile on. This probably took the heaviest toll on my life, but my husband was there every step of the way to support me. As hard as the negatives were for me, the amount of people who were helped by our campaign makes it all worth it. I would gladly go through all that ugliness if it helps someone maybe not harm themselves. The next step is to continue processing my experiences through art with GRUMMY. I hope this will be the beginning of us taking on challenging material and being a voice for the voiceless.
Nightmarish Conjurings: R.H., you’ve worked with some fairly brutal subject matter and GRUMMY continues in that vein, but with a softer touch and a different audience in mind. Do you foresee more fairytales in your future?
R.H. Norman: I've made films about communist political prisons, Afghanistan War crimes, and Deep South racism, and yet GRUMMY is probably the heaviest, and certainly the most sensitive, project I've worked on. I firmly believe that genre, fairy tales, and fables can be vessels for deeper, more universal truths than is afforded by historical or reality-based drama. Symbolism also not only invites, but demands, striking visuals. The challenge of balancing delicate subject matter with genre conventions while building a rich and believable visual world touches upon everything I love about cinema. I certainly foresee myself working in fantasy and horror moving forward, including a feature adaption of GRUMMY.
Nightmarish Conjurings: If the goal is met, what is your timeline for GRUMMY? When can we expect to be able to see this little monster and where? Are you going to seek distribution of hard copies or just digital? What if the goal isn’t met? I know you won’t stop, but where does GRUMMY go from there?
MP: We only have two more weeks to raise the remaining 50% of our goal! It's scary to say that out loud, but we made the other half in the same timeframe. Our Kickstarter closes at the end of November, with the funds being released in December. We'll immediately begin working with Kevin Yagher to finalize the creature design, while continuing to work with our art department to build out and develop our sets. If all goes as planned, we hope to start filming in early February on a soundstage in LA. There is much more to our little monster than what's been revealed and we hope to unveil it at a special event following production. We already have distribution deals in the works, including potential international blu-ray releases, but will likely focus on digital in the U.S. with the ultimate goal of a feature film adaptation.
We're determined to hit the goal. We're putting all of ourselves into this project and don't consider failure an option. As such, we haven't put much thought into what we'll do if the goal isn't met. One option is to use our own funds to make the children's book and then use the profits from that to fund the film. Ultimately, we believe that this project, as ambitious as it is, is too important to not happen. With all the talk about women in genre film right now, and the general weariness with remakes and reboots, we're hoping that film and genre fans are ready to rally around a female artist with a truly original story to tell.
For more information and to donate to the Kickstarter, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/grummy/grummy.