For the release of Jon Knautz horror film THE CLEANING LADY, about a love-addicted woman who befriends a disfigured cleaning lady, I had the opportunity to chat with Executive Producer Jim Nelson. During our chat, we discussed everything from the challenges of getting an independent film off the ground to the use of practical effects.
Thank you so much for speaking with me today. To start things off can you talk a little bit about the film, THE CLEANING LADY?
Jim Nelson: This film is about obsession. Alice, a beautiful woman, is in love with a married man. She continually tries to end the relationship and befriends her cleaning lady, Shelly, to fill the void. Shelly is scarred both physically and mentally from abuse as a child caused by her mother. She craves the life Alice leads and becomes obsessed with forcing her to lead a perfect life. The twisted friendship spirals out of control when Shelly decides to “cleanse” Alice’s life and will stop at nothing until she is satisfied.
What was it about the film that interested you and made you want to be involved?
Jim Nelson: I’m an avid reader and have numerous scripts written by Alexis and Jon. I sat down to read THE CLEANING LADY and didn’t get up until I was finished. It grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. I called them the next day and said, “We have to make this film.”
What were some of the challenges you faced in getting THE CLEANING LADY off the ground?
Jim Nelson: As you know, this is an independent project. We didn’t have the power and money of a big studio behind us. Alexis, Jon and I all had to wear several hats to get this project made. The biggest challenge was getting the shoot done in 30 days. Alexis and Jon had the schedule mapped out with very little cushion for delays. And of course, there were some delays. But the crew was terrific, worked overtime and nights, and somehow we got all the shots we needed.
One of my favorite aspects of the film was the use of practical effects over CGI. Was this something that was a collaborative decision?
Jim Nelson: I’m so glad you picked up on that. No CGI, no animation, no explosions. This movie has a lot of heart and soul. Actors pouring their hearts out, doing what they love to do. This was intentional and it is what we wanted.
Actors can make or break a film and in the case of THE CLEANING LADY, they succeeded in bringing the story to life in a terrifying way. What was the casting process like?
Jim Nelson: Alexis decided she would bring Alice to life and we had worked with Elizabeth Sandy before so those roles were cast early. We hired a casting director to help us cast the other roles and we found gold. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, and it sounds corny, but the moment we met Rachel Alig we knew she was The Cleaning Lady. And Stelio Savante is an accomplished busy actor who agreed to squeeze us into his schedule because he loved the script.
We were also fortunate to find JoAnne McGrath who plays the mother of young Shelly in the flashback scenes. She did an amazing job portraying an evil horrible person. You will hate her!
Lastly, are there any additional projects you are working on in the future that we should be keeping our eyes out for?
Jim Nelson: I’m currently producing a docuseries about the McStay family murders. The trial is taking place in San Bernardino as we speak. The judge has given us (and only us) permission to have two cameras in the courtroom to document the trial. Just google McStay family murders and you will be inundated with information.
THE CLEANING LADY is now available On Demand, Digital HD, and DVD and you can read our review HERE.