In 2004, after a series of false starts on other projects, filmmaker Ross Bigley began production on the first feature length film from Dirty Job Films, DISEMBODIED. During February of that year Ross worked on the main story with fellow filmmaker Mariko Ujihisa who was locked in as the lead. Shooting began three weeks later with the film’s main purpose being to keep everything in small manageable sizes, the crew was just Ross and his Director of Photography, P. Ryan Nelsen, and there were no more than three actors being used in any given scene. It was treated as a short film, except that it had far more scenes and more shooting days scheduled. Just shooting on weekends and replacing actors and locations as those scenes checked off.
Shooting most Saturdays the production breezed through winter, but problems arose when Mariko had scheduling conflicts as she was trying to finish her film studies. We finally got the last of her scenes completed in September of that year, just before she moved back to her home in Japan. With shooting finally done Ross began editing the film, but changes and challenges, both personal and film related, were just around the corner.
Ross’s mother was diagnosed as having a terminal form of cancer and was told that she had only a 2% chance of making it through the holidays.
This while the film wasn’t working out. The scenes between the two leads were not as good as he had hoped.
Ross’s mother went through her chemo treatments, Christmas and New Years came and her doctors told her that the cancer was in remission.
Ross finished his cut of the film and screened it just after New Years, his opinions were confirmed. It did not work as well as he had hoped. Mariko’s scenes without John were good, as were John’s without Mariko’s but together there was little chemistry. And those were the last things shot with them. Too late to correct with Mariko back home in Japan. It was decided then that Ross would recast Mariko’s role, rewrite those pages and hopefully shoot before winter was over so coverage could match what was shot a year prior. But not only had he have to recast this film, he had to recast another as well.
Last summer as Ross was waiting on Mariko to conclude her commitment he began work on his second feature, SORE LOSERS. Everything was shot but for two scenes by August of that year. The lead actress of that film got sick, and then she dropped out in order to save money for a European trip. So Ross had two films shot at the same time and he had to replace both lead actresses. He thought that the best thing to do was find one actress to do both. Months passed and he could not find an ideal actress to do both, so he settled on finishing SORE LOSERS because he was going to lose a location if he didn’t shoot by April of 2005. With that out of the way he focused on finding the new lead for DISEMBODIED.
Unfortunately his mother’s health took another bad turn, the cancer moved to her brain. Doctors found a tumor. Because the chemo treatments were given via a port in her neck, the only place the cancer had to go was up. They found it early and operated, but because of all her body went through in such a short time it was a hard recovery.
In June he found his actress in the extraordinary Mary E. Morales. Production resumed. Ross got Michael T. Vollmann, another local filmmaker to assist him in getting everything done.
But by July his mother was back in the hospital. She contacted a virus and was told that she wouldn’t live through the night. His brother and sister came and they stayed with her, through that night and longer. She held on for a week. After her funeral Ross wanted to get back into the film to keep busy, he planned out that the whole reshoot might be done in one weekend.
David Overbeck offered his services as a cameraman to replace Ryan who left Milwaukee to attend film school in Boston. And in that first weekend of August they shot a total of 50 pages out of the 60 needed to complete the film. Due to some scheduling conflicts not all of it could get done, they did another few hours in September, but production was halted yet again.
On October 2nd of 2005 as Ross was crossing Brady Street he was struck by a car. It was a hit and run. He was confined to a bed the rest of the month. In November they managed to get another few hours when actor Robert W.C. Kennedy was free and with that Ross began editing this new version of DISEMBODIED. He worked on it through the holidays and produced a rough cut in February of 2006. It was much improved but still needed work, some scenes needed punching up and it was decided that there needed to be pick ups. Mary became free for a short time, so Michael T. Vollmann shot for a few hours one day while David Overbeck was vacationing in Japan. The film was pretty much set and Mary began work on the musical score through the summer of 2006.