When Diane Crespo, who directed the 2007 indie friendship film "Arranged," received the script for "Clutter," she was enthralled. "When you have a production company, you get a lot of scripts," Crespo told Indiewire. "You get three pages into a script, and you know how you feel about it. In this case, I got to page 23, and I realized I wasn't judging it, I was reading it, enjoying it.
"It is a dark comedy with a rhythmic way of working with dialogue. It seemed very natuarl to me. I liked the three women in this family. And I liked the idea of doing something about a hoarder. Other than the TLC show, I haven't seen anything like it."
"Clutter" stars Joshua Leonard ("Humpday," "The Blair Witch Project") as Charlie, an artist who is trying to keep himself away from the hectic home life he was raised in. After a water stain on his mother's garage door is interpreted as a holy apparition of the Virgin Mary, the house gets inundated with pilgrims hoping to catch a glimpse of the garage door Madonna. Christian tourists aren't the only one who takes notice of Charlie's childhood home, though; the county health department does, too. Charlie's mother, Linda, played by Carol Kane ("Annie Hall," "Taxi"), is a hoarder and has created what the authorities deem an unhealthy living environment.
Charlie must head home to help his mother, his sister Lisa (Natasha Lyonne), who never left home after suffering injuries from a car accident, and his younger sister Penny (Halley Feiffer), clean up the house before it gets condemned.
Crespo was introduced to the script by a mutual friend of the screenwriter, Paul Marcarelli, who runs the production company Table Ten Films with Molly Pearson. Marcarelli is best known as the "Can you hear me now?" guy from the Verizon commercials. He's also the writer of last year's "The Green," which stars Jason Butler Harner and Cheyenne Jackson as a couple pulled apart by a small-town scandal and is now available on VOD from Film Buff.
A few days after meeting Crespo, Marcarelli and Pearson emailed Crespo to accept the job, and the team got to work casting. "When the three of us got together to work on the project and finesse the script," Crespo explained, "we'd say things like 'This would b a perfect role for Natasha Lyonne.'
"Somewhere along the line, someone had the great idea of hiring Carole Kane. It was so clear that she should be the person in the film as that mother, and it became 'How do we get her?' And we did!
"Josh fits really well in between these really strong women. It's Charlie's story. He's a bit of a caretaker, an enabler, and a little overwhelmed by his circumstances. Once we decided on the cast, it all seemed so perfect."
Crespo told Indiewire how smooth the transition into production has been. "It's just amazing to meet people who are a writer and a producer. Everyone seems to want to direct. We're so old-fashioned. We're doing a film as a collaborative artform. We're in the world of the writer-director-actor-producer. I do believe that film is at its best when the people who are doing their jobs enjoy what they're doing.
"It's pretty effortless. I won't say that there weren't times that Paul and I haven't agreed on something, but it's refreshing to really respect the people you work for. I respect Paul as a writer and Molly as a producer."
Crespo is currently shooting in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood, wrapping in mid-April, with an eye on early 2012 film festivals.
Director: Diane Crespo
Writer: Paul Marcarelli
Producers: Paul Marcarelli, Molly Pearson, Fulcrum Media Group
Executive Producers: Ward Sparacio, Gregory Rae
Cast: Joshua Leonard, Carol Kane, Natasha Lyonne, Halley Feiffer, Maria Dizzia, Daniel London, Dan Hedaya, Kathy Najimi