John Rangel & The Making of South Loop

What’s your background in film/video?

I earned an MFA in Film Production from Chapman University in 2003.  My thesis film, An Assignment, did pretty well on the festival circuit, winning some awards, and played on the Showtime and SiTV cable networks.

How did South Loop come about?

It was born out of frustration, to be honest.  After graduate school I was packaging a feature for $1 million.  We had a TV actress attached and she was great.  She exercised some of her resources to try and help get the project together but we could never put all the money together, even when we started dropping the budget.  She was attached for about four years before we very amicably parted ways.  After that I tried to get a few other, considerably smaller projects off the ground and nothing worked.  Finally, my friend Juan (our lead actor and my producing partner on south loop) called me up and said “hey, I have a little cash that I wouldn’t mind burning, let’s just go shoot something” (I was paraphrasing there, by the way).  Around that same time my wife sensed my frustration and told me to go shoot something, ANYTHING or she was afraid my head would explode.  That also meant she would allow me to use some of our money as well.

As I recall, you’re budget was pretty tiny.  How were you able to make this for so little money?

When it was becoming apparent that one of those smaller projects wouldn’t get financed I wrote a list of my resources – shit I could get for free.  I wrote a list of locations, actor friends, vehicles, musician friends and I also listed places in the city I knew I could guerrilla-shoot with little chance of getting busted.  Once I had the list the story began to emerge.  I had been closely following the news concerning the (then) oncoming recession as well as Chicago’s bid to host the Olympics.  And since I had a good friend in real estate that offered to let us use his home and workplace for free, it only made sense to go in that direction.

What was your biggest budget item?

Food and crew.  We spent about the same on each.  We paid a pittance to our crew.  There was no way to pay them more than we did but paying them nothing was not an option at all.  We still can’t believe the caliber of work we got for so little.  And considering how little they were paid we had better damn well fed them like kings and queens.  Our craft services were fantastic thanks to my terribly generous wife.  My wife delivered our second child (at that time), our daughter Zoe, on July 17th of that year.  We went into production two weeks later so that meant my wife would take care of two small children all day and night, then wake up ridiculously early to replenish our craft services.  And sometimes that meant running across the street to the store.  Did I mention how generous she is?

I have no idea what you shot this on, how did you decide on what equipment to use?

We shot this on the Sony Shoot-for-Free Cam.  That’s also known as the Sony Z1U.  It’s an HDV camera.  As a full-time faculty member at College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn, IL), I can use our department’s equipment when not in use by our students so that lead to me choosing the Z1U.  That’s also why we shot when we did (July-August 2008) because school was in between terms.

What was the toughest part about making this film?

Sound editing.  Hands down.  Finding a good sound editor/mixer to work for free (or very little pay) was really difficult.  So, we ended up losing a lot of time simply waiting for answers from people and the waiting was easily the hardest part.  In the end, I have to say I’m very happy Dave (David Rokos, our Sound Designer) took it on.  I think he did a great job considering our production audio offered some real challenges.  But he can’t bitch about it because he was also one of our location recordists!

What is your best advice to filmmakers who want to make an extremely low budget film?

Beyond the obvious (get as much free shit as possible) I would say surround yourself with people just as crazy and dedicated to THIS kind of film as you are.  With movies like this you tend to hire a lot of film students and the majority of them (and filmmakers in general) do not want to make little movies.  So, what you end up getting are a bunch of snide remarks or, even worse, pity for doing something this “small”.  Have big ideas that are cheap to shoot and you’ll dwarf the high-priced and small-minded fare that crowds theaters.  Build your small, personal army and you stand a better chance of making a great movie and having a good time while doing it.

Would you do it again?

I am.  Only I’m not paying for it this time.  I said my wife was generous, not insane.

When is the film going to be available and where can I buy it?

It is available now and you can buy it from my website: