Death is a messy business. Especially when you’re the one dishing it out.

Co-written and co-directed with friend and fellow animator Nathan Wells, The Cleaners a stop motion homage to the aesthetic of 1970s crime films. We follow two assassins on the trail of a mysterious piece of evidence, one that could threaten to unravel their entire operation. All the while being tailed by a shadowy figure who shares an eerie interest in finding what they’re looking for.

Will the killers be able to evade this looming threat? Only if they can keep their tracks clean.

CREDITS

Directed, Written, Animated, and Edited by Nathan Wells & Zach Macias

Starring:

  • Zach Macias as Ernie

  • Nathan Wells as Bert

  • Joseph Hayden as Victim

  • Jay Silver as The Voice

BEHIND THE SCENES

For a more in-depth write up of the making of The Cleaners including exclusive set and production photos, head on over to the film’s page at the One Brick Studios website!

Nathan has also edited together a highlights reel of the original animation live stream to give you a condensed peek into the early stages of The Cleaners, including the original conceptualization and writing process, voice acting, and animation! Also, we make a bunch of Smash Mouth jokes.

Part 2 will cover the post-production process, from editing to VFX and the sound design. Coming soon…


MAKING OF THE CLEANERS

In 2016, Nathan and I challenged ourselves to create a film together in under 48 hours, and live stream its production on Twitch. We chose a weekend in March to do it, and let our streaming audience vote on the theme we would use. They selected “The Secrets We Keep.”

From that, we came up with our concept fairly quickly, two assassins who double as their own clean-up crew, and really liked it. By the end of the first day, we had our script, a full set of storyboards, voice acting, and were already well into animating, but we both knew the project was going to be too ambitious to do in one weekend. We hurried to get as much animation done as we could before I had to return home, and we scheduled another weekend for me to come back and to do more. I did make one more weekend trip up to animate as I could, and then left the rest to be finished by Nate.

In post-production, I was tasked with the rough edit and sound design while Nathan was to handle the VFX. However, by that point, the film fell into a bit of a development hell. Nate and I both worked full-time jobs that sapped away our free time and creative energy. We were very proud of the footage we got and agreed to take as much time as we needed to create the most polished version of the film possible, but the project went dormant for two years.

In late 2017, I got laid off from my job at Telltale Games, and the creative spark needed to finish the project was suddenly re-ignited. There was still a long way to go, but for the first time in a long time, there was light at the end of the tunnel. In many ways, the time away from the project was a benefit, now able to return to it with fresh eyes and new perspective. I was able to finally complete the sound mix, Nathan and I tackled the remaining visual effects together, and in late May of 2018, I rendered out the final completed cut of The Cleaners.

It was a long, often arduous process to get to the finish line, but Nathan and I were thrilled to finally complete what we set out to do, and couldn’t be prouder of the final product.