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‘The Janitor’ is a labor of fright for local aspiring filmmakers

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 9, 2019

Aspiring producers Shane Tyler, who lives in Athol, and Austin Meyers, who resides in Spokane Valley, released their short film, “The Janitor,” in August on YouTube, a movie that the two young men describe as “a passion project.”

The friends, who met in speech class while attending North Idaho College, filmed and produced “The Janitor,” which clocks in at 8 minutes and 46 seconds, entirely in Coeur d’Alene, Spokane and Spokane Valley via their production company, Project Prism.

Additionally, “The Janitor” was filmed by the duo, along with the help of a few friends, essentially from scratch, including the script, story and soundtrack, the latter all credit due to Meyers and his lifelong love for music (he has played piano since age 5, along with now guitar, saxophone and bass, and enjoys improvisation).

While the views for the short film on YouTube have been modest so far, “We see this as an absolute win for our debut film project that really came up as a fun idea that we decided to pursue,” Tyler, 25, said.

“And after 50-plus hours of intense editing and post-production, we were able to showcase this to the world on Aug. 11.” Part of the final-editing process included recording voice effects in Spokane.

In “The Janitor,” office employee Matt’s workday starts out normally while listening to a soap opera en route to work, only for his day to go off-kilter by a seemingly menacing janitor. But is everything what it seems to be?

Meyers, 26, a father of three girls (his third child was born a few weeks ago) and the director of marketing for two financial firms that he owns, made a strong impresssion on Tyler in the speech class. “Austin did a speech on chivalry, and he was very verbose and he acted it. He used an English accent and really gave it his all, and that impressed me.

“We just started talking and found out quickly that we had shared interests in speech and cars, and it just went from there. We have a lot of common interests. We’re nerds. We have the same belief system. We were fast friends. We just hit it off really quickly.”

Tyler and Meyers formed Project Prism to oversee their creative projects in a company that wasn’t so individualized. “We wanted a collaborative channel where we could work together on different content,” Tyler said. The name reflects their belief in different angles and perspectives in life and admitted that they came up with the name the night before releasing “The Janitor.”

“Project Pineapple was in our top five names,” Meyers said. “But we decided on Prism because it’s a mysterious object, and it is reflective of what we want to do moving forward. The takeaways from our projects can be seen in different lights.”

So how did “The Janitor” originate? “We’re creative individuals and have our individual niches and interests,” said Tyler, who works as a digital affiliate marketer and attends school. “I come from a background of video production and working with media, and Austin has played instruments for most of his life.”

“We’ve talked about working on a creative project for some time but could never find the right one. In June, we decided to do this suspense project. I had wanted to do a comedy, but Austin convinced me that it needed to be suspense.”

The filmmakers, who admire visionary directors like Christopher Nolan, say the budget was “at most $100” for the physical assets. “It truly was a shoe-string budget. The biggest expenditure was our time,” said Tyler.

Tyler wrote the script in two days, and the principle photography was a daylong shoot. The majority of the work, however, was in the planning and post-production, about 60 hours spread over weeks, they said. “We wanted this to be as purely original as possible,” Meyers said, and the two both see “The Janitor” as an experiment and a springboard.

Meyers, who admires the work of legendary film composers John Williams and Hans Zimmer, and Tyler overcame a few obstacles before releasing the short film, including recording voiceovers over poor audio in the filming process and an overnight final-edit schedule. “We stayed up for more than 14 consecutive hours in the final editing,” Tyler said to finish “The Janitor” for their self-imposed deadline.

The elevator for one of the scenes also was out of commission the day of filming, “But we improvised and made it work,” Meyers said. They said that the reaction to “The Janitor” has been overwhelmingly positive and people have been very encouraging and are asking for a sequel.

For “The Janitor,” Tyler served as director, screenwriter, editor and actor (Matt); Myers the original score and actor (The Janitor); Lexie Curson additional camera work and actor (The Painter); Michael Dwyer voice actor (Gerald); Kristin Killingsworth voice actor (Felicia); and Elizabeth Meyers, who is Austin’s wife, voice actor (Voice on Phone).

“ ‘The Janitor’ was born out of a love for wanting to try something different,” concluded Tyler. “We wanted a psychological suspense with a twist ending. We wanted to keep the audience guessing. And we’re really proud that everything about this short film is locally sourced.”

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