Meeting the right actor lead this filmmaker to new heights.
On Christmas hiatus in Toronto while starring in a CW show In the Dark, Morgan Krantz was in line at a restaurant when he started conversation with a couple who were also in line. This turned out to be Blair Mckenzie, a professional window-washer from Scotland who had just emigrated to Toronto. Krantz was immediately struck with the beginnings of a project he could execute while his TV crew were on break. That became Squeegee, a hilarious and nearly silent-film sex comedy about a window washer and a CEO connecting through a fateful piece of glass. Watch the short and read our interview with director Morgan Krantz.
"There's a big risk being taken by both of them here, but would they be willing to take a risk with real intimacy?"
NFS: So just meeting the right person started this whole thing off?
Krantz: I'm afraid of heights, so the idea that you're going to risk your life for some asshole's office window is just crazy to me. But when I met Blair there was immediately something there. He's just a very cool dude, a straight up working class Scottish guy. Luckily I ran into him one more time in the neighborhood. In the back of the mind I wanted to make something during the Christmas hiatus and thought I could get the TV crew to help. And eventually I came up with the idea that you see here. So I called Blair, and told him about it and he was totally skeptical of this whole thing. He had zero interest in acting, had never acted.
NFS: What was your initial pitch to him?
Krantz: I didn't want to tell him over the phone, but I told him I had this idea for a little film I wanted to make with him. I'm sure he and his girlfriend were wondering what the hell I wanted from him. He finally came over, and the pitch is pretty much what you see. I told him you're having an affair with a woman inside the office but what it's really about is flings. In a fling sometimes you live in different cities, or there's an age difference, or you want different things in life. But when you're in a fling there's a kind of dead end to the relationship that you both know about. That actually kinda liberates me to really openly, wildly, vulnerably express affection. Where as if it's this endless horizon, that's when I get very nervous. So I'm very comforted by the finite nature of flings. This is probably a major flaw in my character or my relationship with intimacy, but it is what it is. So for me, the glass was about that.
I also find sex to be kind of ridiculous. I just thought through the glass was a great way to show just how completely stupid and fun sex is. The irony of the piece became that both of these characters are daredevils in their own way. Anyone that's washing windows are kind of thrill seeking guys. And she's taking a big risk doing this in her office. There's a big risk being taken by both of them here, but would they be willing to take a risk with real intimacy? What would happen if the glass was not separating them? There's also socio-economic obstacles, her being a CEO and him being a working guy. That was the gimmick. This projection they're doing onto each other.
NFS: The filmmaking itself requires risk too, how did you get that to all happen?
Krantz: The first thing I knew was that if I could get Blair onboard, but we could make it happen. It was terrifying to me. I kept asking myself, could I pull this off? I didn't feel comfortable risking this guy's life for this. I told Blair that I was scared and that no short film, no matter how great it could be, would be worth risking his life for. He came around and said "I'm not scared of the [stunt], I do that shit every day, I'm terrified too, but I'm scared of acting!" Then I realized we could help each other.
NFS: How do you get a building that will allow this to occur?
Krantz: Sometimes you just get lucky on these things. I got Blair involved and we asked the guy that owns the window washing company. The tricky part was finding the building that would allow this to happen. I had very limited friends in Toronto, but I had one friend, Greg Stuart, who is a businessman who EP's great movies on the side. So together we got his building to allow it for a very low fee. The lucky part was that the window washing company had their insurance for the window washer.
NFS: So you found your man on the street and it worked out. How did you cast the actress?
Krantz: I had seen Amy Rutherford play Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire at a big theater company in Toronto. I love that play and that character has always meant a lot to me. So I reached out to her through her agent. There was a lot of back and forth because the unions in Canada are actually super oppressive, they don't support indie productions in any way. Here in the US we have indie deals through SAG, but they don't have that. Eventually we got her and I was lucky to have Amy, because she's a very intellectual person and she challenged me to make the relationship more symbiotic.
"We bought glass frames from Ikea, put them on C-stands inside the room."
NFS: How did you develop the blocking and all the non-verbal action through the glass?
Krantz: I felt like there were so many traps to doing this. I had a treatment but I was getting scared about the treatment. I felt it could so easily become a bad SNL sketch. I thought it was a bit corny. But I was alone one night and I basically started to act it out by myself. What really unlocked it for me the song Bolero by [Maurice] Ravel. It's this classical song and it develops very slow. Once I realized that the eroticism should be very lurching like that, it started to click. Then we got the actors together and rehearsed and blocked the action. So they were dialed in by the time we were shooting. When we rehearsed I had Blair sitting on a ladder so he was up high.
NFS: How did you get your camera crew up there with the actor?
Krantz: Well that's a great compliment that you're asking that, because the camera wasn't actually outside the building for the reverse stuff. We bought glass frames from Ikea, put them on C-stands inside the room. Alan Kelley, the DP from In the Dark, was the clutch that brought it all together. We hadn't tested it, but we showed up on the day and hoped that it would work. I was prepared, if it didn't work, to cut it, but luckily it worked out great. Alan lit it very methodically to work like an exterior and then we had a fan blowing Blair's hair.
When [Blair] was outside the window, he was on a walkie talkie, which was important. In the wide shot I was trying to get him to jerk off harder and harder. His arms were getting fatigued. Some pedestrian below thought he was having a stroke. A lot of people were walking by under the dangling ropes. That was one of my favorite moments, being in the middle of a bustling downtown, and this image of this man up there on the tenth floor, small in the frame, masturbating was very exciting to me. It was that perfect confluence of research, preparedness and spontaneity.
NFS: How did you do the revolving door scene?
Krantz: The rotating door thing was totally stolen. My producer Jamie Rathbone He found that location while we were filming. After about 20 minutes a very intimidating security guard shows up and I had to lie through my teeth in front of the whole crew. Keep in mind, these are Canadian people, on some level they are not as accustomed to seeing someone be completely full of shit. I said it was my grandpa's 92nd birthday and that I was staging this little video because it was the story of how he met my grandmother. It was a crazy moment where I fully succeeded in conning this guy, and I look over to my crew and they were staring at me like: "So is everything you say just complete bullshit?" I really showed them the ruthless capitalist mercenary person in me. But we got it, so it worked out.