GUTTERBUG • Looking for Affirmation in Lives Led Over the Edge

    icon Sep 19, 2019
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GUTTERBUG tells the story of Steven ‘Bug’ Bugsby - a soulful, homeless crust punk living intermittently in Ringer Park as he grapples with the realities of homelessness, mental health, hustling drugs of dubious origins, catching punk shows in various underground venues,  and toxic friendships. On his 21st birthday he resolves to find his way home; a decision that leads him and his misfit crew down a dangerous path.

His primary points of contact are his speed-freak best friend Slim, skeezy weekend-punk drug dealer Raleigh, and his girlfriend, the tough, sensitive Jenny, along with the various lost souls who shamble in and out of his life (and their own).

Like most folks in similar circumstances, Bug’s story is a sad one; a smart but disaffected youth, he stormed out of his comfortable suburban home on his eighteenth birthday and never looked back. Realizing while bumming smokes at the 7-11 on Comm Ave that he’s just turned twenty-one, Bug gets a sudden bout of homesickness, and realizes that, more than anything, he needs to reconnect with the life he left behind – by any means necessary. Unfortunately, we know from the framing story, in which Bug is pulled from a bloody car crash and wakes up handcuffed to a hospital bed, that his plan goes off the rails somewhere along the line.

From the moment Bug is revived and the story hurtles into its extended flashback, Gutterbug dives into its characters’ lives with an electric intensity, like a Trainspotting for the basement show set. Its characters follow circadian junkie rhythms, alternately yakking a mile a minute and nodding off while leaning against some piece of public property (frequently tombstones, in a handy bit of visual punnery).

Bug and his friends perpetually hover somewhere around rock bottom, blatantly self-destructive, and eventually simply destructive. Yet you also can’t help but root for them due largely to the inherent humanity that runs through the film.  This is no edgy black drug comedy, but rather an achingly melancholic look at life on the margins of society. Even if you don’t know these people, you’ve seen them around, and perhaps tried to look past them.

For co-writer and director Andrew Gibson, the idea for Gutterbug developed out of the fact that he directs mainly rock ‘n roll music videos. “Gutterbug is the first feature film I have directed,” he explains. “It was inspired by my time living in Allston, Massachusetts. At the time, I was going to a lot of underground punk rock shows and seeing homeless "crust punks" around town begging for change in front of coffee shops and liquor stores, and then later that same night I would see them at parties and rock shows, so that was intriguing to me and I began getting interested in that vagabond/street punk lifestyle.”

“From there, myself and my co-writer Chris Tobin began writing a fictional narrative about one of these kids, and we brought the script to our executive producer Mike List who gave us the green light and pushed the project into production.”

Seeing as Gutterbug deals with many contemporary realities of homelessness, mental health, drug use, and toxic friendships, what were some of Gibson’s creative objectives with his debut into feature filmmaking?

“Well above all, we wanted it to be entertaining,” he responds.  “We wanted to take the viewer on a roller coaster ride with our main character Bug, so we tried to have really high moments and really low moments but never really slow down. It’s a micro budget indie but we didn't want to do a "rumble core" type thing, so we tried to be aggressive and in your face with the soundtrack and the editing to keep the audience on their toes and never let them get too comfortable. There's a fair amount of drug use in the film and we tried to shoot those scenes in a way that reflected what Bug was feeling or thinking.” 

Gibson says the most challenging component of creating Gutterbug was to get through the edit and stay motivated. “You end up spending a lot of time along and it can be pretty exhausting while editing,” he reflects. “I definitely lost touch with some friends and stuff and felt a little disconnected for a bit. It took me about a year and I was editing this film in my apartment in Allston and my computer was right next to my bed, so it was tough to get away from it and hard to sleep at night.”

When asked about the influences that have informed and inspired his work and what he feels distinguishes this new film and makes it a unique experience for audiences, Gibson notes how he and his co-writing partner Chris Tobin were watching a ton of independent movies from the ‘90s on VHS tapes at the time they were writing it.  “We were definitely inspired by those types of films. Plus, our cinematographer T. Acton Fitzgerald did a great job of shooting it like a ‘90s film with the zoom shots and the grain. We were also inspired by more modern stuff like Harmony Korine and Gaspar Noe’s movies, and the Safdie Brothers as well.”

“I guess the only other thing I would add is that our main actor, Andrew Yackel, did an outstanding job.  We found him on an internet casting website and never met him in person until a few days before we began filming. He showed up at my house and stayed in my bedroom for about a month and i slept on the couch! He surprised us all with his dedication to the project and he had clearly done a lot of work ahead of time studying the script because he nailed almost every scene on the first or second take which allowed us to shoot the whole movie in the tight 17-day schedule we had planned. He is destined to be a star that is for sure.”

What Gutterbug does is force you to confront the fact that these are real people: sad, lonely kids doing their best to have a good time in the face of near-oblivion. The more you get to know Bug, the more you want to see him get his life back on track – and the less likely that seems.

Of course, every high has its comedown. As Gutterbug unspools and its flashes back and forward become more detailed, a curious thing happens: it starts to look less like a gritty crime drama and more like an intimate portrait of a family torn apart. Despite literally wallowing in the gutter, Gutterbug  is  ultimately surprisingly life-affirming.

With his eye for location and love of his characters, Gibson makes Allston look something close to beautiful – which is, in itself, something very close to movie magic.

Gutterbug will be screened on Friday, September 27th at 4:00 PM in Delta College Planetarium and on Sunday, September 29 at 5:00 PM in Bay County Historical Museum. For tickets and more info please visit





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