After seeing the indie horror film "It Follows" (2015), writer/director Mike J. Marin went home and wrote the first 30 pages of "The Smudging" script that night.
The film was shot over a six month period (May - November 2015). The building staff gave the film crew permission to use the facility after business hours on Friday nights and all day/night Saturday.
The building was the former site of the American Indian Center of Chicago and has a reputation in the community as being one of the most haunted buildings in the Uptown neighborhood.
To prepare the actors for the film, director Mike J. Marin had them each spend a minute alone in a pitch dark room on the building's fourth floor, where staff have reported several incidents of paranormal activity. The longest anyone stayed was 25 seconds.
The overall budget for the film was $3,500, half of which was donated on Gofundme. On a few occasions, the American Indian Center kitchen staff and community fed the cast and crew.
To prepare for some of the scenes involving traditional medicines, writer/director Mike J. Marin consulted cast member Vincent Romero on the usage of certain materials to ensure their accuracy.
Writer/director Mike J. Marin was the American Indian Center's youth program coordinator prior to becoming a filmmaker. Some of the material in the script came from experiences he had while working in the building.
Brothers/actors Sergio and Daniel Ontiveros ("Cash" and "Gomez") and actor Vincent Romero ("Robert Locke") are all military veterans. The Ontiveros brothers served in the USMC in Iraq and Vincent Romero in the USN.
Actor Justin Hough ("Det. Martinez") is an actual police officer and served as consultant when filming all the scenes involving law enforcement.
Originally in the script, the character of "Bad" was supposed to have a brother. But when the actor who was cast quit the project, it was subsequently changed to a sister and actor Sam Marin was cast. Ironically, she and writer/director Mike J. Marin share the same last name, worked at the same place, but are not related.
As storytelling is very sacred to Native American people, permission from a traditional Navajo elder was asked before the filmmakers would proceed with the project and its subject matter.
Sage was always on-hand on the set as the cast and crew would often smudge/cleanse themselves before and after filming to ensure their safety due to the film's subject matter.
Writer/director Mike J. Marin has stated that "The Legend of Boggy Creek" (1972) is one of his favorite scary movies and its faux documentary style is what inspired him to make "The Smudging".
200 people attended the debut screening at Chicago's Patio Theater on May 21, 2016.
Writer/director Mike J. Marin came up with the original idea and design of the 'sage grenade', the fictional Native American traditional 'weapon' used to fight darkness.
Most of the scares in the film were done without the actors knowing what was going to happen. Therefore, their reactions on screen are genuine and unscripted.
At the American Indian Film Festival (AIFF) screening in San Francisco, writer/director Mike J. Marin stepped out into the lobby during the screening to find several people who walked out due to the film being "too scary" and "too real".
Like his all-time favorite horror movie "Halloween" (1978), writer/director Mike J. Marin wanted to rely heavily on story, lighting, mood, and practical effects.
On her last night of shooting, actor Mila Soto-Hunter ("Little Ghost Girl") received huge applause, a dozen red roses and a poster signed by the principal cast.
The film is dedicated to the young nephew of writer/director Mike J. Marin, who tragically passed away prior to production.