Friday, June 11, 2021



"THE ARBORS" arrived on 26 march, 2021 on several streaming platforms backed by Gravita Ventures. The film follows the unsettling events that our lead character Ethan experiments after encouteres off "face to face" with a certain creature-aracnid monster type thing that strings a series of mysterious murders in the dreary small town he lives, all this happens while he wants to keep ties with his borther. Obviously there is much more in the story but you will find it out when you go and watch the movie, I know you people will. The film has received great reviews from various critics spectres and because of that and other things I'm sure that  this week's interviewee's name will resonate in the future: "CLAYTON WITMER". Believe me.

From canada to the big leagues, CLAYTON attended the UNCSA and with a group of talented friends from the school embarked in the journey of trying to make a feature film... In this talk he told us the vicissitudes he went through to get his dream work on the screen. 

So, come on and in... you won't regret it. there is plenty of info about how to get successfully an indie movie from ground until showcase it to the world... and very importantly, an indie worthy movie.

EFF: Hi! Clayton, thank you for letting me chat with you, really. Tell us where are your from and where does the filmmaking passion stem from?

CW: Hey! I grew up in British Columbia, Canada. My childhood love for film started from movies like Jurassic Park and Star Wars. I was always making “movies” with my friends and siblings growing up. In 8th grade I was fortunate to take a video production class which really furthered my filmmaking desire. I moved to North Carolina, USA in 2008 and attended UNCSA film school from 2012-2016. While in school I made several short films growing the team that would eventually make The Arbors.

EFF: Getting straight to subject, The Arbors is your directorial debut, you co-written alongside Chelsey Cummings. How was "The Arbors" project born? How does the story stem from? Why elaborate this story?

CW: The Arbors was made with a group of fellow filmmakers from UNCSA the summer after graduating. We had all made several short films together and wanted to make a feature before spreading out after school. The year leading up to graduating, I’d spent some time trying to come up with a story worth shooting. The actual story for “The Arbors” started with the simple idea of someone finding a mysterious small creature and things spiraling from there. Growing up in nature, catching bugs and reptiles, I was always intrigued by the idea of finding something supernatural. The rest of the script came together through many drafts and rewrites with Chelsey Cummings. Along with finding the creature, a lot of the elements in this story deal with childhood and struggling to grow up. I felt like this was a good point in my life to tell that story.
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EFF: Could you tell us what "The Arbors" is about?

CW: “The Arbors” is about a guy named Ethan Daunes. He’s someone who has passed the prime of his life without achieving anything worthwhile. He is now left in a mundane day to day routine, his past and childhood being his only positive memories. Everything building inside of Ethan is brought to the surface when he finds a strange small creature and forms a supernatural bond with it. The creature acting on and representing Ethan’s darker impulses soon grows out of control. Ethan wants things to go back to the way they used to be, focusing on repairing the strained relationship between him and his adult brother, Shane.

EFF: When the film was released and how people can watch it?

CW: We were fortunate to get North American distribution through Gravitas Ventures. “The Arbors” is now available to rent or buy through several online platforms (Amazon, itunes…). Our international release will be this summer.

EFF: When you read the film storyline, it says and I quote "Set against a dreary small town..."and you are able to feel that dreary small town and besides the choosing of sepia and dun colors emerge on you that feeling, and I felt the sad tone of the actors. Said all that, let me ask you how did you handle the casting.

CW: The main role of Ethan was written with the lead actor, Drew Matthews, in mind. He had starred in two of our previous short films while in film school and had become a part of the team. I had happened to see Ryan Davenport in a student short film while working on pre-production and reached out to him for the part of Shane Daunes. While some of the actors were cast through the regular audition process, Drew Matthews was also able to use his connections in the acting world to fill out many of the roles.

EFF: What scene was the hardest one to shoot and why?

CW: I don’t really have any specific scenes that stand out as particularly difficult. A lot of the difficulty in making this movie just came from the physical strain of production. Our crew was made up of around 12 people, and we shot the film over 25 long days and nights, with limited equipment and resources. Anytime we were out in the woods, crawling through a tunnel, or staying at the abandoned house was the most difficult. It was a challenge to overcome nature and still try to make something good on the day.

EFF: Being this a low budget film, what did you find out during the post production stage? I mean, what setbacks you found and how did you solve them out?

CW: The post-production process was every bit as challenging as the shoot itself, the only difference being we had more time, but less people to help. The biggest setback in post was trying to fill roles on our team that had not yet existed. Sound design and CGI were the main concerns, as well as the issue of going through the post process remotely. The editor, Jeremy Darnell, and I worked together on cutting the picture. However, since I was on the East coast, and most of my collaborators were on the West coast, all other parts of the process had to be done online.

EFF. What expectations do you have for this movie?

CW: When we first started talking about making “The Arbors,” the idea was to just make a film to prove that we could do it, and with very limited resources. Now that we’ve completed the process from pre-production to release, I feel that we have succeeded in that goal and I hope it will help with making the next film easier to produce.
Clayton Witmer and Chelsey Cummings

EFF: I read that  took you three years or a little more to get the film done, am I right? Tell us why you passed through this journey and what did you learn from it?

CW: We shot the film in the summer of 2016, and finally released it in spring of 2021, so it was definitely a long journey to get it completed. Having a small post-production team and budget meant that each element, like music, special effects, and sounds, had to be tackled one at a time. Going through this process, we added a lot of great collaborators to our team that I think will streamline post-production on the next film.

EFF: As an indie filmmaker and having lived this experience, what advice would you give to those indie filmmakers who are undecided about how to do their first feature?

CW: Even if it doesn’t take 5 years like “The Arbors” did, any feature film production is going to take a lot of time and effort to finish. To start, I would pick a subject that you’re interested in enough to live with for an extended time. When you’re coming up with your story, if you’re on a small to no-budget, you should build your story around things you have access to, like locations, actors, etc. that would set your film apart without costing you a lot of money and when you set out, just know that there will be many obstacles and circumstances that seem impossible to overcome, but you have to just keep your head down and keep moving forward.

"The Arbors"

EFF: What camera did you use and why?

CW: We used two different cameras for this project for practical reasons. We were very fortunate to have a mentor of our cinematographer (Ayinde Anderson) allow us to borrow a RED cinema camera (paying only for insurance). However we didn’t have enough lights to make the RED camera work for all of our exterior night scenes. To fix this, we also used a Sony A7s for the night exteriors as it performed really well in low light. The Sony A7s was also lent to the production by the lead actor, Drew Matthews.

EFF: Why shoot your first film in the horror genre?

CW: A lot of the story and character elements in the film deal with negative emotions like guilt, dread, and loneliness, so we wanted to represent that tone through sci-fi/horror visuals. So I don’t consider the movie to be straight horror, but a mix of thriller, sci-fi, drama, and horror.

EFF: What directors do you like? In addition, what horror films do you like the most and why?

CW: Being a filmmaker, I always find it hard to choose a favorite director. I will usually pick a director or genre and go through multiple films related to each other, especially when finding reference for a project. For example, some of the films that had influenced “The Arbors,” were The Shining, The Babadook, Under the Skin, Take Shelter, Enemy, and Prisoners.

Clayton Witmer and Ayinde Anderson (D.O.P)
BTS "The Arbors"

EFF: How have you lived this pandemic? Personally, Professionally...

CW: After spending 5 years making the movie, we were set to premiere at our first festival in March 2020. The week before the festival was when everything in America was shut down. So, “The Arbors,” was in a bit of a weird limbo. We took a little while to figure out how to move forward, eventually having a successful run in virtual film festivals. One strange effect of the pandemic is that I haven’t seen the film in a theater yet.

EFF: What new projects are you working on now, something you can anticipate us now?

CW: Our team has been working on a couple of scripts. They are somewhat in the same vein as “The Arbors,” having a mix of sci-fi, thriller, and horror elements. These next projects are more ambitious than “The Arbors,” and we’re excited to take them on moving forward.

EFF: If a producer gives you a chance to direct a horror film remake, what would it be and why?

CW: Very interesting. This is honestly something I have never thought of. I haven’t really thought of remaking any existing properties. My interests mainly lie in building something from the ground up. That said, I would probably choose something “malleable” that could be reworked in a new way. Maybe something like “The Blob,” where the horror element is simple, but unique.

EFF : Something you would like to say?

CW: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, and for checking out the film!


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