By Richard Rosenthal
Bainbridge Island Review
Within the majestic forests of Bainbridge Island there lies a very dark secret. There is a tree in the woods that appears unremarkable upon casual glance, easily blending in with the thousands of other trees. However, this particular tree is unique in that it comes to life when certain words are spoken, and that awakening brings truly terrifying results.
That’s the premise of “Wood Witch,” a short film with deep connections to Bainbridge Island. The movie was produced by island resident Courtney G. Jones, actor Bradley Tatum is also a long-time islander, sound person Mickey McMullen lives here as well, and all of the forest scenes were shot right here on Bainbridge, with the Grand Forest trails and Gazzam Lake area being featured prominently throughout the film.
The film is Tatum’s first recorded work and he describes how the movie came to be.
“Myself and the three other principal actors had been in acting classes at Olympic College in Poulsbo,” Tatum said. “I was introduced to Courtney and I sent him my headshots and a letter of interest. I got a response, followed by a video interview which went well. That was followed by a meeting with the other actors and production crew where the concept and production was explained. Shooting began a few weeks after that.”
The initial scenes of the movie, which are shot and edited in video blog-type format, take place in Seattle. After showing the actors on the ferry crossing, the remainder of the film takes place on Bainbridge Island. The island is never actually mentioned by name, although background scenes shot inside the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum are a dead giveaway. When asked why the film was shot on Bainbridge, Jones laughs.
“Because I live here,” he said. “I’ve always used whatever locations I had. As a bonus, the island is one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest. As far as technology, this project was almost an experiment. It was done almost five years ago and we shot the film mostly on mobile. At that time, there were not a lot of feature films that were shot on mobile. We used two phones, a DSLR and a Sony Action Cam. Movies made on mobile, I believe, are the wave of the future. To put things in perspective, the dynamic range of the current iPhone is pretty close to what you would get on a RED camera or an Arri Alexa.”
The upside of modern recording and production techniques is that making a film is relatively easy. The kicker is that with so much content being made, getting noticed is a huge challenge. “Wood Witch” received a huge boost when it was recently picked up by Amazon Prime Video, a breakthrough that serves as many an independent filmmaker’s goal.
“The film was completed in 2016, and it sat for a long time. We just learned last week that it was picked up by Amazon Prime,” Tatum said. “All of the actors are amateurs, this was our first gig, and none of us really knew how the movie business works. During the long stretch of radio silence between completion of the film and a few days ago when we got the good news, we wondered if it was ever going to see the light of day, so this is really a dream come true for us.” In addition to acting in the movie, Tatum is a musician and contributed the soundtrack for the trailer. With the first taste of success in the hugely competitive entertainment industry, he adds enthusiastically, “I have been a huge horror movie fan my whole life, so the fact that my first movie I got to act in was a horror movie was really cool!”
The trailer for the “Wood Witch” can be viewed here at: youtu.be/lXBZT5p64zA