We love our short films especially finding great ones to share in our Sunday Scares section. Recently we were introduced to a short called, “Wither,” and really enjoyed it. We had no choice but to add it to our Sunday Scares section, but that wasn’t enough. We got the opportunity to talk with one of the film’s writers and directors Ethan Evans. Take a few minutes to find out what he said about where the idea for the film came from, working with the lead actress, getting the film seen at film festivals, and more…
-PH: Please start by telling us what “Wither” is about?
-Ethan: Wither is a supernatural folk-horror short set in a town acclaimed for honouring ancient folklore, about a young girl who finds herself vulnerable to a sinister mythological farmer after failing to contribute to the town’s annual berry picking tradition.
-PH: Where did the idea for the film come from?
-Ethan: I vividly remember Jess pitching the concept of the man in the orchard after she saw a creepy-looking orchard on her train journey home from Bristol – we were instantly off to the races throwing ideas back and forth. It was one of those ideal cases where a tone and atmosphere instantly materialised in my mind and we organically found the narrative very shortly after. I’ve always been captivated by ghost stories, folklore, and supernatural myths, so creating our own was such a joyous part of the process. We looked into British folklore and traditions but ended up creating our own.
-PH: Lamissah La-Shontae does an excellent job as Willow. How did she get involved in the film, and what was it like working with her?
-Ethan: Lamissah is one of the most talented actors, and always such a pleasure to work with. She had a very small role in my first two shorts – we always knew we wanted to have her play the lead in one of our films and this was the perfect opportunity. Her ability to convey so much emotion using just her eyes is amazing. Her family is always so supportive of us and we hope to work with her more in the future!
-PH: Talk a little about making that field creepy. It seemed perfect for what you did there.
-Ethan: We always fall into the trap of writing big ideas with no idea whether or not we can get access to the locations. Fortunately, our DOP (Robin) had grown up living minutes away from the eerie orchard you see in the film – it’s just as creepy in person! The entire orchard was huge, certainly something you could get lost in if you weren’t careful!
-PH: Speaking of creepy, you also seemed to get the most out of the evil farmer. Did you have other plans for him, or was that always the way you wanted him to come to life?
-Ethan: As the film is so short, it was important to set up an antagonist that the audience could fear from the beginning, while also making sure he was eerily ambiguous. Creating his look with no money was a challenge, but we had a lot of fun ruining charity shop clothes and using DIY arts & crafts to tweak a mask into something original – almost like our very own Michael Myers. I also knew the power sound would have in making him feel real, so I manipulated sounds of horses breathing and bones cracking to make him sound much more intimidating.
-PH: The song that’s used in the background, was that an original song, or something you found to fit the story?
-Ethan: From the very moment Jess pitched me the idea of setting a film in an orchard, before we even had a full story, I envisioned the children singing an unsettling song. We wrote the lyrics together, which we included in the script as a way of hinting at the sinister farmer’s origin. From there, I spent a few days playing around with melodies and wrote a rough score, which we then sent out to a children’s music academy to have the vocals recorded. It’s actually one of the things I’m most proud of in the short!
-PH: What were some of the biggest challenges you had in filming?
-Ethan: As we didn’t really have a budget, it was quite the challenge figuring out how we could pull off the idea with no money. I have lots of memories of equipment breaking or not working that still haunt me! We also shot in the middle of winter, so only had a few hours of sunlight to get all of our shots, which we only just managed!
-PH: What has it been like to see the film accepted at so many film festivals, and win some awards?
-Ethan: It’s truly been amazing – I’m forever thankful for all the festivals that welcomed us into their line-ups. Wither was such a small, self-funded project, so we had no expectations and had no idea what the response would be. I still remember waking up to the news we had been accepted into FrightFest, which I still can’t believe! Winning Best Horror Film at the Cardiff International Film Festival was also a genuine surprise! My biggest piece of advice to every filmmaker is to keep making shorts with literally whatever you have (even if that means creatively finding a way to make one with no money), as that’s what’s brought me the majority of opportunities so far.
-PH: Here’s your chance to promote anything we haven’t talked about. Let us know something more about the film, your other films, where people can find you, or anything else you would like to mention.
-Ethan: First and foremost, thanks for having us! We’ve just released our latest short online about the incredibly scary ‘Time Out’ dolls, which have to be one of the creepiest things to ever exist! In 2018, Jess (@jessbfilm) and I founded our production company, Terror Arcade (@terrorarcade), which we’re continuing to make shorts under as we gear up to make our first feature. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been busy writing a bunch of ideas that we’re aiming to bring to life in the near future!
We would like to thank Ethan for taking the time to answer our questions, and Jess for helping arrange the interview. We’re really excited to have their film in our Sunday Scares section, and we hope this interview convinces you to watch it. You can find it right HERE!