|STATE OF EMERGENCY—Turner and John Will Clay with Clay Bros. Motion Pictures, formerly of Mt. Sterling, recently put out their first full-length feature film “State of Emergency.” Turner wrote, directed and edited the film, while John Will served as an executive producer. The brothers are pictured here on set in the Clay Tobacco Warehouse in Mt. Sterling filming a scene for the movie. The movie is available for purchase at Walmart or to rent at Redbox.
|Clay brothers release movie filmed here
|By Afton Fairchild Spencer
Advocate staff writer
Sometimes an individual can make such an influence on you that it changes your path in life. With former resident and Montgomery County High School student Turner Clay, that person was a teacher.
“I always knew that I wanted to do something creative, but it wasn’t until Kenn Johnson (my broadcast journalism teacher) introduced us to the creativity of film (that I got interested in the movie making business),” Turner said. “If it weren’t for him, I’d probably be doing something else right now.”
Turner was active in his high school broadcasting class, often coming up with new and inventive ideas for the school’s variety show program, “Smoke Signals.” After high school, he knew he wanted to pursue film further, so he decided to give film school a try.
“I always thought it was what you had to do if you wanted to be a filmmaker, but I was wrong,” Turner said. “All you need is motivation. Mine comes from the story that I’m trying to tell.”
Turner and his brother, John Will Clay, started Clay Bros. Motion Pictures and moved to California. While other aspiring filmmakers were attending school, Turner said the best learning experience he could have was his first attempt at a feature film, “Interception.”
“I decided to take a different approach by making a movie and setting myself up for mistakes,” he said. “ ... I consider it to be my ‘film school’ because I learned exactly what not to do.”
“Interception” was released in 2009. Several portions of it were filmed in Mt. Sterling, with local residents serving as many of the actors. John Will played the lead and helped with production, while Turner served as the movie’s producer, editor and writer.
Shortly after making this movie, Turner said he was ready to get back in the game, so he sat down to write his next movie. In the summer of 2010, he and a small production crew and cast got together to film the Clay brothers’ most recent film, “State of Emergency.”
“I would have to say that I’ve always been a fan of the idea behind zombies more so than the actual films themselves,” Turner said. “I think most zombie movies are stupid and predictable, simply because the idea is so unrealistic and not much new has been introduced to the genre. However, there were a few of these films that caught my eye and eventually inspired me to make my own.”
“State of Emergency” is just that, a zombie film with a similar feel to the likes of one of Turner’s favorite movies, “28 Days Later.”
“I think zombie movies are fascinating because deep down, I think fans of the genre kind of wish they were real,” Turner said. “I know I do sometimes. That’s what made State of Emergency somewhat easy to write. I just imagined myself in different zombie situations and simply asked myself what I would do next. That was a lot of fun because it made me feel like I was a kid again.”
“State of Emergency” is set in Montgomery County. A chemical facility explodes, releasing a deadly toxin. After the explosion, chaos ensues when the military quarantines the area, leaving those who are alive—and not so alive—trapped to fend for themselves.
The brothers had a limited budget for creating the film, which presents many obstacles along the way, Turner admitted. One of the ways they managed to keep the budget lower was to use their family owned tobacco warehouse as a centralized hub for filming. The atmosphere and availability made it a perfect spot for filming, Turner said. He recalls visiting the warehouse as a boy.
“Even at a young age, I was terrified of that place,” he said. “Mainly because it was dimly lit and made a lot of scary noises.”
The actors in the film took a big leap of faith when agreeing to work with the brothers on their venture, Turner admitted. Most of them traveled from Los Angeles, while others were from around Kentucky. Even the brothers’ mother played the role of a zombie in the film.
“Jay Hayden (the lead) and the rest of the cast have all my respect because they took a chance on us,” Turner said. “It’s harder than most people think asking somebody to give you 21 days of labor, especially when you’re getting paid with pizza.”
Hayden was an actor that Turner said he recognized from television. Upon accepting the role, the Clays went to fetch him at the Bluegrass Airport before they were scheduled to begin filming.
“Curiosity quickly got the best of Jay when he saw my brother pull up to the terminal in my fathers 1994 Ford Explorer,” Turner said. “In the car ride to Mt. Sterling, Jay couldn’t help asking how big the crew was for the movie. My brother turned to him and simply said, ‘We’re it.’
“Jay would later admit that he was a little nervous at first and had no idea what to expect,” Turner added.
Filming was a treacherous schedule. The crew worked from early in the morning until the next morning came on several occasions.
“I made a huge mistake scheduling the production in summer,” Turner said. “There was a thermometer tacked up on one of the walls inside the warehouse. We all thought it was broken when it said 110 degrees. It wasn’t broken at all.”
Making a film is a trying experience, Turner said. In addition to the heat, small budget, crew and other factors, you have to focus on getting the right shots and making things look great for the big screen.
“Losing your mind is a big side effect to making a movie,” he said. “Especially a movie that you care about. Multiple times, I would punch things on set and scream at the top of my lungs hoping it would all just end. I eventually stopped wearing sunglasses simply because I kept breaking them when I got frustrated. As much as I wanted to quit sometimes, I couldn’t because I knew I would be letting everybody down.”
After days of filming in the heat and at all hours of the day, the cast and crew called it a wrap. That left editing and post-production work in addition to marketing. It was a lot of work, he said, but after three years, a dream of Turner’s finally came true.
“We are both blown away at the success of ‘State of Emergency,’” he said. “I remember talking with my brother before production and saying how all I wanted was to get a movie into Walmart. Three years later, it sits on their shelf.”
“State of Emergency” is available at Walmart for purchase and Redbox locations for rent. The Clay brothers said they appreciate the community’s support and hope the public enjoys watching the movie.
“If you ever wanted to see a film that was shot in your hometown, you should check out ‘State of Emergency,’” Turner said. “If you’re looking for a fast paced gore movie, then it’s probably not the film for you.”
Right now, Turner and John Will are working on another feature film in Los Angeles about a meteorite that hits the city. Turner said he is already excited about the progress they’ve made. As for the brothers’ future, they don’t plan on getting out of the industry anytime soon.
“I hope we can do this forever,” Turner said.