WINDOM - Crime, drama, local talent and Windom-area landmarks will all be featured in a young local filmmaker's newest feature-film, “Cottonwood.”
Ethan Clerc, a 2016 Windom Area High School graduate, recently released the trailer to his fourth feature film, which is set to premiere Jan. 6 at the Business Arts and Recreation Center in Windom.
“It’s about a detective who gets in an accident and forgets everything and he can’t solve the murders he’s working with,” said the 20-year-old filmmaker.
The agency pairs the older detective with a younger one in order to help bring back his memory and solve the crime.
“I had the perfect actors for it,” Clerc added.
The film stars 2015 WAHS graduate Kyle Antes as the young detective and Windom area community member Greg Lunn as the older sleuth. The film also features other area faces, including several of Clerc’s family, friends, former teachers and community members who supported the film by being scene extras.
The film, which was mostly shot in and around Windom and Mankato, gets its name from Lake Cottonwood, Clerc said. However, Cottonwood is to be understood as the city of Windom, he added.
“There is actually a Cottonwood in Minnesota, but Windom is Cottonwood,” he said.
The sophomore at Columbia College in Chicago got the idea for his latest film a year ago.
He got busy with the script and fundraised in March. Filming, which was only intended to take place in June, lasted the entire summer, and a couple of the final scenes wrapped a couple weeks ago.
The extended filming period was fine, though, as Clerc got to spend the entire summer doing what he loves alongside longtime friend Dalton Bristow. A 2017 WAHS graduate, Bristow served as the film’s assistant director.
A current Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus freshman, Bristow said it was fun to be a part of Clerc’s newest project.
“It helps to have a second opinion and helps the film build its character,” Bristow said about his role with the movie.
Clerc said he was confident that Bristow, who has helped with other short films he’s completed, could take on the assistant director role.
“He definitely has an eye for detail for anything that I missed,” Clerc said. “He’s also good with technical equipment.”
That was helpful, as “Cottonwood” was produced using better quality equipment than Clerc’s previous three.
Clerc’s first film, “Mousetrap,” had a budget of $650. For “Cottonwood,” Clerc has been able to raise $6,200, which he said has allowed him, for the first time, to purchase better quality audio and lighting equipment.
Despite the equipment upgrades, Clerc and other crew member did not eliminate the use of innovations they’ve developed over the last three low-budget films.
Clerc, with the help of his father, Rick Clerc, created a car mount, which can cost $20,000, using wood and string for $50.
Clerc and Bristow were also impressed with the blood pump they created using a fertilizer pump. Clerc’s younger brother Collin Clerc, a senior at WAHS, was also fundamental to the completion of the latest film.
Clerc’s interest in filmmaking began in 2010, when he and his friends filmed what he described as “short, dumb YouTube videos” that gained some popularity. In 2013, he decided that he wanted to fundraise and make his first low-budget film, which was “Mousetrap.”
“I fell in love with it,” he said.
“Mousetrap 2” and “Sundog” have also hit the BARC screen, and are also available to rent or buy through Amazon.
Clerc has big dreams beyond “Cottonwood,” as he hopes to bring actors and actresses to Minnesota and create films in his home state.
“There’s so many cities in Minnesota that are great and so many stories to tell that haven’t been told,” he said. “It’s kind of a risky thing to not go the traditional route, but I have thought about it a lot and this is what I want to do. It’s a hard route - but I’m ready for it.”
Clerc said a major step toward making that dream a reality is for Windom-area community members to show support and come out to the Jan. 6 premiere.
“The support helps keep that goal alive,” he said. “Windom has helped me out time and time again. I can’t thank them enough.”
Clerc said he’s a little anxious to screen the film he’s been working so hard on, which will then be open to criticism.
“It’s hard to show everything you've put so much work into - but you have to open up and let others see what you’ve done,” he said. “Whether good or bad (feedback), that helps me determine what I’ll do for the next one.”
The big reveal is also the moment that reinforces his love for filmmaking.
“It’s the best feeling in the world when your movie is playing on the big screen for however many people that come and watch it,” he said. “I remember that feeling for the first one, and I knew that I have got to keep doing this for the rest of my life.”
The approximately one hour, 40-minute film is set to begin rolling at 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the BARC or at the door.
All proceeds from the premiere will be used to help gain exposure through film festivals, Clerc said.
The trailer, and other film details, to “Cottonwood” can be found at https://16eclerc.wixsite.com/cottonwoodfilm.