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The following is a guest article by Frida marketing intern Kenzie Koch.
Last Thursday, writer and director Clay Tatum and co-writer Whitmer Thomas took to the Frida stage for a one night-only screening and Q&A for their new film The Civil Dead.
About 80 moviegoers came to watch the supernatural comedy, and it surely did not disappoint. The film was tense, suspenseful, and spooky, but surprised the audience with its quick-witted and eccentric comedy that made its presence felt throughout the entirety of the film. As with the rest of the attendees, I found myself laughing out loud from my seat several times during the night. The Civil Dead follows a photographer-turned-scammer who is struggling to find work, and on his wife’s advice, goes out to look for inspiration while she is away instead of dragging the mattress into the living room to watch TV (which he totally does). On his brief adventure outside, he runs into old friend Whit, whose persistent and neverending company forces Clay to rethink his own sanity.
The Civil Dead was distributed by the film production company, Utopia, which housed films such as Shiva Baby and Sharp Stick. The company specializes in taking a “filmmaker-first” approach, letting the creators explore their creativity to the fullest extent. This mission shines true in The Civil Dead, as I believe its authenticity is what makes the film so lovable. In fact, the film was not only appreciated by everyone in attendance at the screening: the spooky comedy also won an audience award in the Narrative Feature category at the Slamdance film festival in 2022.
As the film reached its hilarious yet surprisingly sinister end, the crowd buzzed in excitement as both Tatum and Thomas hopped on stage for the Q&A portion of the event. Thomas and Tatum’s natural dynamic is just as amusing off-screen as it is onscreen, making their discussion feel almost like a continuation of the film. Once the duo introduced themselves and expressed their excitement for the large turnout, the audience eagerly launched into their questions.
It seemed that the crowd was most curious about how the film was made (from how filming locations were chosen and how they were decorated), who made the bouncy yet suspenseful score, and what the motivations were when writing the characters. Thomas and Tatum answered every question with genuine interest as well as showcased their natural talent for entertaining the audience with their distinctive humor. As many members of the cast use their own names, the duo explained that The Civil Dead took inspiration from real people in their lives, which translated into the authenticity of the script. Tatum sang his praises for his on and off-screen wife, Whitney Weir, who was the set designer for the film. After discussing their troubles with finding music for the film’s trailer, Thomas revealed that they used music from his mother’s own band, Syn Twister.
The two best friends also drew attention to The Frida itself, expressing how it is one of their favorite theatres that they have visited so far while touring for the film. After taking time to answer as many questions that the night allowed, Tatum and Thomas stuck around afterward to talk to attendees, take pictures, and give their signatures. This one night-only screening definitely buzzed up some excitement for the future endeavors of Clay Tatum and Whitmer Thomas, and hopefully, the pair will come back someday to haunt The Frida once again