The Nothing is an independent horror film written & directed by Clayton Thompson.
Clayton Thompson, a recent college graduate, believes that the best art in the world is created in the darkest hours of those artists’ lives. Fueled by this thought, he decides to self-document the process of writing his first story. He films a series of interviews with his best friend and girlfriend ultimately leading to the explanation of his plan – to get dropped off in the unmarked North Georgia Mountains with camera equipment and minimal supplies. Left with no way to communicate with the outside world his sanity is tested as a seeming looming presence is near.
Check out the trailer + Q&A with Clayton below and watch the full film here.
Watch The Nothing now on Amazon Prime.
A Q&A with director Clayton Thompson
Rabbit: First off, congrats on The Nothing. It really is a standout horror movie. What was your inspiration when making the film?
Clayton: Oh, thanks! My inspiration at the time came out of the fact that it was six months after graduating with a film degree back in 2010, but having no leads to getting a job in the industry. At the time, I didn’t know a single person that worked in film and had yet to even have an interview. All that being said, I started to get a little desperate. I thought, if I couldn’t get a job in the film industry, I’d have to film something myself. With that thought, I wanted to do two things. 1) To create & write the most inexpensive story I could come up with. 2) Film it. I wrote the film in two weeks, filmed one day (having very little experience), and then received a call to work on The Walking Dead as a PA. So the project was put on hold. Five years later, once I’d made my connections and met some very talented filmmakers that wanted to be a part of the project, we set out to complete it. Needless to say, the whole project became a little meta, but I had no idea at the time.
Rabbit: What made you want to make a found-footage horror film? Are you a fan of the sub-genre?
Clayton: Well, as I was coming up with the story about the guy who was trying to come up with the story I naturally fell into the pseudo-documentary mind-set. I tried to imagine the story as a straightforward narrative, but once I started writing down some of the ideas and observations about loneliness it became apparent that the character of Clayton is trying to document the creative process. I am actually a big fan of found footage. For me, there’s something about the filming technique that just feels “real.” For example, when you watch The Blair Witch Project, it’s scary because the flashlights are illuminating the forest the way the forest actually looks at night. So many horror movies illuminate the woods with giant condors with 18ks. For me, it makes the visual less believable. I love camping, and I know what the woods are supposed to look like at night…And that’s why it’s scarier to me.
Rabbit: What are some of your favorite horror films? Did any of them inspire The Nothing?
Clayton: Session 9, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, The Taking of Deborah Logan, House of the Devil, The Blair Witch Project, The Conjuring, Paranormal Activity 3. Yes, I’d be lying if I said The Blair Witch Project didn’t inspire me. But what better place to come up with a story about isolation that’s on a budget? The woods! They’re naturally creepy and free to film in, haha.
Rabbit: How long did filming the woods scenes take? Any scary moments you had out there while filming at night?
Clayton: It took us four days to film all of the woods scenes, and it was a six-day shoot. We did have one real-life “jump scare” on the shoot. We were filming in the privately owned woods of a family so we had to enter a gate to head back to the campsite we’d built. As we parked to open the gate, there were two Giant Hogs that popped up out of nowhere and started chasing our actress, Katie. Everyone screamed! In retrospect, we probably looked ridiculous. If it were a movie, it definitely would have been a cheap jump scare. Besides that, the presence of spiders was always the biggest fear. I remember always feeling like I had to keep my feet moving so nothing could crawl up my leg.
Rabbit: Any standout scenes which were your favourite to film?
Clayton: Honestly, every interview scene with Hunter was a blast because we’d gone back and forth rehearsing those scenes the week’s prior. Then, when we were filming them, it just hit me that I was making a movie with some of my best friends. I also loved filming the “sprinting and stopping before hitting the spider-web” scene. That one was just fun. The cabin scene (being a one-shot) was an incredibly difficult scene to block considering I had different places the camera would have to end up while still making sense to the scene. But I was very proud of it once we finished.
Rabbit: The film is very believable, shot in a documentary style. What are some of the techniques you used to make it feel real?
Clayton: Regarding the forest scenes, I knew we didn’t want to use a lot of ‘film lights”, but after doing a “campfire” camera test, we knew just relying on the fire wasn’t going to illuminate the screen enough. We ended up introducing a 1,000-lumen lantern to the story and that helped out the shoot tremendously. In the editing, we introduced jump cuts and that helped us navigate pacing, whether it was for performance or for moments of walking around the woods with a camera that could be streamlined.
Rabbit: The storyline touches on social issues like insanity, depression and mental illness. What made you want to tackle these topics in a horror film?
Clayton: Well, to be honest, my focus in the beginning was on two things; creativity and isolation. Where I was at the time I wrote The Nothing was a “creative” that had a strong fascination with the importance of “relationships.” What’s the quickest way to rid yourself of relationships? Isolation. What in many cases inspires creativity? Desperation. It didn’t start with horror, but as the story came together, I realized it had to be. At the time, I was probably just writing down my own frustrations with how my life was turning out.
Rabbit: There are many times where I’ve felt like I’ve wanted to totally disconnect from all the busyness and noise and disappear in the secluded woods for a while. Have you felt that way before and how long do you think you’d actually be able to last?
Clayton: Haha, oh wow, that’s a fun question! This story has existed inside my head for about nine years now so I might be a little bias to “not want to do this.” There’s a fine line, because on one hand; I’m not easily bored, but on the other hand, I’m very fueled by the relationships I have. But to answer your question, if it came down to it, I bet I could last about ten days before starting to go a little crazy, but who knows. Can’t really be sure though, until you try!