Imagine co founding a production company, creating three short films and finishing up on the post production details on your first feature. These are endeavors usually only dreamed about with most folks, let alone successfully and passionately completing. What is even more incredibly impressive about all this, is that Mr. Tristan Clay is only 20 years of age and this is his life. Talk about a parents wet dream. When I was 20 I was taking gravity bong hits out of my apartment’s bathtub, but I digress. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Clay over the phone to discuss his filmmaking origins, how our beloved genre helped him flourish in life, and various other topics.
Tristan’s first feature, entitled Red Eye, had a successful IndieGoGo campaign, with great perks for its contributors (soon to be distributed). Taking all parts of the production seriously, Clay enlisted the talents of artist Joel Robinson to produce the film’s somewhat iconic movie poster. Not bad for a debut feature, the first full length release for Deranged Minds Entertainment, the production company he co-founded with co-writer, producer, and actress Destinie Orndoff (watch out genre actresses, the girl has got some lungs on her! ).
Clay and Orndoff met through a mutual admiration of twin filmmakers, Jen and Sylvia Soska and immediately hit it off, eventually leading up to become a very driven and focused team. So in May of 2015, Deranged Minds Entertainment was established and with this effort, Clay’s third short but the first offering for his and Orndoff’s production company, SIN was created. “It’s my love letter to the Bible belt” cheerfully chuckles the young man. (Well damn! Tell us how you really feel!) It’s an uneasy little tale of religious fanaticism gone very awry. SIN is both graphic and gloriously dark in nature and a great calling card for the production team of Clay and Orndoff.
Before these exploits though, Tristan was a target for ridicule and bullying in small town Kentucky. Despite the Norman Rockwell picturesque facade of his hometown, (something he utilizes amazingly well in his shorts) Clay was very much unhappy. I ask his permission if we can dive deeper into these painful instances. A slight pause and minute sigh come from his end of the phone followed by a confident “yes”. I’m pleased with this, because I always enjoy learning how people grew up, especially if they are fellow genre geeks. I was safe to assume he grew up in a devoutly religious household, as the baby with three older siblings. Tristan speaks fondly of his family so it’s evident his issues growing up were not at home. In a very honest revelation he admits “puberty came kinda late for me. I was teased for being different, having different interests, called names as vicious as possible and so on.” I can also personally attest to how vicious those formidable years can be for some. So, much like myself and so many of us, Tristan became enamored with films and music, finding solace in each. Music and movies he admits, helped him heal from those wounds which were both self inflicted and endured by his peers. Battling childhood ADHD which evolved into adult anxiety, depression and OCD disorders is not easy. His love for film only grew as the years progressed and much like any child, the forbidden intrigued him.
Tristan was not allowed to partake in anything with an R rating. But our wily young filmmaker got one over on Mom and Dad one fanciful evening, as he presented the unrated version of THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake by French fright maker Alexandre Aja. I could hardly contain my laughter as he shared this with me, knowing damn well how gory and violent this particular film is. Without skipping a beat he revealed he was the impressionable age of 10 when he watched this. I share with him my first horror flick, which the memory of has quite intensely stayed with me throughout life. Curious as to how this experience was for him, he enthusiastically conveys he was blown away with the bloodshed and brash violence. His mindfulness surrounding the first experience he had with extreme horror is reflected upon in a delightful manner and made me smile profusely. Tristan was hooked now, with every aspect of horrific filmmaking, a world pretty much unbeknownst to him prior.
Following his passion wholeheartedly, Mr. Clay wasted no time creating his first short film, KARMA, at the age of 17. After learning of his troubles as a teen and having previously viewed KARMA, I ask him if maybe this was a cathartic piece of art for himself. He pauses slightly as if never pondering this in that exact context before. The film is the story of ‘Bully Beware’ and in bloody good fashion too. Tristan, in a role reversal actually portrays an aggressive bully in the short which I found fascinating. Just a year later, he filmed his second short entitled DESOLATE in which he composed the score for himself. I noted the young movie maker really had a knack for selecting impressive and complimentary songs and sounds for his films. I tell him this and I could feel his shy gratefulness surface as he gives me a sincere thank you.
Being an average student in High School and one who is completely self taught in the art of filmmaking, well it nearly had me fall out of my seat. Clay not only writes, produces, and directs but also engages in some post production work as well, such as color correcting and is learning how to fully edit. ” I always watch special features, interviews, anything behind the scenes” he says. I agreed with him that they usually ARE beyond entertaining, giving way to the opportunity to learn so much. I admit I’m a special features buff myself. It was unbelievably easy to talk to this young man who is wise beyond his years, observant, and quite cordial.
Curious about how his God fearing parental units took to their son’s shine of celluloid slaughters, I ask Tristan if they were supportive of him and his filmmaking career. Without hesitation he emphatically answered “Yes!” adding it’s kind of become a bonding experience with his father and himself. The two recently took on the task of comparing shirt qualities and prices for the Deranged Minds Entertainment feature RED EYE due out in 2017.
My next inquiry for Clay was if he has encountered any issues on set or in post production due to his age. Tristan replies, “I did encounter issues on set due to my age. Which was to be expected considering the fact everyone on the production ( besides Destinie and myself ) was above 21. It is definitely hard to run a set when everyone is looking at you like you’re just a kid.” He also added that he’s harder on himself than anything, his own worst demeaning critic per say. Yet another issue we can both empathize with, and very well. During our conversation which felt like catching up with an old friend, it was so refreshing to realize that here was this kid ( I say that endearingly ) who is so hardworking and doesn’t take a damn thing for granted, looking for taboo topics to create an effective visual template for us to experience, who idolizes the storytelling techniques of Rob Zombie and David Lynch, making him a member of the Indie Horror community we should all keep an eye out for. Following our conversation, it was obvious to me that Tristan Clay is only going to get better and wiser, with his passion obviously bleeding through. Regardless of his age, I believe he has talent and the tenacity to be extremely successful in his chosen profession. He deserves it too in my opinion, so I for one, am looking forward to seeing this passionate filmmaker grow with time and see how he progresses within the horror world.
You can follow Tristan Clay and all his projects at derangedmindsentertainment.com and on Instagram with @redeyefilm.fanpage and @tristanclay.