As soon as he graduated from college in 2009, Jerry White sold everything he owned and moved to Los Angeles.
“I enjoy the artistic outlet, but being from Ottawa and being from the middle of the country in general, no matter how big or small the town is, Hollywood’s a long ways away, and making movies doesn’t seem like a rational choice,” White, a 2005 Ottawa High School graduate, said. “But I thought, ‘Okay, I should try this, and if it works out, great, and if not, I can always come home back to the Midwest.’”
After being in L.A. for more than seven years, White has sold his first feature-length film, titled “Autumn’s End.” The film was bought by Global Digital Releasing and was released Oct. 13.
“I’ve always been a fan of horror movies,” White said. “I really enjoy them, but I’ve never seen a horror movie that really follows how a person would get their life back on track post-movie, if you will. We kind of talked and I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be an interesting story if we followed somebody after the event, and how that traumatic event ripples through their entire life?’ That was the original nugget for the story. Let’s watch a movie after the credits roll.”
During his sophomore year at the University of Central Missouri, White was studying to get a degree in advertising, but quickly realized he was “going to be locked down at a desk somewhere” if he continued with it. He made a short film for a 10-hour film festival in Kansas City, titled “The Plan.” The film, which had to be written, shot and filmed the same day, won Audience Choice and the grand prize.
“The film can’t be seen anywhere until I’m a little more successful,” White joked. “I asked my wife if it was about time to start showing it, and she’s like, ‘Maybe after the next feature film.’”
“Autumn’s End” follows a brother and sister, fraternal twins, who are dealing with the post-traumatic stress of surviving a normal horror movie scenario, White said.
“Our film starts where most films would end, so right after the credits roll, that person has to go back and become part of society again with that very traumatic event,” White said. “I also wanted to deal a lot with violence, and how once a person is subjected to a violent act, that triggers something inside of them to create violence.”
The sister deals with the event by going down a more “traditional path,” such as going to therapy, White said.
“The [brother] is more of turning into a monster himself, trying to find the people who broke into the house and trying to really take things into his own hands,” he said.
Viewers should know it’s a slow-paced film.
“We deal with a lot of heavier things, so it’s much more of a ‘thinker’ than just a ‘slasher’ film by design,” White said.
The process for the making of “Autumn’s End” began in 2013. The movie was shot in real-time over the course of about two years and was written by Raymond Creamer, whom White had previously owned a company called Moondog Media with.
“All of the seasons are in it, so we have winter and fall, so we had to go to Michigan to get all of those seasons,” White said. “That gave us also a very creative outlet — to shoot 20 or 30 minutes of the movie at a time. We’d come back, edit the movie together, and be like, ‘Okay this worked, this didn’t work,’ and knowing that we’re going back in three months to film more of it, we were basically able to create the movie as we were shooting it, which was a very interesting process, unlike if you were able to shoot straight through for three or four weeks.”
Creamer’s family owns a lake house in Michigan, which was the location the script was written specifically for because they knew they had it to use for free, White said. To fly the cast and crew out east was cheaper than renting a lake house in L.A.. he added.
“It’s much quieter out there, they’re much more receptive to filmmaking,” White said. “It’s more of, ‘How cool is it that we have a movie being filmed here?’ Whereas in L.A., it’s like, ‘Oh, man, another movie’s here.’ Getting out of town is always nice.”
From the beginning, the goal of creating the film was to get it into a festival and then get it sold, White said. He said if other companies weren’t going to take a chance on his movies, he wanted to show them he could do it on his own.
“After seven years, I feel like I’ve got the ropes of everything [in L.A.],” White said.
After college, he came to L.A. with $5,000, and when the first month of rent was paid, he was broke.
“I tell everybody that’s moving out here, ‘If you really believe this is what you need to be doing, then do it, but try to keep costs as low as humanly possible,’” White said. “Don’t get out here and buy a super nice apartment and brand new car. The town will eat you alive if you do.”
As for aspiring filmmakers, White said if you want to make movies, then make movies.
“It’s the easiest it’s ever been,” he said. “You can make it on your phone. One of the films that won Sundance [Film Festival] a couple of years ago was shot on an iPhone. If you want to make movies, it’s all about a compelling story, and characters that you actually want to go on a journey with. It’s not so much about the technical stuff anymore. People just want to see good stories.”
“Autumn’s End” can be purchased on Amazon Prime, iTunes, VUDU, Google Play, and more.