Interview with Filmmaker Clay Antonatos (AN ELIXIR FOR THE EXTINCTION OF EXPERIENCE)

Directed by Clay Antonatos
The threats of the climate crisis are more and more becoming a reality, posing immense challenges to human and ecosystem health, yet it continuously proves difficult to make any meaningful change. We can’t see meaningfully due to a result of our collective “extinction of experience” with nature driven by urbanization, industrialization, and digitization of our worlds.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

On a very superficial level, I made elixir to fulfill the thesis requirement for my undergraduate Environmental Studies degree without having to write 75+ pages… making a film sounded much better to me than having to spend the year sitting inside and writing! On a deeper level, though, I made elixir as a way to make myself and my audience more attuned to the natural world that surrounds us. I am a firm believer that a lot of our climate and ecological crises can be attributed to a lack of attention to, care for, and knowledge of the natural world. elixir was a way for me to begin to chip away at the artificial disconnect between humans and nature through an approachable medium (video) in a manner that emphasized personal outdoor experience over the often exclusionary realms of academia and scientific study.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Around 95% of elixir was made in the fall semester of my senior year at Vassar (~4 months) with a few, quick, finishing touches in the spring semester.

3. How would you describe your film in two words?

meditative, observational

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

I made elixir while taking a full college course load, which meant that I didn’t always have as much time as I would have liked to dedicate to production. On the flipside, though, the classes I was taking at the time certainly influenced and helped shape the film, and having to carve out time to work on something I loved helped me push through the end of college.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I really enjoyed watching the audience feedback! It seems to me like they took away the thoughts and lessons I was trying to put out into the world with elixir, which is very fulfilling.

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Growing up, I always thought I was “bad” at art (though now I’d say there’s really no such thing). Around middle school, I got really into photography because I thought it was harder to mess up a photo and thus harder to be bad at photographic art. (I disagree with that thought now, too.) When I got to high school, I had the opportunity to take photography classes, which included modules in filmmaking. I caught the bug from there and have found filmmaking to be a really powerful mode of personal expression, a great creative outlet, and most importantly, a source of joy.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I’m not often one to rewatch films again and again, at least not now. When I was a little kid, though, I’m told that I watched A Bug’s Life on endless repeat – so that’s probably the film I’ve seen most in my life.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I’m honestly not all that experienced with festivals yet, but I really like the feedback approach of this fest and think it would be formative if other fests incorporated new forms of feedback to add to the traditional awards structure.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

Because I made elixir as a student at Vassar, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the Vassar Film Department’s festival submission program. The program handles the submission of student films to festivals, so I have not directly used FilmFreeway to submit to festivals.

10. What is your favorite meal?

I’m a big fan of breakfast, at any time of day. Also anything with mushrooms and/or lentils.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out! I currently have a year-long fellowship working in sustainability and environmental communication and outreach at Vassar, which I’m really enjoying. As part of the fellowship, I’m currently working on a film project tracking the phenology, or seasonal change, of the Preserve at Vassar. Once the fellowship ends, I’ll likely continue working in the environmental field while figuring out how (and how much) I want to incorporate filmmaking into my career.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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