Courtesy of Jay Woelfel
For one Ohio State alumnus and Columbus native, conquering his childhood fear of the movie “Jaws” was his ticket into a career of filmmaking.
“‘Jaws’ was the film for me,” said filmmaker Jay Woelfel. “(It) helped spur an interest in things that scared me – horror fiction and movies.”
And while his fear of sharks is still intact, that movie no longer plagues his imagination.
The U.S. premiere of Woelfel’s new feature film “Season of Darkness” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Drexel Theatre, located at 2254 E. Main St.
“Season of Darkness” is a supernatural horror film about the realities of insanity and coming to terms with the disease, Woelfel said. The film’s cast is comprised of local and outside talent, including Richard Hatch of “Battlestar Galactica” and Columbus-based actor Nick Baldasare.
Baldasare plays the lead role of Dwight Stroud, who escapes from a mental institution. He said the film follows his character as he comes to terms with his insanity and the many horrors to which this realization leads.
Woelfel and Baldasare have teamed up before to produce films, among those being 1989’s “Beyond Dream’s Door,” which was Woelfel’s directing debut and Baldasare’s first starring role.
Baldasare said their history makes them a good team.
“I feel very comfortable working with Jay,” Baldasare said. “I know what he wants from me.”
The film was shot in and around Columbus, with some locations including the rock quarries of the Scioto River, the Olentangy Indian Caverns in Delaware, Ohio, and the Columbus Museum of Art.
“The whole Columbus atmosphere in general helped the film have its own identity,” Woelfel said.
After graduating from OSU, Woelfel moved to Los Angeles.
“If you want to do films that’s still the only place to go,” Woelfel said.
He also said his time in Los Angeles was a catalyst into launching his career, as it helped him gain notoriety through different works.
“I did almost two years worth of work at the American Film Institute working as an editor,” Woelfel said.
He edited a short called “Bronx Cheers,” which received an Oscar nomination for the Best Short Film category in 1991.
“Since then I’ve worked as a writer-director but also as an editor and composer on various features,” Woelfel said. “It’s seasonal work. Like a squirrel you have to bury your food to survive the winters that can come between jobs.”
Woelfel credits OSU for aiding his successes.
“I made quite a few films at Ohio State,” Woelfel said. “They all helped.”
During his time at OSU in its now defunct Department of Photography and Cinema, Woelfel met and had classes with cinematographer Scott Spears. This relationship spilled into their professional careers, including Spears’ stint as the cinematographer on “Season of Darkness.” This film was not their first time working together.
“I’ve shot nine movies for Jay,” Spears said. “We’ve developed a shorthand in creating visuals.”
Woelfel said he had a solid vision of what he wanted for the film, and the two were always on the same page for the look and feel of the product.
Spears said working with Woelfel is satisfying and entertaining.
“Filmmaking should be fun,” Spears said. “If it’s a chore or you dread it, then find something else to do.”
Woelfel said he is excited to share his newest project with Columbus.
“It’ll be great to go back and show the film in the place where it was conceived, and ultimately made into a movie,” he said.
Tickets for the premiere of “Season of Darkness” are $9 for adults and $7.50 for students.