Having grown up in the Kyle area, Hays High alumnus Clayton Jones knows a thing or two about life in small-town Texas.
After striking out to California several years ago to chase a film career, Jones was discouraged to see Hollywood characterize Texans in a light that wasn’t entirely honest or factual.
Guided by his and his family’s own experiences, Jones hopes to show what life in the south is really like through “Clod,” a 15-minute independent film that was shot mostly in the Central Texas area.
For Jones, the chance to dispense with the caricatures of westerns and to bring a sense of authenticity is something he hopes to accomplish.
“I’m confident it will come out well and be good and enjoyable,” Jones said. “I’m glad I was able to make something that has no sex, nudity or cuss words and I think it’s heartwarming and nuanced. That’s what I’m proud of.”
Jones, who is a primary writer and a lead actor in the film, said he began crafting the story with the help of Los Angeles resident Michael Connally, who helped to flesh out the story. Initially, the script consisted of only three to four pages.
“It’s now a 13- to 14-page film,” Jones said. “It kept getting a little bigger and bigger.”
“Clod,” an “ultra-low budget film,” is based on a true story that’s been passed down through Jones’ family about his uncle, who grew up on a ranch in the Kyle area. Jones’ film chronicles how his uncle got into some trouble while working in a field with his grandfather but managed to think on his feet and escape “in a cute way.”
Once the story was written, Jones sought the services of Benjamin Murray, who joined as the director of the film. The two first met three years ago in New York City, and had swapped scripts and stories during a lunch Jones and Murray had with Keeley Manca, Clayton’s wife who is an actor in the film.
When Jones pitched the idea of Murray directing “Clod” in 2018, Murray jumped at the chance.
“The pairing was meant to be,” Murray said.
Filming “Clod” took approximately four days to complete, Jones said. Many locations for the shoot were held on fields near the Hays Performing Arts Center in Kyle and in the Kyle Public library. Jones and his group also filmed at the Lockhart Cattle Auction in Caldwell County, which was the only public place the film was shot at.
Helping along the way were Jones’ parents, longtime Hays County residents Mark and Kerri Jones, who aided in a variety of ways during the filming process. Also providing assistance was his father-in-law, who allowed the crew to use his pickup truck, along with several of Jones’ high school friends and colleagues, who were also eager to pitch in.
Jones said the excitement from friends and family to help out is not a typical circumstance in LA or New York.
“In LA and New York, people are almost upset you’re filming on their street,” Jones said. “In Kyle and Buda, people went out of their way to help us out. I don’t think we could have done the film without them.”
Giving a first-person view of what life was like in the rural south was a key element of filming the piece, Jones said. One aspect was a scene at the cattle auction which was shot from the perspective of eight-year-old Dripping Springs resident Preston Alkire, who plays the role of Jones’ uncle.
“(Preston) had never been to the auction before, so his eyes were wide with excitement because he got to experience that world for the first time,” Jones said. “It was great to capture that in the movie.”
Jones plans to submit “Clod” to film festivals later this year; he is aiming to screen the film locally later this summer. Should the work find an audience, Jones hopes to one day possibly work on a feature-length version of the story. Feature-length films are pieces that are more than 40 minutes long.
Showcasing a piece of his childhood to those who might not have had the same experience was a worthwhile investment for him.
“At the end of the day, I came to a great place on set of loving where I was, the people I was working with and the work I was doing,” Jones said. “I’m excited that I will have this film for the rest of my life and be able to show it to my grandkids.”