Behind the Scenes with Matt Dotson and the Cast of The Devil and Tom Walker

devil and tom walker
Director Matt Dotson, composer Mr. Dotson, and actors Ben Fuhrmann and Mr. Mathew Winter read over the script before filming The Devil and Tom Walker. Photo by Jack Minchew

By Jack Minchew with Sean Cassar

It’s freezing outside. Actually it’s 20 degrees below freezing and the wind blowing off the Potomac River makes the cast and crew of The Devil and Tom Walker feel even colder. Yet even the cold can’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of Matt Dotson, the film’s director and a Tuscarora senior. After the long and sometimes arduous struggle to get his project produced, finally getting to film scenes feels like nothing but the warmth of success.

Together with his writing partner (and the film’s lead actor) Ben Fuhrmann, Dotson began working on the screenplay to his motion picture in February 2013, drawing inspiration from the Washington Irving short story of the same name.  “We read the short story in English class, and we had been talking about writing a screenplay before,” said Dotson. “[The Devil and Tom Walker] sparked our interest, so we decided to adapt it”.

Producing a film at professional quality has been a great deal harder than either Dotson or Fuhrman had originally anticipated. “When we were first talking about making a film, we were looking at renting a camera for a week and trying to shoot the whole thing,” explains Dotson, a confession that elicits laughs and rueful head shaking from Fuhrman, who plays Tom Walker, the main role. Since then, however, Dotson has managed to line up an impressive film crew through a process he describes as “pleading and pleading and pleading.”

After meeting professional filmmaker Bart Johnson at a local movie convention, Dotson convinced Johnson to produce and film his project. Dotson also managed to recruit the Tuscarora drama department’s resident makeup artist, Austin Martinez, thereby adding a special effects expert to an otherwise small budget film. The crew also features John Heberle, who is filming a documentary on the production of the film, and Dotson’s uncle, who is composing the score.

Perhaps Dotson’s most high profile acquisition was that of Tuscarora physics teacher Mr.  Mathew Winter, who plays one of the title roles, Old Scratch/the Devil. Affectionately referred to solely by his last name while on the set, Winter’s minor in theater made him the perfect choice to play Old Scratch, according to Dotson.  “We begged Mr. Winter on hands and knees,” Dotson admitted. “He was reluctant at first, but we got him to do it, and it’s a really important part.”

Despite their unbridled enthusiasm for this project, Dotson and Fuhrmann see The Devil and Tom Walker as more of a career step than a hobby project. Both plan to enter the film industry as a profession. As to what the goal of the movie is, Dotson explains it best: “We want people to know who we are.”

The Devil and Tom Walker is expected to be completed in late spring, with local screenings in the summer.