Akron filmmaker driving home horror in 'Copley Road'

Jason Woods' 'Copley Rd'
A quick online search reveals dozens of haunted highways throughout the U.S. Spooky roads on which ghosts regularly appear, trying to hitch a ride or seemingly stuck in the place where they read their final chapter.


Add another to that long list: Copley Road. Though this time the haunted throughway, which connects Medina County with downtown Akron, Ohio, is merely fictional, born from the imagination of filmmaker Jason Woods.


Copley Road is a horror anthology about five strangers whose lives intersect when they all witness a paranormal confrontation between two supernatural entities,” Woods explains. “Each of the five strangers leave this experience with a dark presence now haunting them.” 


Woods, who was born and raised in Akron, graduating from Buchtel High School, returns home from Los Angeles to shoot Copley Road on location. We had a chance to chat with Woods via email recently to learn more Woods and his new film:


Midwest Movie Maker (MMM): Tell me a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What got you into filmmaking? What other projects have you tackled?


Filmmaker Jason Woods
Jason Woods (JW): I was born and raised in West Akron. I graduated from Buchtel High School, where I took an interest in creative writing. I wrote a number of stories in high school and in college before I finally reached a point where I felt comfortable sending my scripts out to Hollywood producers. 


One day, a producer called me back and we had a life changing conversation. He essentially [told me] that I wasn't serious about getting into the industry and my writing was simply a hobby. As I pushed back on his opinion, he finally asked, "If you are serious about breaking into Hollywood, why are you in Akron?" So I decided to quit school, saved $3,000, packed everything I could into my Jeep, and drove across the country to Los Angeles. 


My original interest in filmmaking came from martial arts movies. I was raised on Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan flicks. My early scripts were inspired by them. However, in today's world, you don't see too many martial arts movies. 


My second favorite genre is horror films. When I watch movies, I'd rather see something that I can't walk down the street and see everyday, like people holding hands and talking. I love action, and my early scripts reflect that. However, over time, I've learned to appreciate the reasons for the action more than the action itself.


Regarding other projects, I have worked on numerous web series, doing just about anything.  I've done some ghostwriting for a Korean Comedy script, and I've shot a few music videos that have not yet been released.


MM: Tell me a bit about Copley Road


Jason Woods interviewing subject for his documentary
JW: Copley Road is a horror anthology about five strangers whose lives intersect when they all witness a paranormal confrontation between two supernatural entities. Each of the five strangers leave this experience with a dark presence now haunting them. It's a puzzle, as the story does not play out in chronological order, and it's filled with Easter eggs or hidden details that can be found by watching the film more than once. 


MM: Where did the idea for Copley Road come about?


JW: Exhibiting my previous films at festivals, I've had the chance to meet many talented artists from all over the world. When I go to film festivals, I don't really care about the competition aspect of it. Instead, I think about the possibilities of working together. 


I went to a festival in Miami once where I thought up the idea of several filmmakers coming together and shooting several short stories that are linked together by one main plot. Ideally, the collective story would stretch the entire world and be filled with so many different experiences.  


That idea never came to fruition. So, I altered that vision to fit a smaller scale. What if I was able to repackage this idea for an entire state. What if I could pull artists from all over one state and create this epic project.  


Initially, the plan was to have five different writers and five different directors to tell the story.  Out of necessity, I wrote Copley Road myself. However, this project will hopefully position us to fulfill this concept in a future film.


MM: You've shot a few horror shorts and are now tackling a horror feature. Is that your preferred genre? 


JW: I really love horror films, but I don't necessarily consider myself a horror writer. I write all sorts of stories. But horror fans are more excited and passionate about film [than others]. When you don't have a Warner Brothers budget or many A-list celebrities to package the project, horror fans will still support you, if you deliver a strong project that makes them feel something.


MM: Northeast Ohio is home to a few horror masters - Wes Craven and J.R. Bookwalter come to mind. Any homages planned to those filmmakers?


There is subtle homage to Wes Craven in the film, yes. 


MM: It's mentioned you may need extras. How can people keep up with what's happening?


JW: Follow us on the official Facebook page (Copley Road Movie). We will announce several opportunities to join us there.


MM: Who are your filmmaking influences? 


JW: People have compared some of my previous work to Hitchcock films. I think he influences my approach to suspense. But then I also try to create a gritty and dark feel. Imagine watching Antoine Fuqua's Training Day, but with an Alfred Hitchcock twist. To get the best example of what to expect from me, watch my short film DUI - on YouTube - starring David Ross Paterson and Jenna Stone.


MM: Swenson's or Skyway?


JW: Team Swenson's all the way.


MM: What are some of the more iconic Akron landmarks people will recognize?


JW: To be determined. We are still securing some locations, which may change some of the landmarks. But we definitely will include plenty of recognizable locations.


MM: What attracted you to filming in NEO?


JW: It was always the plan to return home and film in Ohio. It was just a matter of building the necessary experience and resources to be in a position to do so. My vision is to build Stealth Wing Productions as an Ohio filmmaking brand.    


MM: Final thoughts?


JW: I am very excited to bring this project home and create new opportunities for local artists.  Please follow us on social media and look forward to seeing more from us in the future.

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