Film Students Create Feature Film 'Banishment' During Pandemic

BY Felix van Kann, September 3, 2020

Still from Banishment, image courtesy of Filmmaker Magazine

Film students Daniel Byers and Werner Traut wasted no time during the COVID-19 crisis. After establishing their own safe production protocols including quarantining, mask-wearing on set and social distancing, the small crew went to a cabin in Upstate New York and shot the feature film Banishment, co-written and directed by Byers and produced by Traut. Traut also served as 1st Assistant Director on the production. 


Filmmaker Magazine recently covered the production, describing it in great detail. “It's been great seeing the film community take interest in our project as an early example of how to overcome the challenges of a pandemic to safely shoot a feature film, and hopefully an inspiration to keep creating,” Byers said in a comment. “It was my first feature and the constraints made it hugely challenging to pull off - but the highly charged moment also gave us inspiration and energy.”


In Banishment, an asymptomatic carrier of a deadly virus provides daily blood samples to be studied remotely by his wife, a scientist in DC, while isolated in a cabin in the woods. But when he loses contact with her, he begins to suspect they may both be prisoners. Now he must risk endangering himself, and others, to protect her.


Byers and Traut are currently raising funds for post-production costs on their Indiegogo page, where it has reached 77% of its fundraising goals, and are working on the audio and video sync. 


“We're hoping to have a draft by Christmas so we can explore distribution possibilities for next summer,” Byers explained. “One reason I think people like horror is catharsis - getting to explore their own darkness and the darkness in the world through story. If the world keeps going the way it is, I think Banishment will be just the thing!” 


Daniel Byers is the Director of the environmental documentary film studio, Skyship Films, as well as the Horror/Science Fiction production company, Dark Tower Films. As a documentary filmmaker, he has tracked cartels along the rivers of Honduras, chased the elusive snow leopard through the mountains of Afghanistan, and rafted through the icebergs on unstable glacial lakes in the shadow of Everest. His documentary films have been featured at numerous international festival screenings including the Banff Mountain Film Festival and International Wildlife Film Festival. When not in the field, Byers has a love for crafting dark fantasy, horror, and science fiction. His recent short films have ranged in subject from zombies in the French & Indian War to alien abductions. He recently completed principle photography on his first Feature, titled Banishment - a horror/thriller about love, isolation, and madness in a global pandemic. 


Werner Traut is an independent filmmaker based in the New England area currently earning his MFA in Creative Producing from Columbia University. He was born in Cape Town, South Africa where he spent his formative years prior to immigrating to the United States in 2004. His latest short film, Shill, has been nominated for “Best Student Director” in both the Independent Shorts Awards and Indie ShortFest Film Festivals. Prior to delving into the film industry, Traut graduated Cum Laude from the University of New Hampshire with his BS in Business Administration and Marketing.

Still from Banishment, image courtesy of Indiegogo