Seth Breedlove is the writer/director of The Beast of WhiteHall, The Minerva Monster and The Boggy Creek Monster; three documentaries centering around “Bigfoot,” which I had the pleasure of viewing last week via a secure screener. The films delve into some truly high profile cases throughout the US involving the elusive hairy creature and also shed some light on what he’s been up to in the past couple years, as well as the people he has profoundly affected.
If you’re a fan of Bigfoot or just enjoy thought provoking and exciting documentaries on unsolved phenomena, give these films a look!
EW: What got you started in filmmaking?
SB: My mom. She didn’t purposely do it, but she introduced me to Ray Harryhausen and the old Hammer Horror films as a youngster and that was when I got clued into that there were people making these films and that there were specific filmmakers I responded to more than others. I think from there I just started making short films, and writing scripts, and then one day I found myself with three movies done and I can look back and say “thanks Mom”.
EW: What is your favorite “Bigfoot” film?
SB: Probably, the Legend of Boggy Creek. I just think it’s a really impressive movie given the money they were working with, the fact that Pierce basically invented the found-footage genre, and they keep the monster in shadow for most of the film. It’s often ragged on as a cheap, b-movie but I’m inspired by it.
EW: “Minerva Monster” is the first film that you directed, can you tell me a little about what made you want to make this film first?
SB: I grew up about 20 minutes from the town of Minerva and was always kind of vaguely aware of the Monster legends. Kids used to joke about not going in the woods or the monster would get you. But when I got older the Minerva case was sort of the first sighting story I took the time to look into for myself. What I found was this really fascinating, a very human story about this small town family encountering something they couldn’t explain, reporting it to local police and then suffering endless ridicule for it. That was really what drew me to this particular story and made me decide it would be the perfect fodder for our first STM (Small Town Monsters) movie.
EW: Do you believe in “Bigfoot” and why?
SB: So, I hate the word “believe” when it comes to Bigfoot. To me it has religious or faith-based connotations that I’m not comfortable with when discussing this subject. But I totally get the question so I’ll just say, I’m not conclusively swayed to either side (positive or skeptical) right now. I think there’s definitely a possibility that people are seeing what they claim to be seeing and I don’t believe all these stories are based on hoaxes or misidentified animals. But I’m not totally prepared to say “heck yeah, there’s a 7 to 10 foot tall creature running around in the woods behind your house”. But people are seeing something. How’s that for vague?
EW: What fascinates you about “Bigfoot” and why have you devoted several years make three films about him?
SB: I think this past year I came to realize that what originally drew me to the subject was just the mystery of the whole thing. All three of our films talk about the mystery and the unsolvable aspects of these stories and I think that’s what draws me to this whole thing. I mean, it’s much-needed escapism right now, too. The election and politics and wars and all this crap is pretty draining so at the end of the day who wouldn’t rather come home and watch a movie about a hidden animal… or even go look for it for themselves. We need our mysteries.
EW: Can you tell me a little bit about your films journeys from script to screen?
SB: There’s never been an actual script, and, honestly I’d be lying if I said I had any sort of outline going into them. What I do is try and figure out the story elements that grab me, then I focus on those things while actually filming the movie to help with the editing process. So, for instance, when making Beast of Whitehall, we knew what really appealed to us was the idea of the Abair Incident being this one-week series of sightings. While making the film we kept it boiled down to pretty much just that event rather than dig into the mountainous pile of Bigfoot reports from that area.
With Boggy Creek we had an even bigger challenge because the story is massive, and sprawling and basically encompasses over a century worth of sightings. Plus, we had Lyle involved. That was probably our biggest story challenge to-date; how do we boil down this massive tale into a 75 minute film, and still find room for Lyle to do his thing.
EW: How do you conduct your research before and during a film?
SB: It just depends on the project. Minerva I spent 3 years compiling information for and tracking down things like the original police reports. Whereas with Beast of Whitehall, most of the information on the case was already out there and accessible through Google or contacting witnesses. I actually think I prefer the Minerva type of story where I get to uncover the evidence and history for myself. Since that story had barely been touched in over a decade, it was sort of like discovering it for myself and introducing people to a story that most weren’t familiar with.
EW: What was something that surprised you about “Bigfoot” during your research/filming that you didn’t know before?
SB: Just from my own personal look into the subject, what surprised me most are the historical documents of ape-like creatures that date back centuries here in North America. I’d always thought of the subject as being fairly modern but we have newspaper reports dating back to the mid 1800’s here in Ohio that talk of creatures that are basically what people are describing as Bigfoot today. That really surprised me.
Second would be the sighting reports themselves. The people that we’ve been speaking with, for the most part, are not interested in notoriety or fame and they don’t typically want to tell their story for the world to see. So what do they have to gain from lying about it? Again, I’m not fully swayed to “belief” but there’s something here beyond the typical skeptical arguments against the creature’s existence.
EW: Being such a huge fan of the original “Boggy Creek” film, what was it like meeting and talking with some of the people featured in the film? What was it like revisiting those places and finding new information about the “Fouke monster?”
SB: So for me, it’s only been in retrospect that I fully got to appreciate some of those things. During the filming of the movie I don’t think there was ever a minute where I wasn’t completely in the mindset of accomplishing our goals from a production standpoint. After the fact, however, getting to film in some of the places we did and experience the things that we experienced is truly unforgettable. I think I’ll carry this experience with me for the rest of my life as being one of the highlights of my time as a filmmaker.
EW: Do you think “Bigfoot” is aggressive or more curious until provoked?
SB: I think, if it exists, it’s like any large, predatory animal. I think they’d be more frightened or cautious of us and therefore avoid us at all costs. But, if the Minerva case is any indication, sometimes their curiosity gets the best of them.
EW: Do you believe you have had any encounters with unexplained phenomena?
SB: In Boggy Creek Monster there’s a scene where we play some unexplained audio we captured down in a location known for sightings of the creature. Other than that, I haven’t had much happen that I could explain or rule out as being anything other than an ordinary animal. I’d certainly like to see one of these things, if for no other reason than to settle it for myself that they exist.
EW: What do you consider the scariest story you heard about “Bigfoot?”
SB: Honestly, it’s probably Minerva. There’s just something very unsettling about this huge creature hanging out right behind your house. Especially, when you factor in that some of the people encountering it were children and that this creature might have killed the family dog, which was found dead outside of it’s collar with it’s neck snapped.
EW: Brandon Dalo, your composer provides an excellent, haunting score to your films. How did you meet him and what made you decide to work with him?
SB: I met Brandon while compiling sighting reports for the Small Town Monsters book proposal I was putting together to send to publishers. I found a story he’d shared on a Bigfoot forum about an encounter his dad had back in the 70’s so I contacted him. It turned out he lived in Canton, (near me) then one thing led to the other. He’s a huge film score fan and we were making Minerva at the time and he wanted to be involved. He’s played a much larger role, post-Minerva but I always say his scores are the heart of our films. That’s where a lot of the emotion comes from.
EW: What is on the horizon for Small Town Monsters? Are you planning on doing films about other cryptids like Mothman, Loch Ness or Chupacabra?
SB: I think we definitely want to break out of the Bigfoot-film mold we’ve set for ourselves with our first three films. If you look at the series in terms of seasons or volumes then season one was all Bigfoot. I think season two will be much more broad and get into some of the more bizarre cryptid tales like Mothman, Champ, etc.
EW: What is your favorite “monster,” fictional or otherwise and why?
SB: I’m a big fan of Ray Harryhausen movies so probably one of his creations. I adore King Kong, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, etc. I love the mythical Kraken or in cryptozoology I’m fascinated by Mothman
EW: What are some projects that you are working on right now?
SB: Right now we’re plotting out the future of STM. I’m trying to figure out if this thing can sustain itself independently to where we can continue to produce multiple films per year. I’m doing pre-pro on three more films in the STM series, and starting to plan out a fictional film I’d like to make soon, as well. I’m also in the very early stages of working on a feature-length documentary about storm chasers.
EW: Do you have any dream projects that you want to make in the future?
SB: I have a film I’d love to make about my youth called “1999”. It was such a hilarious and awkward stage of my life and I always felt like it would make such a fun film. Especially when you factor in the release of the first Star Wars prequel and my obsession with, and eventual letdown from that film.
EW: Who are some of your cinematic influences?
SB: I already mentioned Harryhausen but he’d be one. I’m a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, Billy Wilder, Cameron Crowe, Spielberg, Ridley Scott… I don’t think I’m consciously drawing from any of those guys but I’m sure they’re in there in some way, shape or form. I’ve tended to really draw off the 1970’s Bigfoot documentary wave for inspiration. Especially with Minerva and Boggy. They are very much an homage to the 70’s Bigfoot docs and episodes of “In Search Of” that I’ve grown to love.
EW: Favorite films?
SB: Casablanca, A New Hope, Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers, King Kong, Citizen Kane, Vertigo, King of Kong, Vanilla Sky… my list is enormous. I could just sit here typing out titles for hours and reveling in all the great films that exist!
EW: What is some advice that you can give to indie filmmakers just starting out?
SB: Anyone can do this. That’s not a self-deprecating statement, it’s just fact. The technology is such that it’s ridiculously affordable to make a movie now. That isn’t to say that anyone WILL do this, because it takes a lot of time and effort but if you have a story you want to tell you’d better go tell it or someone else will.
Erick Wofford is a writer/director and independent filmmaker known for his award winning short film, “The Music of Erich Zann.” He has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for his next short film entitled, You Go Where It Takes You. The campaign is offering props, DVD’s, soundtracks and custom posters for the film! Please show your support for indie filmmakers!
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