“Hunting Bigfoot” – The character behind the character

A film starring islander John Green and directed by Bainbridge native and filmmaker Taylor Guterson

Hunting-Bigfoot Movie Poster courtesy of Taylor GutersonWhenever I leave the house—whether it be grocery shopping, doing an interview for my blog, or just meeting a friend for coffee—my husband imparts two things: be safe and watch out for Sasquatch! When Arts & Humanities Bainbridge asked me to interview John Green, the star of the soon to be released film “Hunting Bigfoot,” I couldn’t say “no”.

The film, as the title suggests, is about Bigfoot…sort of. More importantly, it’s about a man obsessed and the journey to prove his obsession exists.

Director, filmmaker and island native Taylor Guterson (Old Goats, Burkholder) wanted his next movie to be filmed primarily outdoors, highlighting the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Having worked with John Green on a previous movie, “Viral Viral,” Taylor also knew he wanted John to star in it.

John and I met to discuss the film and his role in it. Not only was I interested in the film itself, but I also wanted to know how a man from England made his way to America, eventually landing on Bainbridge Island, and starring in a feature film by our very own Taylor Guterson.

John has had an eclectic and storied life. He grew up in Africa, England and Australia, and spent seven years in the merchant marines as an officer working on freighters and later for the cruise lines. As much as he enjoyed that line of work, John was an entrepreneur at heart.

His first venture came about by accident. Walking through a London neighborhood, he spotted a shop that sold vintage American western wear called The Emperor of Wyoming. He loved it, and eventually partnered with the American manager, Martha. This gave him the idea to open his own wholesale company, John Doe American Sportswear, which sold imported t-shirts and sweatshirts from the U.S., as well as vintage western, bowling and Hawaiian shirts.

In 1976, he moved to Los Angeles and married Martha, who had returned to LA. He continued to work in the garment industry, this time creating a start-up company that manufactured and sold specialized licensed apparel. That company grew exponentially, and he eventually sold it in 1990 and started another company, Paradise Garage, which he ran from 1990 to 1994.

But what about the acting? His interest in acting came about in the 1980s while he was still growing his apparel business in Los Angeles. A chance encounter with two lawyers, who were quite taken with his personality, invited him to a meeting in downtown LA. When he arrived, he found himself at Merv Griffin Enterprises. The meeting led to acting offers, but it wasn’t the right time. John was immersed in growing his business and raising his two children, Chelsea and Luke, with his first wife, who was against the possible change of career.

Fast forward to 1993. John and Martha had divorced and he was now married to the love of his life, Marleen Martinez, and was once again considering acting. However, Marleen had other thoughts. She said, “John, LA is killing you.” On a visit to the Seattle area shortly thereafter, which included a day trip to Bainbridge Island, Marleen knew they’d found their new home.

By 1994, John, his two older children, Marleen and their son Tyler (who was born in 1995), were settled on Bainbridge. John was out of the garment business, but what to do next? With Marleen’s encouragement, John started a real estate development and construction company, which he still runs today (John Green Land Development and Construction)

John was once again thrust into the acting community when his son Tyler was recruited with a fellow Bainbridge High School student by a Seattle talent agency to do book trailer videos and commercials. After meeting John, the agency signed them both, and John worked on commercials and voiceovers.

After working with Taylor on “Viral Viral,” John was more than happy to get on board with his new film. The film started out as “Adventures of the Primate,” however the Los Angeles production group decided to refocus on the PNW’s most infamous creature, Big Foot aka Sasquatch.

As John told me, there wasn’t really a script, it was more of an outline. As they filmed, the dialogue by both John and his co-stars was improvised for the most part, giving it a “mocumentary” feel of both truth and fiction. In certain scenes, where John is discussing his father and his wife, he’s telling it from his own personal experience. As he said, “I’m talking to the camera, just like we’re talking now.”

With the exception of John, none of the film’s cast are professional actors. Taylor wanted an authentic feel to the characters, something that helped portray the “documentary” aspect of the film. As such, the characters are more or less playing themselves.

For John, it was an opportunity to infuse his own style and personality into the film. His character, a successful business man and family man, becomes so fixated he can think of nothing else, giving up his job, family and home in pursuit of the mythical creature that has haunted the residents of the PNW for as long as anyone can remember. John compared that “obsession” to the same drive that propels human beings to work extremely hard towards their own success.

John’s character is somewhat cantankerous, passionate and comical at times. Much of his monologue, as he negotiates the lonely wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, revolves not just around his search for Bigfoot, but the search for his own meaning in life. Rants, raves and bouts of humor permeate John’s role.

John attributes his success in life and in the film to his late wife, Marleen, who passed away in September 2019. Her never-ending encouragement and confidence in him were the driving force for everything he did. Marleen has a small cameo in the film, a tribute John is grateful for.

For both John and Taylor, the film is a compelling drama fraught with emotion, humor and human experience. The film also features interviews with people who have had purported encounters with Bigfoot, as well as interviews with recognized Bigfoot authorities.

The Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce reports that the “film’s unique distribution strategy initially focuses on a region-by-region national theatrical rollout partnering primarily with owner-operated independent theatres. The strategy also includes working with local Chambers of Commerce to encourage local business communities to engage in network marketing and related activities in support of the film.

In addition to providing independent theatres a film which is not simultaneously available for streaming at home, a rarity in the current environment, Hunting Bigfoot offers significantly better financial terms than independent theatres typically receive.”

Hunting Bigfoot premieres at the historic Lynwood Theatre in a VIP screening on Thursday, August 12th. Thursday’s premiere is a fundraiser to assist in the renovations for the theatre. Tickets are currently on sale for the special VIP Screening—featuring a pre-show reception, post-show Q&A with the film’s stars and director, and exclusive swag available for patrons. Click here for tickets.

“Hunting Bigfoot” is being released by Xenon Pictures. Leigh Savidge, Xenon CEO and an Academy Award nominee for his screenwriting work on “Straight Outta’ Compton,” is one of the film’s Executive Producers, as is Tom Gorai, whose producing credits include “Outsourced,” “Nostalgia,” and “Arlington Road.”

*This article was written for Currents Online : Stories | BainbridgeCurrents.com

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