Last week I wrote about local islander John Green, who stars in the new movie, Hunting Bigfoot by director, filmmaker and island native Taylor Guterson (Old Goats, Burkholder).
In my interview with John Green, he described the movie as a “mocumentary”, in other words a cross between fiction and truth. It revolves around the journey of a man who is convinced he saw Bigfoot—aka Sasquatch—and his relentless pursuit to prove the mythical creature exists. His character has given up his life, both professionally and personally—along the way he meets others, who are (mostly) eager to assist him. However, after attending the premiere last week, I realized there is so much more to the film than one man’s obsession.
Although I knew ahead of time that this wasn’t a true documentary, it was so well done, I think the average viewer would have a hard time knowing the difference.
Guterson’s filmmaking preference is to work with people who are not professional actors, this allows him to film in a more realistic manner. In that regard, Guterson’s casting for Hunting Bigfoot was very relaxed, allowing for anyone who wanted to take part in the film to participate. By doing this, the cast was allowed to take the loosely defined script and improvise, which added authenticity, sincerity, and sometimes deeply emotional scenes.
Although John Green does have acting experience, he infused his own style and personality into the film, giving his character a wonderful air of eccentricity as well as vulnerability. There are several parallels in the improvised “script” to John’s own life—in an emotional scene where his character talks about his father, John is actually talking about his relationship with his own father. There were also emotional scenes with John’s real-life wife, Marleen Martinez, who passed away in September 2019. Although these were videos taken before the film was even conceived, the importance wasn’t to be missed in the overall theme of the movie.
Ben Cockman, who plays John’s friend and accompanies him on several treks through the wilderness played “himself” for the most part, which added quite a bit of humor and quirkiness to the film. The same can be said for Monica Lynn, who plays John’s girlfriend, Sarah. There are additional scenes where the “actors” drew on their own life experiences when describing their relationships with John, and with Guterson’s careful editing process, he’s transformed each scene to perfectly fit the narrative of the movie.
Guterson himself plays the role of cameraman, following John throughout his journey, documenting his experiences. Although Guterson’s character behind the camera, whose voice you occasionally hear, catches your eye, it’s his real-life cinematographic talent that stands out as he captures both the beauty and the isolation of the remoter parts of the Pacific Northwest.
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. However, you don’t have to be a Bigfoot fanatic to enjoy this film, its quality and style, along with the characters keep you interested and cheering for them to the very end.
The film premiered at the historic Lynwood Theatre on Bainbridge Island on August 12th and is currently playing at theatres on the island as well as local theatres throughout the Pacific Northwest. For locations and times, click here.
“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.”