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SXSW '08 Interview: "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie" Director Jay Delaney

by William Goss

The "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie" Pitch: "Through the experiences of two amateur bigfoot researchers in southern Ohio, we see how the power of a dream can bring two men together and provide a source of hope and meaning that transcend the harsh realities of life in a dying steel town."

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
Bigfoot researchers chasing the American Dream in Appalachian Ohio.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience?
Yes, thisíll be my first trip to SXSW. My short Ė "The Day the World Saved Shane Sawyer" Ė played at the 2006 Sarasota Film Festival. I donít consider myself a 'festival veteran' by any means, but my favorite part is connecting with the audience and spending time with other filmmakers.

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be "When I grow up, I want to be a..." what?
I was on a kidís show once called "Mr. Cartoon," and when I was asked this question, I said I want to be 'in the Navy.' However, thatís the only time I ever gave that answer, so Iím not sure where it came from. For many years, I wanted to be a meteorologist Ė partly inspired by my love of thunderstorms and partly inspired by the fact that David Letterman started out as a meteorologist.

Not including your backyard and your dad's Handycam, how did you get your real "start" in filmmaking?
This film might perhaps be considered my real ďstartĒ in filmmaking. In 2001, I made a short film about the same two Bigfoot researchers, but that was just planting the seeds for "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie." Prior to making this film, I lived in New York for a while and worked on a few features and shorts, including a film directed by Rainn Wilson. After working on a few productions, I set out to direct and produce my own short, which became "The Day the World Saved Shane Sawyer." That was more of a personal test to see if I could pull off a 16mm production in NYC. But I always wanted to revisit the story of two Bigfoot researchers back in my hometown, so I moved back to Ohio in the fall of 2005 to begin work on the film.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it's on "the festival circuit?"
Actually, no. Iíve believed in this story for a long time. I spent a year and a half editing it to make sure it really captures the magic and essence of the story, and Iím pleased with the end result. The only difference now is that instead of just showing it to a few friends and family members, thereíll be a larger audience. Iím very curious to see what kinds of meaning audience members find through their own experience of the film.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
Kermit. Itís not easy being green. That guy has a lot of heart.

During production, did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
In terms of film festivals, to some degree, Iíve always had the audience in mind for this film because I believe it sheds light on a subculture Ė not just the Bigfoot research community but also Appalachian Ohio Ė that few people have experienced. I want people to experience the story in an honest, real, authentic way. When you know Dallas and Wayne as well as I do after spending so much time with them in their day-to-day lives and their research, itís challenging to try to capture all of that in an hour-long film. I also wanted to exert as little influence as possible in the storytelling to allow an audience to experience it on their own so they can walk away with their own meaning and interpretation. So there is an awareness of the audience and an attempt to represent the subjects authentically. As for paying customers and good and bad reviews, no, I didnít really think much about that during production. The goal all along has been to capture the magic of this story and to try to do it justice. Itís very compelling to me, and I just wanted to be sure audiences can experience it for themselves.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
It all started when I made a short film about Dallas and Wayne back in 2001. I had heard about them through a friend who was working at a bank at the time. He told me about a guy named Dallas who came into the bank and was talking about Bigfoot. Dallas left his card, which listed his title as "Bigfoot Researcher", and my friend passed it along to me. I got in touch with Dallas and ended up meeting with him and Wayne. A friend, Shane Davis, and I met up with Dallas and Wayne on the banks of the Ohio River to interview them on camera talking about their research and evidence of Bigfoot. The production equipment consisted of a family camcorder, so while the result was a mess on a technical level, the story was so rich and haunting for me. I always wanted to revisit it with more time and better production equipment. And I wanted to explore Dallas and Wayneís lives more fully to really understand them as people. So a few years later - in 2005 - I rounded up a few friends to help with camera and sound Ė Shane Davis and Jeff Montavon Ė and production began.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
Wow. I learned so much from making this film that itís hard to identify just one massive lesson. I could probably write a book on the lessons from this film. Not only have I learned more about filmmaking, but more importantly, Iíve learned more about being a human being.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?
Films: "Pee-weeís Big Adventure," "Rushmore," "Magnolia," and "American Movie," to name just a few. Filmmakers: Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Frederick Wiseman, John Cassavetes, and I really appreciate the true indie spirit of the Mumblecore filmmakers.

Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell "This! I want something JUST like this, only different."?
Not really because I always felt this was different from other films Iíve seen. However, "American Movie" told its story in a similar fashion to how I wanted to tell "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie," and certain story elements of "Grizzly Man" related to the subject matter. "Roger & Me" also had a big impact on me for its ability to make the City of Flint a character in the film.

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
John C. Reilly.

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho.

Finish this sentence: If I weren't a filmmaker, I'd almost definitely be...
A politician or an entrepreneur.

Who's an actor you'd kill a small dog to work with? (Don't worry; nobody would know.)
Paul Dano/Chris Cooper/Bill Murray/Robert DeNiro/Amy Adams.

Have you 'made it' yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say "Yes, wow. I have totally made it!"?
Iíve learned that perhaps itís impossible to ever say Iíve ďmade itĒ because my passions are too far-ranging for a single lifetime. In terms of my passion for filmmaking, itís very fulfilling to have finished this film. But of course, the ultimate goal is to find a way to keep telling the stories I want to tell.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
I can tell you that personally, I make regular use of Rotten Tomatoes just to get a general sense of what film critics have to say about a particular film. Sometimes I do this before seeing a film; sometimes after. If Iím on the fence about whether or not to see a particular film, it may influence whether or not I see it. For me, though, watching a film is a very personal experience, and I think everyone should come to their own personal opinion about the quality of a film, what the film expresses, and their reactions to that. Critics play an important role in contributing to the dialogue with other filmgoers to share and explore any given film, but Iím not a fan of people looking to critics to tell them what they should be getting out of the film experience.

You're told that your next movie must have one product placement on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
Reeseís Peanut Butter Cups/Trees/Eggs. Or Segways.

You're contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that's absolutely integral to the film or you're getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
Although NC-17 sex scenes can be integral for some stories, none of the ideas I have for films would require it. Ideally, I hope my mom would be able to watch all of the films I make. Perhaps itís naÔve, but there would have to be some diplomatic way of satisfying all parties involved without having to totally bend or concede as a filmmaker.

What's your take on the whole "a film by DIRECTOR" issue? Do you feel it's tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film - or do you think it's cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
I think it really depends on the film and filmmaker. Clearly all films are collaborative works, and everyoneís contribution is important in shaping the finished piece. In some films though, the directorís vision and worldview shine through so vividly and unmistakably that it makes sense to say "a film by." I leave that determination to the given director of a film.

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do it?
Ultimately, this is a movie about two underdogs with a fire inside of them to stick to their dreams in a pretty challenging environment. It aims to be a highly authentic film about Bigfoot researchers in Appalachian Ohio chasing the American Dream. I can tell you I find the story compelling enough that itís haunted me now for about eight years, and Iíve gone through a lot to finish the film. Even after all this time with the story, Iím still left with far more questions than answers. Hopefully, an audience will find the story as compelling, thought-provoking, and authentic as I do.

---

Jay Delaney's Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie will play as part of the 2008 South By Southwest's "'Round Midnight" slate. For more information, click here.


link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2435
originally posted: 03/05/08 10:21:09
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