Just ask the makers of “Bigfoot County”
Making in L.A. is tough.
This statement spoken time and time again is actually untrue—it is actually a sugar-coated understatement. Making it in L.A. is extremely tough, yet everyday, actors, models, musicians, comedians and filmmakers alike dive into an endless sea with many other aspiring big fish and swim against the tide. Many have been lost. But fortunately for today’s generation of ambitious go-getters, there are other options.
More than ever, artists are getting their projects completed independently. They have the luxury of social media outlets such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to get the word out—and you know what? It’s working.
One example is Star Trek Phase II. Created by a bunch Trekkies that felt they needed some closure to the 5-year mission that fell short on TV. The Phase II internet series became so popular, that even original Star Trek made guest appearances. In music, the Indie band Foster the People, initially posted there hit song “Pumped Up Kicks” on their website as a free download. Soon after, it was at the top of the charts.
And making movies is becoming no different. Determined actors and filmmakers are not letting rejections or requests to give up creative control stop them from making the film they want to make.
Joseph Napoli (www.imdb.com/name/nm1828185/) originally moved from Hoboken, NJ to L.A. to become an actor. After landing a few small parts over a stretch of years, he decided to broaden his horizons and step into the realm of producing. His first shared project is complete and is entitled “Bigfoot County.” Napoli is an executive producer and also acts in the film.
It was written and directed by
Stephon Stewart (www.imdb.com/name/nm2416074/), an actor making his directorial debut. “Bigfoot County” follows the trek of a documentary filmmaker who sets out with his crew, in 2009, to investigate an area that has had the largest amount of Bigfoot sightings in history.
I got a chance to talk to Napoli about this project:
McGuire: Where did the idea for this film come about?
Napoli: The idea came to Stephon Stewart in two parts. Part one, when he first saw the “Blair Witch Project” many years ago now, and part two, the “Paranormal Activity” film series. He continued to mull it over in his head to combine the two great ideas together. He knew he wanted to do something in the woods. That’s when the “Bigfoot” idea popped into his head. There is no bigger subject matter when it comes to the woods than “Bigfoot,” literally.
McGuire: Where was it shot? Describe the experience.
Napoli: We shot the film in Siskiyou County, Calif. in a town called Happy Camp. Some of the crew made the 13-hour drive from L.A., and we flew the entire cast and rest of the crew up to Northern Calif. Siskiyou County is a very interesting place in the middle of nowhere—remote, and quiet. At night when we were shooting, the things we heard out there were indescribable at times! The woods are so vast and dense, they surround you as far as the eye can see. The best way to explain it is: if you were standing on the sand at the beach and looked out on to the ocean only to see water, that’s Siskiyou County, only all you see is a sea of green trees.
McGuire: What type of camera was used?
Napoli: A Panasonic HD camera
McGuire: What can you tell us about the film plot?
Napoli: Based on found footage, a documentary filmmaker and his crew venture up to Siskiyou County, known for their Bigfoot sightings. While there to investigate, they meet a local who leads them into the woods showing them evidence to these sightings. As they document everything on tape a series of unfortunate events occurs leaving many unanswered questions and only this footage to draw conclusions.
McGuire: Sounds quite eerie! Looking at the Trailer, it does resemble “Blair Witch” a bit.
Napoli: “Blair Witch” is the first of its kind. It paved the way for what we now refer to as “handheld found footage” movies. The fact that “Bigfoot County” also takes place in the woods, the comparison is going to be there no doubt. But, you have to see the film to truly appreciate how different “Bigfoot County” really is from “Blair Witch.”
McGuire: Tell us about the director, Stephon Stewart. How did he bring this film together?
Napoli: Stephon Stewart is an ambitious, intelligent, hard-nosed, perfectionist filmmaker. He settles for nothing less than greatness, and directs in a respectful, classy way—as a gentleman. Stephon wrote and shot a version of the film more than 3 years ago. He cut together a little two-minute teaser trailer which went all the way to Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Before long, he was working with Drew Barrymore’s production company Flower Films. Jason Blum, the producer of “Paranormal Activity,” was brought on board to supervise. Nearly two years went by when he reshot the movie with Flower Films. He was asked to reshoot the film a third time, and then was requested by Flower Films to not direct his own movie.
McGuire: Wow? I imagine that didn’t sit to well with him?
Napoli: He walked away! He walked away from a deal with a major production company, talent agency and A-list producer. The movie was his idea from the beginning, nobody else’s. The creative differences had built up too much, walking away was his only choice.
Stephon and I were living on the same property. He lived in the back house and I lived in the house with [actor]
Johnnie Colter (www.imdb.com/name/nm1845034/). We were all living together for a few years. Johnnie and I knew the whole story and the drama that had plagued Stephon while working with Flower Films. Then, Stephon sat down with us one day and told us he walked away, and why he did what he did. We agreed with him. He just wanted to make the movie he knew would be great if he could just find some producers who would leave him alone and let him direct it. And that was all that needed to be said. Johnnie and myself said, “let’s do it.” [We] had some money, and Stephon was all in with his money. The result: “Bigfoot County,” a $30,000 dollar movie, filmed, edited and sold in exactly 1 year’s time!
McGuire: Amazing!Once it got underway, was it a fun film to make? Sounds like it would be.
Napoli: It was a real blast to shoot this movie. Everyone involved knew each other for many years. Having relationships and friendship with people who understand the time restraints and tribulations that lie ahead made it all worth it and possible. Like minds always prevail.
McGuire: You bring together a group of actors that have done OK on their own. Give me a break down of the actors and what they bring to this film.
Napoli: Let me start with
Don Scribner (www.donscribner.com) and
Sam Ayers (www.imdb.com/name/nm0043807/). These two seasoned actors have been in this town well over 20 years. They should be series regulars on TV shows, or at least co-starring in major feature films. They are my greatest accomplishments when it comes to “Bigfoot County.” I happened to be really great friends with both of them. When Stephon was talking about casting, I immediately brought both of them to the table. They are the pros and veterans of this film. The other staple of the film is
Davee Younglood (www.imdb.com/name/nm0950192/). He is another great friend and brainstormed with Stephon way back when he was still developing the idea. Davee went for it in this movie. He put it all out there with no fear, and it shows. Rounding out the stars is the lovely
Shy Pilgreen (www.imdb.com/name/nm1423041/), an adorable and abrasive Southern girl. She really shines and stands out in the movie, being the only female cast. She holds her own with the boys. She’s tough and feisty…you can’t help but cheer for her. And last, but not least, Stephon Stewart, who had to take a back seat mostly due to operating the camera and directing the film. Just as the entire cast, he is always believable and real. He carries a lot on his plate, and still pulls off a damn fine performance!
McGuire:You have appeared as an actor in a couple of films, but this is the first one you produced, what were some of the challenges you and Stephon faced?
Napoli: Paperwork was the biggest challenge before we even started shooting. SAG and ABS payroll kept us busy scrambling for several weeks. Other things included, making sure everyone was paid properly and on time and hoping and praying nobody got hurt or injured while filming. Aside from some serious poison oak, everybody made it back to L.A. in one piece. Stephon sat along side the editor the entire time in order to complete editing from 20 hours of footage in a little over a week’s time. Then came the really challenging part—selling the movie. It took a few months and endless phone calls, but Stephon was on it day and night. I have been close to the entire project, lending and advising whatever I can. We have both spent each day calling, e-mailing and contacting whoever we needed to, to get “Bigfoot County” out there.
McGuire: Where and when can people see this film?
Napoli: The film right now is appearing in several select cities around the country through www.tugg.com. We have been accepted at the “New Filmmakers L.A. Festival” in Hollywood at Gower Studios. The date it will screen is Friday night, Oct 26th at 12 p.m. LionsGate has just released the official trailer and one sheet poster. You can view them on Facebook @ “Bigfoot County the Movie”, on IMDB @ “Bigfoot County,”as well as on YouTube @:http://youtu.be/DAtOWRsQL6M.
McGuire: Thanks for your time Joey and I wish you and the film a lot of success!
Napoli: Thanks Kevin! Appreciate the support!
There you have it! Now here is the trailer for “Bigfoot County.” Enjoy!
Stay tuned for Part II of the article featuring another locally made movie- Dead Man’s Party!