When filmmaker Taylor Guterson initially contemplated his fourth feature film he knew two things: “I wanted to film predominantly outdoors in the Northwest, and John Green was going to star in it.”
A Northwest native who grew up on Bainbridge Island, Guterson loves the outdoors and realized “the natural beauty of this region would give a movie a visual appeal and production value well beyond anything money could buy.” Guterson had worked with Green – a current BI resident – before, having cast him in a small role in a previous film.
“After the first take of the first scene John was in, I knew this was someone I could build a feature film around,” Guterson recalled.
The film that ultimately emerged, Hunting Bigfoot, is a drama, mixed with humor, about a man obsessed with verifying the existence of a Sasquatch he claims to have seen. The film introduces the audience to the Bigfoot subculture, featuring interviews with people recounting their encounters and appearances by recognized Bigfoot authorities.
But, as Green observes, “the film is about a lot more than Bigfoot. It’s about a human being searching for meaning in his life. That’s what gives it a universal appeal.”
Hunting Bigfoot is being released by Xenon Pictures. Leigh Savidge, Xenon CEO and an Academy Award nominee for his screenwriting 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.
The film’s distribution strategy initially focuses on a regional national rollout, partnering primarily with owner-operated independent theaters. 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 theaters a film that is not simultaneously available for streaming at home, a rarity in the current entertainment environment, Hunting Bigfoot offers better financial terms than independent theaters typically receive.
For independent theaters coming off a year-plus of COVID-19 restrictions, this distribution approach holds a lot of appeal.
“The increased share of the box office and being able to show a film folks aren’t able to stream at home makes a huge difference,” said Jeff Brein, owner/operator of Far and Away Entertainment, the parent company of the Lynwood Theatre where Hunting Bigfoot opens Aug. 13.
Beyond those factors, “The commitment to local outreach and grassroots marketing is a really effective way to make people aware of the film,” Brein added.
A fund-raising event for Lynwood and Bainbridge Cinemas took place Aug. 12 with VIP showing of the movie. It featured a reception and Q&A with writer/director Guterson, who also was the filmmaker of Old Goats and Burkholder.
The fundraising campaign is supported by the BI chamber. “The Lynwood and its family of local cinemas are community treasures that we simply cannot afford to lose,” chamber president Stefan Goldby said. He said Hunting Bigfoot’s strong Northwest and BI connections made it the “perfect kickoff event of a local campaign to save our screens.”
The fundraising campaign also is supported by Arts and Humanities Bainbridge and the BI Downtown Association.
“I have great memories of watching films at the Lynwood as a kid,” Guterson said, “so it’s really special to have Hunting Bigfoot play a role in supporting it.”
The connection Guterson feels goes beyond nostalgia. “There’s nothing more instructive for a filmmaker than to see their work in front of a live audience,” he said. “They will immediately let you know what works and what doesn’t, and in either case, the energy and engagement are amazing. It’s the way movies were meant to be seen.”