Calling all Florentines (specifically, those of the Alabama sort, though Italians are obviously welcome too). Alongside co-producer/direction Tashina Southard, I’m pleased to announce that we have a premiere date for our documentary short The Alabama Bigfoot Society.
The film, an official selection of the 21st annual George Lindsey UNA Film Festival, will be screened in the block of Alabama Films at 12 noon, Thursday, March 1st in the Communications Building at the University of North Alabama (located on Pine Street across from Kilby School). The event is open to the public, and admission is free. A Q&A session featuring Tashina and myself will follow.
You can RSVP for the event and get more information on our Facebook page.
We are excited to show our work thus far as well as meet many of you who have been following the progress of the larger film, The Hollerin’ Thang.
We’d also encourage you to attend the Kickoff Party at 6 p.m. that evening in the Keystone Building located in Downtown Florence at 205 South Seminary Street. We will be in attendance as will filmmakers from all parts of Alabama, the U.S., and as far away as Poland.
The George Lindsey UNA Film Fest
The Festival will run through Saturday, March 3rd, capped off with an Awards Banquet at The Mane Room that is only slightly less glitzy than the Academy Awards.
Lindsey has been a cornerstone of our community for over two decades. It has attracted such superstars as the late Ernest Borgnine, Billy Bob Thornton, Michael” I’m Marry Poppins, Y’all” Rooker, and the DeLorean from Back to the Future.
Named after native son George Lindsey, perhaps best known for his longstanding role as Goober on The Andy Griffith Show and best known to me as Trigger from Disney’s animated Robin Hood, the festival is the legacy he left behind. The focus is on films made in or connected to our great state, but it draws reels from all over the world.
Full disclosure, this is the third straight year I’ve been an organizer. I’ll also be leading some Q&A sessions myself, though–wonder why–not the one at noon on Thursday, March 1st. Out of all the volunteer work I’ve done (I love you, Alabama Regional Graduate Conference), this is the most rewarding.
And not just because I spend three straight days drinking beer and schmoozing with creative people. Still, let’s be honest: ain’t like that’s a drawback.
I’ve made many great contacts and, even better, great friends. It’s certainly nice to drop in on fest pals in their neck of the woods.
Speaking of …
The Alabama Bigfoot Society
The genesis of The Hollerin’ Thang reached through the screen of the laptop and slapped my face. I recall the exact date: March 6, 2016. I know this because it was the Sunday after Lindsey.
It’s an amazing weekend, filled with hours of films, new friends, and libation consumption. It’s also exhausting.
I plopped into my recliner Sunday morning, after sleeping far too late, and began the arduous multi-task of swilling coffee and scrolling Facebook. One of my favorite sites, Atlas Obscura, recycled an old post containing an infographic of the alleged lake monsters of America.
I’d just screened forty-eleven documentaries the past few days. The thought struck me: how great would it be to visit these places–any of them–do interviews, find a crew to take us out in a boat in search of a sighting.
But funding. Hard to come by. Maybe a grant?
Then it hit me. Just an hour south of my little town, in a forest-covered, rural county, there were over a century’s worth of legends involving a land-based cryptid. I could do that. With a crew.
I sat on it for a year. The next film fest, I made contacts, tossed out business cards, pitched my idea.
I found a director. Then, literally two minutes later, Tashina walked up and joined the conversation. I passed a card to her too, and she made it clear that if it didn’t work out with the nascent collaboration, she was interested.
It wasn’t the other guy’s fault. He had forty-eleven other projects going and was moving to Callie to further his career in just a few short months. Timing. As a consolation, when we realized it wasn’t in the cards for us to shoot the flick, he suggested a replacement: Tashina.
She and I met over pizza. We gathered a crew. We felt that tingle of excitement in anticipation of a sure thing.
We put out feelers, and we got responses. Lots of them. Plenty of folks have either been eyewitness or have older relatives who claim to have seen the Hollerin’ Thang.
Everyone wanted to talk until the threat of having a camera trained on them became a reality. Then they clammed.
Only two people were gregarious:
And Mr. Jim Smith, founder of The Alabama Bigfoot Society.
When I began research, the first step was obvious: Google. That’s where I discovered that Alabama has a Bigfoot Society. And the contact info.
He was the first person to respond to my inquiries. He was also located in a town called Wadley. I’ve lived in this state four decades, and I’d never even heard of the place.
Google’s handy with that too. Only a 3 1/2 hour drive. Alabama is a pretty good-sized state.
We tore out on a balmy spring morning. I’d like to say the day was uneventful … Ink barely dry on the new/used vehicle I’d just purchased, a shard of the fan broke off, shattered the radiator, and we wound up on the side of the road just an hour away from home.
(It’s worth noting, one of the lovely b-roll shots in the doc, a wall of climbing kudzu, was filmed while waiting on roadside assistance.)
Tow truck, my parents, her husband all coming through, we left the logistics in the hands of others and arrived in Wadley behind schedule.
From that point it was smooth sailing. Unlike others we’ve tried to interview, Jim is not camera-shy. He talked for over two hours about Bigfoot, UFOs, ghosts, the paranormal, and the work he’s done.
He was gracious, accommodating, and charismatic. We knew we had a winner.
Even when the rest of our production, like my derelict vehicle I returned to the dealer the next week, sputtered to a steaming halt, we kept going back to the footage of Jim’s interview.
We’re still hard at work on The Hollerin’ Thang, and I don’t think I’m being pollyannish in believing that it will be an official Lindsey selection in 2019. But the Hallow’s Eve deadline for 2018 loomed large.
Jim’s footage was powerful, dare I say moving. We felt like it needed to be shared, even if we still planned on cribbing bits and pieces for the larger picture. Thus, The Alabama Bigfoot Society went from a workaday Saturday road trip to a documentary short.
He is the sole speaker in the film, and it needed nothing else, except a rocking soundtrack from The Wolves of Chernobyl. Audiences should be as enthralled by his monologue as we were when witnessing it.
I don’t just “hope” to see all of you there; I expect it. Not just our showing but for all the films.
If you are anywhere near Florence–well, if that’s Florence, South Carolina or Florence, Oregon, I’ll give you a pass. But if that Florence happens to be the sparkling gem of a town in Northwest Alabama and you don’t come up to me and say hello at the Kick-Off Party, I will know.
And I will have Bigfoot hunt you down.
I don’t know the creature personally, but I know a guy who does.