“Not in MY forest, you don’t,” is the tagline for a new feature film that was produced and filmed in St. Francois and surrounding counties, and is now available for streaming on a number of online sites.
“Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot,” created by Thomas Smugala of Motion Dog Films, is a comedy that centers on the existence of Bigfoot. Co-producer A.J. Koehler — who also played a small role in the film as Lexi — discussed the plot of the film.
“This film follows Professor Cory Mathis who is played by Les Stroud and his ragtag gang of misfits who are out to prove the existence of Bigfoot,” she said. “Mathis, who is haunted by the death of his wife, and is obsessed with finding this forest creature who he claims killed her, he’s a man on a mission throughout this whole thing.
"His childhood best friend/adversary, Forest Ranger Billy Teal is played by Tom Green. He and Rick Dyer — who plays himself — and a secret forest agency known as the Secret Forest Service — also known as the ‘Men in Green’ — are out to stop Mathis and his team from proving the existence of Bigfoot. It’s a pretty hilarious comedy that basically makes fun of everything. It definitely thumbs it nose at anyone who takes themselves too seriously.”
Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, Koehler admits the timing of the release was awful.
“... COVID-19 kept us from doing our theatrical release,” she said. “We couldn’t release in theaters. It has been released on multiple streaming networks.”
Koehler noted that the filming is different as there are more than 99 of what she called “Hollywood no-no’s” used in the film.
“There’s like a list of rules, according to Hollywood, that you don’t do when you are making a film,” she said. “We kind of set out to break every one of them. You won’t see all of them. There was so much good stuff that there was a lot that had to be cut out, but we do have a few of the deleted scenes available now on YouTube.”
Another of the film's unusual features is that hidden messages, characters, and images have been embedded in the movie for sharp-eyed viewers to decode.
“We’ll be dropping a lot of really cool Easter eggs and little hints of what those are for the next little while,” Koehler said.
Motion Dog Films is based in the Farmington area. Ninety percent of this production was filmed in the 573 area code, including Farmington, Fredericktown, Jackson, Cape Girardeau, Sedgewickville, Ironton and Ste. Genevieve. Seventy percent of the cast and crew were made up of local people from around the area.
Fitting for an unusual movie like "Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot," Koehler noted that the production company had an unusual film crew to go along with it.
“I suffer from a seizure disorder," she said. "We have another producer who is quite dyslexic, and another producer who suffered a spinal injury in his youth and is a quadriplegic. We used to laugh about the ‘handi-capable’ crew we had and not letting our ‘disabilities’ hold us back.”
According to Koehler, comedies are Motion Dog’s first love, but the production company is moving into other genres.
“We’re starting to expand into more things, like the documentary ‘Freedom from Venezuela’ and we are currently in production on a thriller,” she said. “We’re hoping to expand our repertoire into other areas of entertainment.”
The feedback so far has been positive — something Koehler believes will continue as the film reaches a wider audience over time.
“We’ve received messages from area people talking about how well they thought it looked," she said. "They couldn’t even imagine it was made locally and how funny they thought it was,” she said. “They love how it seems we don’t take any of this seriously. Obviously we do, otherwise, it wouldn’t look the way it does.
“A lot the reviews that we have gotten so far from people who have watched it is that’s its funny, way off-beat. It’s not at all what they expect from most films they go to see. There is no formula to it whatsoever. Almost every single one of them believe it’s going to be a future ‘cult-classic’ success.”
Koehler said that the film did well in both the Cannes and American film market. “We found our distributor, Level 33 Entertainment, and they’ve done us well.”
Tom Green, who plays Ranger Billy Teal, is an actor and comedian known for appearances in the movies "Road Trip," "Charlie’s Angels," "Freddy Got Fingered," "Stealing Harvard" and "Shred." He has also hosted his own talk shows on various networks.
Les Stroud, who plays Professor Cory Mathis, has the show "Survivorman" and is a survival expert, filmmaker and musician.
The late Jessi Combs portrays a firefighter in the movie who witnesses a Bigfoot encounter. She also performed all of the stunt driving during the film’s police chase. Combs is probably best known for co-hosting the Spike TV series "Xtreme 4x4," and was known as the "fastest woman on four wheels." She was killed in a horrific accident on Aug. 27, 2019, when she crashed a jet-powered car while breaking a land speed record at more than 520 mph on a dry lake bed in Oregon's Alvord Desert.
Rick Dyer also portrays himself in the movie. He is a “Bigfoot hunter” and has been known for multiple Bigfoot hoaxes in the past.
"Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot" is available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Redbox, Fandango, Spectrum, Verizon, Vudu, Microsoft, YouTube, Xfinity and Hoopla.
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
“There’s like a list of rules, according to Hollywood, that you don’t do when you are making a film. We kind of set out to break every one of them." – A.J. Koehler, co-producer
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