Scott Stafford tells us about the long, long road Kentucky-based Walk Softly Films took in making a Bigfoot feature:
From conception to completion, Cannonball was in some form of production for seven long years. Three friends who always wanted to make films decided to jump into the process feet first and learn the craft through their mistakes. There were plenty to learn from. I am one of those friends and the mistakes began with my first screenplay which was at least 40 pages too long. However, we had confidence in the moments and beats that we had devised together. Someone would be entertained by our efforts and that would make it all worthwhile.
For us, the real victory comes in simply having a finished product in hand. Our shooting schedule was horrific. Even in our most productive stages we were only able to shoot every other Saturday. We're talking 8 hours every two weeks. We are three men with full time jobs and families. When production began, all three of us were married. By the time it was over, one of the three marriages was still intact. Victory! Through divorce, remarriage, child birth and job loss, we struggled to persevere. None of us had seen any project this large to completion before. And Cannonball had every possible chance not to succeed; no experience, no budget, no actors, etc. Cannonball, despite any shortcomings, is a tale that we fostered all the way to the end despite obstacles of every variety. And, for that reason, it will always hold a special place for us. (And we will never attempt to shoot any project in the same manner again.)
When we started to discuss ideas in 2002, we all agreed that a Bigfoot movie would be a blast to explore. It had been at least twenty-five years since the last Bigfoot movie we could remember had been produced. Flash forward seven years and at least fifty sasquatch-related, straight-to-video titles, a handful of theatrical releases, and at least one national advertising campaign have been released in the meantime. And, somehow, they all star Lance Henriksen. We also decided to combine Bigfoot with a project we had been working on since 1992; the Global Wrestling Alliance, a loving spoof of professional wrestling. It was our obsession for a decade. We were compelled to weave the GWA into our story because we felt a couple of those characters that we loved and knew so well would be a perfect fit for this story about friends without a future.
When we began shooting Cannonball, exactly one of our actors had acting experience and it came from community theatre. Since I was directing and also spending much of my time in front of the camera, we had to find someone to put behind it. Our first two candidates bowed out, so we did what any true filmmaker would do. We drafted my Dad. Thankfully, he is an extremely talented artist in his own right and blessed with a good eye. More help came in the form of two amazing musicians who allowed us to use their songs for a snippet of their worth.
In the end, despite our mistakes and inexperience, we ended up with a feature film that makes people laugh. Success. Every time we sit in on a screening and we hear laughs and see smiles, we receive the reward we were looking for. We were also surprised to discover that kids love the movie. When I say love, I mean kids who are six, seven, and up go bananas for it, which never ceases to amaze us. Cannonball has been an official selection of four film festivals and even won Best Original Feature in one of them. It has also received some very kind reviews and was selected Feature of the Month by Microfilmmaker Magazine. DVD's are available for purchase at cannonballmovie.com and you can follow all our newest projects at walksoftlyfilms.com.
One last example of lessons learned: It isn’t wise to leave your prop shotgun laying out when you’re in a public nature preserve. Also, it isn’t fun when the caretaker of said preserve walks up to find the shotgun, two of your actors in bloody combat on the ground while one is dressed in a gorilla suit, and she believes your tripod is some type of “crossbow”. Things can get awkward.