Lincoln Center Q&A with ‘Willow Creek’ Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait

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Bobcat1 Lincoln Center Q&A with Willow Creek Writer/Director Bobcat GoldthwaitOn November 6, I had the opportunity to attend a special screening of Bobcat Goldthwait‘s found footage Bigfoot movie Willow Creek at Lincoln Center with Goldthwait in attendance.  Goldthwait introduced the film by joking about the name of the The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s movie series, Scary Movies 7, by wondering if the Wayans Brothers were there.  He also pointed out that Willow Creek was of the “dreaded” found footage genre and said that he was not a fan of the genre, saying, “I always wonder who found the footage and why they turned a family’s horrorific murder on camera into a movie.”

After the screening (you can read my review here), Goldthwait did a hilarious Q&A session with the audience. Goldthwait hysterically recounted some of the trials and tribulations of filming with the seven-person crew.  Below are some of the highlights, but I’ve left out parts of the Q&A that would spoil the movie.  Suffice to say I strongly recommend seeing it when it released in your area (and I’m not a fan of found footage horror films, so I’m not lying when I say I was impressed.)

Goldthwait mentioned that the film was shot in the middle of the woods not far from where the famous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage was actually shot.  After seeing much wildlife in the area — including two mountain lions — he revealed that the cast was unsettled by shooting the horror scenes at night.  Goldthwait said, “We did that tent scene three times — it’s a nineteen minute take. In the first one Bryce (Johnson), who plays Jim, started crying during the take. I said to him, ‘I don’t really think your character would cry,’ and he goes, ‘My character’s not crying, I’m crying. I don’t think we need to be out here filming this scene. It’s inside a tent, we could do that in a parking lot at a hotel!  There’s no reason for this!’”  He also confessed that he did some of the unsettling wildlife vocalizations himself and demonstrated them for the audience.  He thought it would be ironic if during filming the cast had been attacked by a wild animal — particularly a bobcat, so headlines could be “Bobcat Attacked by Bobcat!”

He later added, “I was really into this movie. I was really so happy and kind of nuts. I mean, I was just so excited and the actors who I love dearly didn’t trust me after a while because I’d be like, ‘Where was the mountain lion?’ and they’d say, ‘Up to the left’ and I’d say, ‘Let’s film to the right!’ And they’d say, ‘Why don’t we just go?’”

Bobcat4 Lincoln Center Q&A with Willow Creek Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait

Upon being asked why the first thirty minutes of the film is comedic character development, Goldthwait replied, “I just felt that often in these kind of movies you don’t invest in the characters, so it was important to me that we spend a while trying to make this really feel like a real-life couple.” He revealed that while a lot of the film was improvised by the actors, “Some of it is me hiding behind a tree going, ‘Ask him how…’”

When asked how filming the movie differed from directing his previous comedy films, Goldthwait answered, “It was different because this was a big departure for me. Normally everything is scripted, so it was a bigger departure there. One of the challenges for myself was that I was wondering if I could do a movie that was more an ad-libbed movie. There was a thirty page outline. I feel as a guy who gets to make movies I’ve never been really good at creating suspense, so I wanted to see if I could do what people like Tarantino and David Lynch can do. They will have very little going on and you’re really wondering what’s going to happen next, so that was what motivated me to make this movie. So there was a real freeing aspect of having such a tiny crew. My movies are all very small, but still you didn’t have to drag… you know, mo’ money, mo’ problems. There’s something about making a movie so small that made it easy.”

An audience member asked Goldthwait if he watched any found footage movies to prepare for the film. He answered, “I did watch Blair Witch Project, I’m the first one to call this the Blair Squatch Project, but I think a lot of people who do found footage movies have gotten so far away from what actually did work in that movie. But movies that really inspired this movie were actually Grizzly Man, by Werner Herzog. That had a lot to do with this movie. Paper Heart, I know that sounds weird, but they did a hybrid of real interviews with a story.”

Another person in the audience asked if he discovered any differences between shooting a comedy film and a horror film, and in his answer Goldthwait recalled a funny story about filming a scene with a raccoon.  He said, “It turns out that I think they’re really similar. They’re both based on the same thing, you say, ‘This is how this is’ and then there’s a curveball. But there was rules about this stuff that I didn’t know. After I made the movie I realized that in horror pictures you’ll hear a vase break and you whip around and say, ‘Oh, it’s just the cat,’ then something terrible happens, and I realized I didn’t have that ‘It’s just the cat’ moment. So we filmed the raccoon scene after the film was made, and that’s me in a cage because raccoons cost $4000 to rent in L.A. to act. My daughter found a place that rehabs injured raccoons so we donated some money and they let me climb into the cage with a camera. There’s a whip pan and there’s an edit during the whip, so I flipped over and put a bunch of dirt on the ground in the cage and put some bushes in there and they let the raccoon out. This is a raccoon that was injured by a human first of all, so he’s already kind of dodgy, but he comes running up and just grabbed onto my pants and stood on my leg. Then he started going ‘yacka-acka-acka-acka’ really quietly and the woman who wouldn’t get in the cage with me goes, ‘That’s a happy sound!’ I almost peed a little, that was pretty scary. So I learned that bait-and-switch and stuff, but I did learn that a lot of comedy and horror have almost the same beats, and I didn’t realize that.”

When asked if he personally believes in Bigfoot, he joked, “I get that question a lot, and I’ll say ‘Yes,’ but then people who know me well will say, ‘But you’re an atheist!’ and I’ll go, ‘Yeah, but I’ve actually talked to people who’ve seen Bigfoot!’ I still want to keep the sense of wonder alive and not be so cynical. I don’t think I want to live in a world without Bigfoot.”  He later added that Bigfoot believers have tended to like the movie, pointing out, “Usually a guy in camo will stand up and shout, ‘This is the best Bigfoot movie made since the Patterson-Gimlin footage! Right fellas?’

Bobcat51 Lincoln Center Q&A with Willow Creek Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait

Finally, Goldthwait ended the Q&A by talking about his upcoming projects. First he mentioned that he doesn’t have the desire to act in his own movies anymore and revealed, “I just keep writing all different kinds of screenplays. I wrote another genre picture, I’ve been trying to do this musical with Ray Davies of The Kinks for a while, and I just finished a new screenplay that’s kind of a companion piece to World’s Greatest Dad. I just keep trying to make different kinds of movies, like I wrote a gay Western. The genre picture is about zombie fetuses attacking an abortion clinic and it’s called Anklebiters. I think what’s funny is that people don’t have a problem with the fact that we shoot, kill, and maim about seventy fetuses in the movie, people have a problem with the end having a pro-choice message. It’s like, ‘Well, I don’t know, that could get us in trouble!’ Like, really? We shoot seventy babies. ‘Well, that’s commercial, but the political message that’s behind it…’”

He ended the Q&A by telling his “favorite story” from the Willow Creek shoot:

“After seeing the mountain lions we were hanging out in the woods. It’s about 3AM and the ranger that was with us who I kind of stuck with thinking he’d be my protection, his name is Ranger Robert. He says to me, ‘You know, I’m a writer too.’ And I said, ‘Oh, well, what do you write?’ And he goes, ‘You know Twilight?’ and I go, ‘Sure, everyone knows Twilight.’ He says, ‘I write Twilight-type fiction aimed at tweens set in the Bigfoot community. They’re coming of age stories for teenagers set in the Bigfoot world.’ And I go, ‘Oh, what’s the name of your novel?’ And he answers, ‘The first one is Yeti or Not.’  But I didn’t laugh because he’s the only thing keeping me from being mauled to death by mountain lions.”

Thanks to The Film Society of Lincoln Center for inviting Movie Buzzers to this special screening!  The Scary Movies 7 series ends on Thursday, November 7.  For more information, visit the website here.

Chris McKittrick