Tom Hits His Head filmmaker Tom Putnam returns with a brand new short, “Broadcast 23”, a Bigfoot movie. And we spoke with Tom about his latest effort.
Obsess about Bigfoot much?
I actually spend a lot more time worrying about zombies, but that’s another story…
I work with two partners, Michael Harbour and Jeff Malmberg. The three of us usually write the script, and they produce and I direct, although we had two additional producers on this film. (That’s almost one producer per minute of film. A record? Maybe…)
The three of us had always wanted to make a Bigfoot movie, and a couple of years ago a friend of Michael’s got a job with this group called the Bigfoot Field Research Organization. Every six months or so, the group goes out into the woods with huge speakers mounted in the back of a pick-up truck and blast Bigfoot recordings out into the wilderness in the hope of attracting one of them so they can capture it. I don’t know about you, but to us this didn’t seem like a very good idea. That’s more-or-less where our film picks up…
What else brought about the creation of “Broadcast 23”?
Michael, Jeff and I had made another short film called “Tom Hits His Head” (which has a Five Star Rating on Film Threat!) That was this fun, weird little movie about how I had this accident where I hit my head, started having dizzy spells, then panic attacks, and eventually became afraid to leave the house, bought a bunch of guns, started thinking I was the antichrist, and a bunch of other things too embarrassing to get into here. Anyway, we shot the film in my house with a crew of four, processed our own 16mm film, did all our effects in-camera, and a bunch of other cool stuff.
That movie went on to play over 130 film festivals, get broadcast all over the world, and even got released on home video. As a result, I ended up getting a lot of meetings with high-powered producer types around town. Everybody liked “Tom Hits His Head” but all the meetings ended the same. They said it was too offbeat to get us writing or directing work, and that we should make something “more commercial” (whatever that means).
So when Fox asked us to make a short film for their short film division, Fox Searchlab, we decided to make something that on the surface felt and looked like a seven minute version of a studio action film, but still had our weird sense of humor and what I like to think of as our unusual kinetic style. The idea was to take a traditional horror film and kind of turn it on its ear. Thus begat “Broadcast 23″…
Tell me about the filmmaking technique and format you used for “Broadcast 23”.
Our director of photography, Alex Vendler, shot on 35mm color reversal film, which is like slide film — it exposes a positive rather than a negative image. We then cross-processed it, which means you take a positive film and develop it as negative. Then we transferred it to HD video and did a bunch of crazy stuff to it there, then transferred it back to film through a process called a digital intermediate, then did a bunch of other crazy stuff to it when we made the film print. You got all that?
Also, the entire film was shot on 100 and 200 foot short ends from that Tony Scott movie “Man on Fire.” Reversal is a really cool film stock, but we shot a ton of high-speed (slow motion) shots and had to reload after almost every take. Fun? No.
Why not just go digital, you know, like the rest of the kids?
That’s exactly why we didn’t shoot digital. As a filmmaker, I want to have a unique voice and outlook on the world. Part of the way I try to do that is by making films that don’t look quite like anybody else’s. If everybody else was shooting film, well then I’d probably shoot digital.
Plus, our film takes place in 1977, and we wanted to create a fast-paced, modern-feeling version of an old drive-in movie or an episode of “In Search Of…” And shooting a weird film stock like 35mm reversal really helps set the mood and give us that old horror film feel.
How did you wind up pulling off a Bigfoot movie for only $2500?
Donations, donations, donations. Fox gave us the grip and lighting, wardrobe, insurance, and 35mm short ends. Panavision donated the camera. Deluxe donated the lab work and eFilm did the digital intermediate. We got the telecine donated, the post-production audio donated, a steadicam operator donated his time, three stunt guys came up for the cliff jump, and the entire crew worked for free. We basically paid for food, transportation and lodging in Big Bear, California, where we filmed most of the movie.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from making this film?
Snow is cold.
Cold and wet.
What’s up next for you?
We’re currently in post-production on a feature-length documentary about a secret Japanese invasion of Alaska during World War Two. (No, this is not a joke.) We went back to the place where the battle happened with two American veterans who fought there and were the only people to make it through the battle out of their 50 person company. The island where the battle happened was never cleaned up after the war, and there are crashed planes and flipped over trucks and unexploded bombs all over the place — it’s pretty amazing. Our film tells the story of the battle and what happened when we followed these two elderly veterans back to the island and their past and present more-or-less collide.
On a much different note, we’re also casting (and looking for money for) a feature-length comedy called “Where the Hell is Bill?” It’s about a guy named Bill who accidentally kills all his friends in a car accident and has to move back in with his crazy parents while he recovers and comes to grips with what he’s done. The script has been winning some awards lately, and Macaulay Culkin is attached as the lead.
Last question, does Bigfoot exist and if so, what do you think he’s doing right now?
Yes, Bigfoot exists. And after you see our movie you’ll know what he’s doing right now. Let’s just say it involves a can of Crisco and a lot of yelling…
For more on Tom Putnam’s projects, visit the Seven Guns Entertainment website.