Trying to figure out what is next after graduating from college is something many people have to deal with.
Ben Litton, the main character in “Finding Bigfoot,” finds himself in the same predicament after college. He has to decide whether to follow in his father’s footsteps and run a hardware store or pursue a career in photography.
“Finding Bigfoot” was one of five student projects selected during the Spring 2007 semester for the final senior project in the film production program.
CSUN alumnus Robert Larson, 24, wrote and directed the short film, which received its funding from the Hollywood Foreign Press.
“I was determined to be picked,” Larson said. “I went to the meeting the year before to see how to get picked.” Larson noticed that students who were a part of the short script writing class were the ones receiving funding. Larson said he was unable to add the class in the Fall 2006 semester, but he nevertheless showed up to every class session. He said he befriended professor Jon Stahl during his time in class, who commented on drafts of his script.
Once Larson had a viable script, he put a crew together for the production of the film. He asked Liz Pantoja, 26, to be producer of the short film.
Pantoja said once she read the film’s script, she was on board. She said the characters were warm and she knew that anyone who saw the film would like it. Pantoja said the script was something they “could nail on the head.”
Every student film project had to start with a proposal. The proposal for “Finding Bigfoot” included a portfolio, a letter of intent, a biography of the crew, photos of what the wardrobe would look like and music that professors could listen to while reading the proposal. Pantoja said , music was a big aspect of the movie.
Nate Thomas, head of the film production program, said the committee looks for “something creative and not the typical script” when considering whether to approve production of short student films such as “Finding Bigfoot.”
Thomas said the proposal for “Finding Bigfoot” was “quirky” and had a good feel to it. The character of Ben was interesting, as well as the relationship between a grandson and grandfather, Thomas said.
The idea for the short film came to Larson while he was driving with his wife Vanessa, 25, to the Los Angeles County Fair. They ended up getting lost, and it was during this drive that the idea of “Finding Bigfoot” entered his mind.
Another inspiration for the movie was Clifford Van Ness, 85, the grandfather of Larson’s wife. The character Clifford, Ben’s grandfather, is named after him. Larson said he knew he wanted to use Van Ness’ home as the location of Ben’s family. But he had to get help from his wife and mother-in-law to convince Van Ness to let Larson film his house.
Everything in the movie, including the yellow truck the character Clifford drives in the short film, is Van Ness’ property.
Larson said Van Ness drove the truck to the shooting location on days they used the truck in the film.
Van Ness passed away toward the end of May. He was able to see the final cut of the movie, and he “laughed and said that’s my stuff” when he did, Larson said.
A driving force behind the movie was music and photography. Larson said after Van Ness’ wife gave him a box of slides, he “knew that he wanted the story to revolve around photos/slides/photography.” As for the music, Larson said he wanted it to “flow between dialogue and music.”
A lot of the songs in the short film are original pieces, but there was one song, “The Mistress Witch from McClure” (or, The Mind That Knows Itself) by Sufjan Stevens, that he attained permission to use, Larson said.
The short was one of the cheapest of the five other student projects to film with a budget of $15,000, Larson said. The idea of making a movie that was “doable” is what Larson had in mind.
This Hollywood Foreign Press awarded the production $7,000, and they generated the rest of the money by organizing bake sales and getting their families to donate money, Larson said.
Pantoja said she was also able to get a lot of donations from companies such as Modern Videofilm, TM Motion Picture, Equipment Rentals, Inc. and Kodak Motion Picture Film. The financial donations helped pay for the more expensive tools used during the filming process, such as the film that was used, Pantoja said.
Pantoja said the crew aims to turn “Finding Bigfoot” into a feature length film, as some people have expressed an interest in doing so. In the meantime, the crew is entering the short film in festivals.
Entering in festivals is what helps gain the interests of Hollywood executives, and winning awards is what really catches their eyes, Thomas said.
Where “Finding Bigfoot” will go in terms of further distribution remains to be known. Pantoja said she and Larson started a production company and that she hopes they continue to work together on productions.