Local filmmaking is alive and scary

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"I guess that is the question asked by many men. What do you do when the squatches come for you?"

This philosophical quandary is the heart of a new movie to be filmed in Duluth and Brimson, one with the equally weighty title, "Sasquatch I: It Begins: The Curse of the Were-Squatch."

Filmmaker Ryan McGivern, a 1995 Duluth Central High School graduate, is the creative force behind the production, which he expects to start in May. Also that month his Duluth Film Company will unveil its more serious feature-length drama, "Vigor."

McGivern spent 14 years in Los Angeles, Cal., attending film school and working on studio productions. In 2011 he returned temporarily to the region to film "Life Among the Undead," which he wrote, directed and starred in. Billed as a "'70's drive-thru B art horror film" and also filmed in Brimson, it tells the "true story of wandering woodsman Kurt Bohl."

Is it a true story? "Of course not," McGivern laughs. "It's ridiculous, but it was fun." The movie is not available today, however, because "I kind of squashed it once I learned how to do things right."

Still the experience helped him get a job on the set of the long-running series "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." He's also worked on the crime dramas "Southland" and "Animal Kingdom."

He moved back to Duluth last September, enticed by Minnesota's "Snowbate" program which grants rebates for film productions. But he said he might not be able to use the program since it has been "drastically cut" in the latest rounds in the state legislature. Funding still might be reinstated, however, as the program has repeatedly survived threatened cuts in past years.

"Vigor" is outside of McGivern's preferred horror genre, "kind of an art piece," he said. "It's a suicide-based film like 'It's a Wonderful Life.'" He plans to premiere it at Zeitgeist Theatre.

It was filmed in Los Angeles in August 2015. McGivern has been working with a post-production company which suggests edits and technical fixes before it goes to a distributor. "They want me to cut out artistic parts I like, so I'm fighting between art and business. Business usually wins, but I'm hoping," he said. The version that plays at Zeitgeist will be a "director's cut."

The description of "Were-Squatch" on the Internet Movie Database reads simply, ""A sheriff and his deputy in this sleepy Northern Minnesota town stumble upon a half-sasquatch half-werewolf hybrid. Carnage ensues." On the film's Kickstarter page he writes, "My only worry is how good the gore looks."

Though he did much research on sasquatch lore for the script, he acknowledges there is not much a Northern Minnesota sasquatch legend. "It's got woods. Woods is bigfoot," he said.

So far he has enough private funding to cover principal photography and most post-production. "I have to prove to people hesitant to invest that I can do it," he said. "I don't have a dad in the business." He expects filming to take three weeks in May and June, and he's looking to Kickstarter to help cover additional expenses.

As the title "Sasquatch I" suggests, multiple sequels may follow. "If I can make $100,000 on this film, I can make another for $50,000," he said. He also plans a non-comedic horror film about "a snowplow driver who goes crazy."

He's still looking to cast a some parts for the sasquatch movie; the hardest role to fill is the "foul-mouthed grandma-911 operator." For details visit www.duluthfilm.com or Duluth Film Company's Facebook page.