For an elusive forest legend, the apelike bigfoot is everywhere: in TV ads for beef jerky, in low-budget horror movies and on reality TV shows focused on hunting the beast.
And a group of local actors and filmmakers has been working since last fall to capture the giant creature on film in a movie, “A Wish for Giants.”
“A Wish for Giants” is strictly a labor of love, said Aaron Dunbar of Kittanning, a landscape architect, writer and now movie producer, who wrote the screenplay.
Joe Fishel of Butler, a school teacher and part-time actor, joined the cast last fall. So did Monica Sertik of Chicora, who signed up to audition as an extra last summer. She and her 12-year-old daughter, Alexandria “Alex,” both landed roles in the movie.
The story of a gravely ill child who wishes to see bigfoot, “A Wish for Giants” has been filming most weekends since Oct. 15, using a cast of nearly 35 unpaid actors and an equally unpaid volunteer crew.
Fishel, who had a part as a police officer in “The Dark Knight Rises” and a speaking role in “Jack Reacher” that ended on the cutting room floor, said, “This is the type of movie that has people doing a lot of different roles.”
For example, Sertik said she is playing Dorie Madison, “the mother of the major character, Roxie, and my daughter plays her best friend.”
Sertik said, “We were at the Indiana County Fair. Aaron had a booth there looking for extras. We signed up and went to a casting call Sept. 24. We did a little better than being extras. Alexandria has also been tapped to sing one of the songs on the movie soundtrack.”
Don Swanson, another school teacher, is the director.
Dunbar said all of the movie has been filmed on location.
“We had 89 children as extras in a playground scene we shot,” on the first day, he said.
Dunbar said, “We had a schedule. We would call people up to make sure they could make it. The actors have been really good to give up their time for this.”
Fishel and Dunbar said the long shooting schedule worked to the movie's advantage.
“With the children during the course of the school year, you could see them getting a little older,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar had a bigfoot suit made for the movie
He said, “We started with a muscle body suit. And we bought material from the company that made the 'Jack Links' Sasquatch. It is all in one piece with separate pieces for the feet.”
He volunteered to man the suit during the weekend filming.
Without giving away too much of the story, Dunbar said the movie is about “a little girl with a brain tumor who wants to find bigfoot. To complicate matters, a senator's son hires a guy in a costume.”
The senator's son wants to gain some cheap publicity for his dad, who is played by Fishel, with the stunt. But the fake bigfoot may not be the only one to show up.
“There's some ambiguity. They are not all the same bigfoots. You have to see the movie to understand,” said Dunbar.
Fishel said, “It's not a typical B movie. You could play it on Lifetime or the Syfy channel, and it's appropriate to both.”
“You don't know until the end whether it's going to have a Disney ending or a sad ending,” said Dunbar.
Dunbar said the idea for the movie grew out of a novel he was writing.
“I was a novelist. I do that in the winter time. The novel started out as a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” he said.
“I've been interested in bigfoot since I was 10 years old,” Dunbar said.
“A Wish for Giants,” wrapped up filming last weekend and now goes through the editing process.
Dunbar said, “It could be done late this year, but we are saying early 2018. It will probably be six months, once we are happy with the scenes, color correction, sound.”
The soundtrack is being written by Mark D'Errico of Denver, who is doing it for free except for the cost of renting the studio time.
“He has written two theme songs. Alex will be singing one of them,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar credits his wife, Mary, who served as accountant for the production, with “being a big support system for the whole thing.”
Dunbar said he hopes to book the finished 80 to 85-minute movie into local specialty theaters such as the Strand in Zelienople or the Hollywood in Dormont, as well as show it in churches and community centers.
Proceeds from the book and movie exhibitions will benefit the Pittsburgh Make-A-Wish Foundation, Dunbar said. A website, Awishforgiants.com has T-shirts and books for sale.
“It was a very good experience,” Dunbar said. “It was something I wanted to try.”