Director/producer Seth Breedlove sat down with Cult Faction’s Rhys Perry to discuss his latest release Terror in the Skies and how he came to focus on making cryptid documentaries…
How did you come up with the idea for Small Town Monsters?
Small Town Monsters began life in October of 2013 as a book proposal. I worked on that proposal for a couple weeks and it ended up as basically a collection of monster cases from around the US that focused heavily on the rural communities where they originated and the impact they had on local culture. That proposal was rejected by every publisher I sent it to and then laid dormant until June or July of the following year when I decided to turn one of the cases covered in the initial proposal called the Minerva Monster into a documentary.
Eventually the doc was released (in May of 2015) and it did well enough that we were able to flip the money made on that movie into doing our next, Beast of Whitehall. Then we just repeated that process until we got to where we are now.
Is there a story you’ve come across that has changed your belief completely from one extreme to another?
Not really. I had an interesting experience while out with a Bigfoot research group in Oklahoma last year that has left me much more open to the possibility that Bigfoot exists but it wasn’t really an extreme change my opinions on the subject. The closest to that would’ve been the Flatwoods Monster case which I came away from feeling completely different to how I did going in but that was due more to the inconsistent telling of events by the media vs the actual events as told by the eyewitnesses than anything.
What is your favourite cryptid?
Bigfoot. I just think the historical accounts dating all the way back to the very early native American accounts and how we can still see traces of those initial stories in todays sightings is so fascinating. I’m really into the Thunderbird subject right now, as well, having come off of making Terror in the Skies.
Have you had any personal paranormal experiences?
None that I can definitively state are actually paranormal. We’ve had some strange things happen during filming in certain locations (lighting malfunctions, batteries draining when they shouldn’t, etc) but for the most part we’ve made it through all of this relatively unscathed… for now.
Did you ever see yourself doing this when you were a child? Or was cryptozoological filmmaker never on the agenda? Your first documentary was Minerva Monster in 2015. How did that come about?
I actually did want to be a filmmaker growing up and it’s how Zac Palmisano (my STM director of photography) and I actually met. We bumped into each other outside a bookstore when he saw me holding a New York Film Academy flier.
But, it took a long time for me to get to the point where we are now and a certain changing of the guard in film for this to even be possible. When I wanted to become a director in the very early 2000s it wouldn’t have really been feasible given the cost of film and the fact that there weren’t any outlets for me to release work back then. Digital filmmaking and streaming platforms like YouTube and Amazon opened doors for a lot of us.
I don’t even think of myself as a cryptozoological filmmaker. Cryptids and the paranormal just happen to be the focus of the films we’re making under the STM banner and that happens to be the avenue that we’re on right now. Who knows what I’ll be making movies about in ten years.
How did people react when you told them what you were going to make a documentary about?
I think most people that know me considered me a pretty eccentric guy to begin with so I don’t believe it shocked anyone. I basically just merged my love of filmmaking with my interest in the unexplained and this is the result.
Has your process changed between Minerva Monsters and this year’s Terror in the Skies? What have you learned in between? Is there anything you change? Are there any stories where you draw the line and think “this is too absurd this creature could never exist”?
Interestingly, I don’t think the process has changed all that much. We find a story we want to tell, I set about lining up people to interview, we travel to the locations where everything happened and film, then we figure everything else out in post. Obviously, the movies continue to get better from a technical standpoint and we do a lot of work with animators and FX people now but for the most part its remained the same since the start.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is just to always be doing whatever I can to get better and to never get to a place where I look at my own work and go “yeah, that’s great”. Because, it isn’t and there will always be more for us to improve on and learn.
As far as drawing the line on an absurd “monster” or subject, I don’t think I’d draw a line as long as the witness is believable or interesting. It’s not really my job to disprove or prove anything. I’m simply an objective storyteller who is allowing the people either witnessing strange events or taking part in the investigation of strange events, to tell their stories.
Do you ever see yourself stopping or getting bored with this style of filmmaking?
Not getting bored with documentary storytelling, no. If you watch our films they all have a different style or storytelling device and that’s our way of keeping things interesting. With our next movie, MOMO, we’re venturing into narrative film territory for large chunks of the movie, and while it’s still a documentary, it allowed us to play around in an arena we hadn’t ventured into before.
Also, I’m sure I’ll be exploring other topics and subject and even potentially creating narrative films soon enough so I don’t believe I’ll ever feel all that stagnant or bored with documentaries. It’s my favorite genre of film to watch, as well as make so there’s always more to learn and explore.
Any advice for budding Forteans?
Get into it for the right reasons. Do it out of a passion for the subjects rather than a desire for some minor fame or celebrity and you’ll immediately distinguish yourself from about 95 percent of those that start investigating the unexplained.
Lastly, is the truth out there?
Definitely. Will we learn much about it in this life? Doubtful.